The history of foreigners coming to the Lake Chapala area technically dates back to Cortez’s brother who “discovered” Lake Chapala for the Spanish in the 17th century.
He found the locals friendly and there was no real resistance to the Spanish taking over.
The influx of “Gringo’s” started in earnest after the Korean War when a few restless veterans of that conflict were looking for a cheaper, more relaxed lifestyle south of the boarder. Chapala seemed to fit the bill. It still does. We still have many retired military people here.
There is a remarkable book written about a foreigner’s experience here on the shores of Lake Chapala (in Ajijic actually) called Village in the Sun by Dane Chandos. Written in the 50’s, it’s a nice snap shot of life here in the “good old days”. Interesting to see how much things have changed on one hand but how the core attractions and foibles of the area remain in place.
The late 60’s and 70’s is when the Chapala / Ajijic area became a little more mainstream for retirees even though there were only a couple of phone lines in the area and the power went out on a regular basis it had a certain charm that is often referred to with much nostalgia by the handful of residence that remain here from that era.
I first visited Ajijic in 1979 and frankly it was too “rustic” for me. The foreigners I met all seemed to be “hippie” types or on the lamb from some sketchiness in their recent past. It was fun, but it was weird. There were only a couple of places you felt you could eat that wouldn’t result in instant death. I went home wondering what my friend who lived here found the least bit appealing about the place.
The grocery store where Farmacia Guadalajara is now was the only large store and it was filthy, it stunk, it had virtually no imported products and they sold Red Cross Tins clearly marked “not to be sold in stores”. Cute but it wore thin in a hurry. Hard to believe we have a Wal-mart now (apparently they don’t sell any Red Cross products at all!)
Now you can get almost anything you can in the U.S. or Canada. There is a store that is called Super Lake and they carry all sorts of imports that are jolly expensive but great to be able to get if you miss certain things from “back home”. People whine about the prices but hey, it’s IMPORTED and sometimes you just have to have your favorite brand of cookies or what ever.
Today, Ajijic has become the most popular area for foreigners in the area. There are a plethora of good restaurants and the amenities are first class. It is a hard place to get a feel for “long distance”. It really needs to be experienced largely because it’s a unique place. I feel like I’m quite well traveled and I’ve never seen anyplace remotely like it, in Mexico or anywhere else for that matter. It may not be for you but if the idea of a cheaper, more relaxed lifestyle seems appealing you need to check it out for yourself. You worked hard to get in the position you’re in.
It’s time to reap those rewards.