For more than 5,000 expatriates, mostly Canadian and American, attracted by a climate described as "eternal spring," the shores of Lake Chapala, Mexico's largest lake, have become a permanent home.
Ringed by mountains, the Lake is 42 kilometers (25 miles) south of Guadalajara, Mexico's second largest city. It lies at 1,525 meters (5,000 feet) and is 85 km. (51 mi.) long, 28 km. (17 mi.) wide. At the Lake's western end, on its northern shore, and connected by the 26-km. (16 mi.) Chapala-Jocotepec carretera (highway), is a string of villages, each with a flavor of its own. From east to west, they are Chapala, San Antonio Tlayacapan, Ajijic, San Juan Cosala and Jocotepec. It is in this area, called Lakeside, that most expats have chosen to settle.
Grasshoppers Over the Water" - Nahuatl "Very Wet Place" - Coca "Place Where the Pots Abound"- Nahuatl Founded in 1538, the town probably took its name from Chapalac, one of its earliest Indian chiefs. Or perhaps it came from the Mexican "Chapatla," the "place where pots abound," referring to the primitive Indian practice of appeasing the gods by throwing pots, spotted with blood from earlobes, into Lake Chapala.
"The Place Where the Water Springs Forth" In 1522, the Spanish Olid Expedition reached the eastern shores of what is today called Lake Chapala. When it arrived, its leader, Captain Avalos, met with little resistance. A royal grant from the king of Spain gave joint ownership of the area to Avalos, who was a cousin of Hernan Cortez. Soon other cousins arrived, and one of them by the name of Saenz acquired almost all of the land that is now Ajijic.
SAN JUAN COSALA
In 1523, Spanish Conquistador Captain Alonso de Avalos arrived in Cutzalan. Chief Xitomatl, who now controlled the area from Ajijic to San Luis, surrendered peacefully, and was baptized by Fray Martin de Jesus. He was given the new name of Juan Bautista de Cosala. Saint John then became the patron saint of the village, which was henceforth known as San Juan Cosala.
SAN ANTONIO TLAYACAPAN
Long before the Spaniards arrived, the Cazcanes and the Cocas lived in what is now known as San Antonio Tlayacapan, and both were dedicated to agriculture and hunting. In 1523, Cortez sent men to control the area. By 1539, both tribes had surrendered to the Spaniards, who then built monasteries as refuges for the natives. Thus, the first Catholic church in Lakeside was built in this spot by the Franciscans. All that remains today is the tower, preserved in the patio of the primary school, the rest having been destroyed by time. A new church was built, still in use today. San Antonio Tlayacapan is located between Chapala and Ajijic.
Perhaps as early as 100 BC, nomadic bands of Indians passed through the Lake Chapala Valley. Some moved on, others settled on the shore. Jocotepec, once Xuxutepeque, a small fishing village at the western end of the Lake, became a permanent home for the Nahua Indians in 1361. They built a temple to their god, Iztlacateotl, and practiced human sacrifice. The village became a trading and ceremonial site for the surrounding mountain area.
In 1522, the Spanish Olid Expedition reached the eastern shores of what is today called Lake Chapala. When it arrived, its leader, Captain Avalos, met with little resistance. A royal grant from the king of Spain gave joint ownership of the area to Avalos, who was a cousin of Hernan Cortez. Franciscan fathers then proceded with conversion of the natives. Old Indian temples were destroyed and Catholic church foundations laid in their ruins.