Welcome to Ajijic Retirement Area
“In pre-conquest times, Ajijic (Ah-ee-heec) was spelled Axixique or Axixic (pronounced “Ah-she-sheek.”) The final “c” was pronounced by Spanish rules, but whenever anyone pronounces it, people in these parts know he is a stranger. Ajijic means “The Place Where the Water Springs Forth” in Nahuatl.” (June Nay Summers, VILLAGES IN THE SUN, pag.37)
WHERE IS AJIJIC?
Ajijic is situated on a narrow strip of land between the mountains to the north and the Lake to the South. It is flanked by San Antonio Tlayacapan to the east and San Juan Cosala to the west. It is seven kilometers west of Chapala. Its average annual temperature is 19.9 degrees Centigrade “68F”.
Activities to Enjoy in Ajijic
Tianguis comes from náhuatl “tiānquiz(tli)” which means ‘market’, and it was the traditional market that existed in Mesoamérica since the prehispanic period and that has been changing throughout the years until becoming what we see nowadays.
Wednesday mornings are the “tianguis” day in Ajijic, where the vibrant colors and the aromas can be perceived all around. There is a great variety of products, art, fruits and vegetables that are truly fresh, fish and seafood. As well as candies of all colors and flavors, a great variety of jewelry, shoes, clothes and crafts.
And of course the food stands cannot be left out! Tasty foods and drinks, like the delicious “tejuinos” (drink made out of corn), pizza, tacos, tostadas, tamales and much more.
A walk through the “tianguis” is a way to enjoy the culture, gastronomy, art and traditions of this beautiful town of Ajijic.
2. WALKS THROUGH THE TOWN’S “MALECON” (Pier)
The strolls through the malecón in any of the towns of Lakeside are filled with color, natural beauty and a great variety of good things to eat. Ajijic has a charming malecón. Families get together and just enjoy a nice day out, listening to musical groups, mariachis, and maybe a good singer with his guitar. In both the Chapala and Ajijic Malecon you can find on certain dates the performance given by the voladores de Papantla (a ritual done by indigenous Mexicans where they tie themselves to the top of the pole with a rope then launch themselves backwards from the pole, beginning their elegant descent towards the ground) which is a beautiful experience.
3. HORSEBACK RIDES
In Ajijic, in “La Floresta” community, by the main street, there is a special site to go horseback riding as well as a spot where you can rent horses and stroll through the town of Ajijic or along the lake’s shore. No need to be a pro, the horses are well trained and very tranquil, it is not uncommon to see a 5 year old riding one by himself. You can also get a guide who will take you to many different points of interest. Riding on the lakeside beach is very rewarding, you can actually concentrate in sightseeing and see among other things birds that you have not seen ever before.
4. TOUR THE ART GALLERIES AND COLORFUL MURALS
Ajijic is known for being an artistic town, and you can see this through the many murals that adorn the house walls, some government buildings, store facades and galleries, sometimes even also including the plant pots and light posts. This makes Ajijic very magical, colorful and unique! The ideal site for artists!
You can also take just about any kind of art classes in the many distinct galleries of this town.
6. GET TO KNOW “THE LAKE CHAPALA SOCIETY”
This estate right in the center of town, was donated by Neill James, also known as the God-Mother of Ajijic. The LCS is a non-profit organization and is lakesides biggest with over 2,000 members. The LCS offers more than 40 services to its members, such as Spanish classes, movie nights, tours to go shopping in Guadalajara, some medical and immigration services, etc. It also has the biggest English library in all of México.
The LCS participates constantly with the Mexican community imparting art classes, English and computer classes to name just a few.
Here you can also admire the incredible botanical garden with colorful plants and different species from all over the world, and also a pond with vibrant colored fish.
Visit their page for more information: https://lakechapalasociety.com
7. GO ON A BIKE RIDE
There is an existing cycle path that runs along the Chapala-Ajijic-Jocotepec highway where you can roam on a bike in this near perfect weather of ours. Rent a bike or even an electric bike in Ajijic and take a ride to Chapala heading east or to San Juan Cosala heading west, this is one way you can truly get a feeling of lakeside’s big foreign community. Or just get on your bike and go to the malecones (water boardwalks), do some exercise and at the same time enjoy the natural beauty of the scenery.
8. THE AUDITORIUM OF THE RIBERA IN AJIJIC, YOU CAN ENJOY WORLD CLASS SHOWS AND EVENTS
Dance performances, theatre, classical music, singing, orchestras, Tangos, Mariachis, Ballet Folklórico; are just some examples of the great variety of events that you can enjoy in the Auditorium of the Ribera de Chapala which is conveniently located in Ajijic. During the winter months the auditorium has 2 to 3 performances a week, get your tickets early as it is not uncommon for shows to fill up.
9. TREAT YOURSELF TO A MASSAGE AND RELAX!
Ajijic have many spas for massages as well as professional masseurs that were trained outside of Mexico for very reasonable prices compared to the US and Canada. There is a great selection to choose from, many different kinds and many different prices. Find the one that is to your liking and give a couple of spas a call, many include different services so comparing prices can actually be difficult. Remember, a masseur can come to you too, for many this is the way to go, just remember, during the winter months try to plan ahead of schedule as many snowbirds will be getting their massages.
10. DO YOU LIKE TAKING PICTURES? THIS IS THE PERFECT PLACE FOR IT!
The sunsets and sunrises in Lake Chapala are something magical! The lake and its mountains offer sceneries that you will not be able to resist taking a picture of. It is not necessary to be a professional to be able to capture a beautiful shot. So take out your camera or cellular phone and start taking pictures!
11. DELIGHT YOURSELF WITH OUR RESTAURANTS
It’s amazing the amount of restaurants that there are at Lakeside. There is no other place in Mexico and maybe North America with the diversity and quality of food in such a small town. Ajijic with only 5,000 inhabitants has well over 100 restaurants, many of them with better reviews on tripadvisor than restaurants in the neighboring city of Guadalajara with 5 million people. Here are some of the different types of foods found lakeside: Mexican food, Argentinian food, Thai food, Chinese food, Japanese food, Italian food, Arab food, Hindu food, Delis, Bistros, Fine cuisine, etc.
But if you’re one that wants to explore Mexican food a little bit further try out the street tacos that are practically in every street corner throughout Mexico, a strong stomach is a must. Made with handmade tortillas, spicy sauces and many more Mexican delights they are truly, delicious!
12. GO ON A TOUR TO SEE THE MANSIONS OF LAKE CHAPALA “BEHIND THE WALLS TOUR”
Big walls around Lakeside block viewers from seeing some of the prettiest homes in the state. With Ajijic being an artist colony, you can only begin to imagine what lies on the other side of those big walls, visit these beautiful mansions while you visit Lake Chapala, this is your chance to admire their architecture, décor, perfectly good tastes and see their exuberant gardens, some of them created with the finest details. It is also a good occasion to collect ideas to build your new home, remodel or just add some fine decorations to your current home.
A Brief History Of Ajijic
By June Nay Summers
Ajijic was settled by people who came from the north, and their origin is explained by a legend. There was a place far to the north called “Whiteness,” and, from its seven caves, seven tribes set out towards the south.
This migration probably took place in the second half of the 11th and the first half of the 12th centuries. The Nahuas were different from other Indian tribes around the lake. These primitives lived on Chapala’s vast shores with no thought of founding permanent pueblos. Nor were they curious about their own origins, their forefathers or their names.
Their vision of the world was simple. They were completely absorbed with the rendering of tribute to their gods. It was through, they thought, the pleasing of these deities that the sun shone and the rains fell on their land. Obtaining their daily sustenance was their primary reason for being.
Their second priority was defending themselves against hostile Tarascos and other neighboring tribes. To ward off such attacks, the Nahuas established complex barricades on the shores of this immense lake, dwelling place of the goddess Machis.
In 1522, the Olid Expedition reached the eastern shores of Lake Chapala. When they arrived, Captain Avalos met with little resistance. A royal grant gave joint ownership of the area to Avalos and the Spanish Crown. Close in Avalos’ (a cousin of Cortez) wake came other relatives of Cortez. One, by the name of Saenz, acquired almost all of the property that is now Ajijic. By 1530, the Saenz property was one big hacienda. The principal crop was mezcal for making tequila. The hillsides were covered with mezcal plants and their soft blue-green blanketed hill and dale.
Coffee and corn were planted. When a tequila distillery was introduced, the product was exported to Spain along with the coffee beans. A “molino” (mill) was established, which Saenz built on the site of the present-day Old Posada. The blast of a conch horn at 4:00 a.m. called the Indians to bring their corn to the mill to be ground. This mill remained in business until the 1940’s. It is still intact atop the Posada today.
Later, Franciscan missionaries visited the village and gave it a patron saint, San Andres (Saint Andrew). Royal land grants included the Indians who lived there. Franciscan Fray Sebastian de Parrago introduced the first oranges to Ajijic in 1562. Henceforth, the village was called “San Andres de Axixic.” Its cobblestone streets-laid down during the days of Spanish rule-are still used today.r.
Is Ajijic a Magical Town (Pueblo Mágico)?
Since Tuesday, December 1, 2020, the town of Ajijic, located on Lake Chapala, has been declared the ninth Magic Town of Jalisco (Pueblo Magico), delivered by the federal tourism government.
Ajijic continues to retain its Mexican identity, while at the same time catering to tourists, with hotels, B & Bs and restaurants galore – more, probably, than in any other Mexican village of its size.
Ajijic, is a magical town of creation, inspiration and connection with nature, where you can enjoy the magnificent climate most of the year. Many say it is the best climate in the world!
It is located 40 minutes from Guadalajara (the second largest city in Mexico), surrounded by mountains and the beauty of Lake Chapala, with its streets full of color, with its beautiful murals and cobbled streets, restaurants, galleries, shops of clothes, inns, cafes, etc.
The community of Americans and Canadians who reside in there, make it a cosmopolitan village, full of culture and art, a rest destination for those who come to retire.
Why Ajijic, Mexico?
A mile above sea level, with clean, clear air/breezes from all directions each day. Temperatures in the 70s every day of the year, low humidity. National Geographic rates this village as having the #2 best climate in the world. Rains only in summer and mostly only at night. Never worry about getting wet!
Cost of Living with driving and eating out/entertainment (2-3 times/week) about $25k/yr. Some live here OK on SS at $15k/year. Rentals for $350-1100/month, normal range is 500-800 that includes electric, water and trash. Personal services are 1/4th cost of in US (maid, car driver, personal care – $2-4/hour) Auto mechanic a 3 min walk at 1/3-1/4 the USA cost. Haircut – $3.50, Car wash – $2. Need no heat or AC, you can walk to most anything, a drive of more than 10 miles seems totally unnecessary.
Village plaza/churches, boating on the lake, mountains, ancient artifacts (caves, pyramids, petro glyphs.) Thermal baths, rustic rural villages, 1000 acres of exported raspberries, Guadalajara the #2 most important city of Mexico with 500 years old has anything to be found in the USA/CA (theater, opera, a zoo, COSTCO, SAMS, etc.)
FESTIVALS AND FIESTAS IN AJIJIC
Every Wednesday the tianguis (open air market) takes place, starting early in the morning.
In February comes the Chili Cook-off, a three-day extravaganza where cooks compete for a trophy, a large cash prize, and a place in a world championship contest. Live entertainment is featured, and there is plenty of food — not just chili.
Also in February is Carnaval, with “allegorical cars,” a parade, music, dance, and a charreada at the Lienzo Charro. Sayacos is a ritual where men dressed in wooden “old man” masks run, with all the kids chasing them. It is tradition to throw flour at people so it is now expected to end up full of flour no matter what you are wearing or who you are, or if you try ti hide behind anyone or anything.
For Holy Week (March-April), Via Crusis is a live representation of the passion of Christ’s crucifixion. It starts at the church and ends at the chapel on the mountain. It is said to be one of the most impressive in Mexico. Locals from all walks of life become dedicated actors for three days. The costumes and settings are outstanding.
On May 3, Dia de la Cruz, houses and streets are decorated with lots of color, and fireworks are heard.
On the weekend before the big Independence Day on September 15th, the celebration kicks off with a Globo Regatta, a tradition that has been going on for more than 50 years and in which every year many teams, after working and making these complicated paper balloons, they can finally inflate then and let them float away into the sky awing the audience.
During the early years, the balloons where quite simple. But as the years gone by, they have learned new techniques in building these balloons, some of them are so complicated it’s a challenge to even get them inflated. Besides the globos, there is food for sale to keep the tummy happy and various beverages to cool off from the heat. There is also a band to liven up the environment. It’s quite the spectacle!!
Mid September is Dia de los Charros celebrated with a parade with all the charros ridding their beautiful horses. They end at the lienzo charro (the bull arena) and have several games and competitions, and live music.
The traditional annual Queen coronation happens around those same dates, usually on the weekend. They do several appearances during the previous weeks showing their qualities and try to gain popularity among the people to get their votes.
September 15 – 16 th. The celebrations for Dia de la Independencia starts off with games for children during the afternoon. There is live Mariachi music after and then at night it’s the traditional Grito de Independencia (Cry of Independence) followed by a variety of entertainment shows such as folkloric dances.
On the following day, it’s the parade in the morning where students of all Ajijic schools march in formal uniform starting from the Carriles in La Floresta, turning around at the Seis Esquinas (Six Corners) and end at the plaza.
Later in the evening, the War of the Flowers will occur, where the newly crowned Queen and her cohort will promenade around while she and the onlookers throw flowers at each other. Another tradition during those days is the fashion show at the plaza with local women showcasing traditional rebozos from all regions. As always, there is a great variety of things to snack and drink everyday!
On October 31, Dia del Rosario, there are fireworks, Castillo, and a country fair at the plaza.
November 2 is Dia de los Muertos. Altars are built at the plaza and at La Casa de la Cultura. For the past several years it has become tradition that several teams build a life size sculpture of a Catrina, the styles vary and the majority are built with recycled materials. They are placed in different places around the plaza and the malecon.
That day families spend time at the cemetery where everything is decorated with colorful cut paper and cempasúchil and other flowers and spend all evening hanging out, chatting, drinking and eating with their dead loved ones. There is usually live music going on on several parts of the cemetery.
It is also a fairly new tradition to have a little parade starting in the early evening from the cemetery and end up at the plaza, following a live brass band and where most people dress up in several different types of dead, such as the famous Catrina. At the plaza the celebration continues with music, dancing and eating and drinking.
November 21-30, the village celebrates its own Fiesta Patronal, honoring Saint Andrew, with nine days of fireworks, processions, games, music, dance, food and drink.
December 17-24, Posadas, features Christmas carols, representation of the Virgin, days before Jesus Christ was born, and piñatas for the children. It ends December 24 with the display of nativities from different parts of the world.
Ajijic is a village of greenery and flowers. The main plaza is a pleasant, shaded oasis on a hot day. Many streets are tree-lined. Some very old trees have grown to be giants. Bouganvillea cascades over garden walls, shading sidewalks.
In Ajijic there are also plantings of corn, beans, sugar cane and chayote, among others.
We are very fortunate to have just literally steps from the village El Tepalo. It is a place one must visit during the rainy season (between June and September). Besides being all green and lush, there is a creek in which the water level varies depending on how much it rained in the previous days – the more rain the more water.
El Tepalo offers you several waterfalls and pools where one can step in a refresh oneself on these hot days. Although the waterfalls are the main attraction, one must also admire the natural beauty all around. Part of the flora there includes a variety of wild flowers that change as the weeks go by. And from the very top, above the last waterfall, there is an incredible view of the mountain sides and the lake.
Predominating fauna in Ajijic is birds, fish, domestic and farm animals. Once there were mountain cats and deer in the higher altitudes, but they are vanishing with time. Badger, dasypus, skunk, some reptiles, and huilotas are occasionally seen.
Large colonies of white garzas (herons) and snowy egrets are to be found on the lakeshore. Herons regularly take to the giant eucalyptus trees at dusk. Cinsontle, jilguero sparrows and kiskadees are some of the birds most often seen in town.
Horses, cows, donkeys, hens, chickens and pigs are not uncommon in the village, and most families own a dog or a cat.
In the Lake are carp, charales, tilapia, pintas and sea-fish that the local people eat or sell.
Every year there is a white pelican migration. They stay the winter months and return to Canada at the beginning of April. Although you can see them flying around all around the lake, they like to gather mostly in the town of Petatan, a little fishing village. The fishers feed the white pelicans the fish innards so they are quite happy sticking around that lakeshore village, which is located across the lake and it takes a little less than two hours to get there from Ajijic. It’s quite the spectacle seeing the great amount of white pelicans floating on the water or flying in formation.
In the 1950s, Ajijic had a population of 6,000. Today that figure has grown to 15,000. It is still considered a hospitable haven, drawing the adventurous from every corner of the globe. It has the greatest concentration of expats in the Lakeside area.
Its streets are narrow, paved with cobblestones. Most homes are behind stone or brick walls, many with surprisingly spacious grounds. The sounds of the village are everywhere – church bells, horses’ hooves, the loud speaker of the gas truck, the bell of the water truck, the musical theme of the ice cream man, and calls of various other vendors. Ajijic continues to retain its Mexican identity, while at the same time catering to tourists, with hotels, B & Bs and restaurants galore – more, probably, than in any other Mexican village of its size.
Branching off the carretera between Ajijic and San Antonio Tlayacapan is a two-lane highway, the Libramiento, that connects with the highway to Guadalajara. Taking it will enable you to by-pass Chapala in your car and avoid traffic.
Buses from and to Chapala and Jocotepec pass along the carretera every half hour. Local buses pass through Ajijic village every 15 minutes. The bus to Guadalajara can be boarded on the carretera or at the Chapala bus station. These, too, run every half hour.
Taxis are stationed at Ajijic’s main plaza, and will travel as far as Guadalajara or farther, by special arrangement.
The postal office is situated on the north side of the highway just past the Farmacias Guadalajara going westbound. Most homes and all businesses have telephones and internet service nowadays.
All TV signals from Guadalajara and Mexico City can be seen in Ajijic, and all radio stations heard. There are no TV or radio stations in Lakeside. Cable and satellite TV is available.
Originally an artists’ colony, Ajijic is still full of art galleries and studios. Artists and artisans, Mexican and non-Mexican, offer prints, oil paintings, water colors, sculpture in both metal and wood, and silver jewelry. Weavers, some of whom are Huichol Indian, make serapes, blankets, and wall hangings in bright colors.
The Canadian-American population has spurred an increase in cultural activities. Two organizations are currently very actively engaged in the art scene:
ASA is a membership organization for artists working in all media in the Lake Chapala area of Mexico. Established in 1986, The Society encourages working and aspiring artists to develop their talents, and it provides and promotes events to showcase their work. ASA also functions as a social and educational network, helping members share their creative techniques and inspiration with each other to further individual artistic growth and ability.
The CCA (Centro Cultural de Ajijic) has been opening its doors to the Ajijic comunity for 12 years, always offering many art activities varying from youth classical music concerts to puppet presentations, to numerous plays, as well as rotating visual art exhibitions, this center always has something to offer the community.
Besides their ongoing special events which are always different to keep it diverse, this center also offers a set weekly schedule with different classes such as yoga for all levels, regional and Tolteca dance, children’s choir, painting, drawing and printmaking, and craft workshops.
Famous Writers in Ajijic
Stimulated by the creative atmosphere, a number of well known writers have worked here. During the late thirties, in Ajijic, W. Somerset Maugham finished The Razor’s Edge. In the forties, Tennessee Williams lived here, hosting a nightly poker game that inspired a short story, The Poker Night, which he later expanded into A Streetcar Named Desire.
In the last few years, four best-selling novels by Barbara Bickmore and several non-fiction books by Jim Tuck were written here. Presently, the Lakeside Writers Group serves as a venue for both established and budding writers to critique one another’s efforts. A literary magazine, El Ojo del Lago, published monthly, gives aspiring authors a chance to see their words in print.
More articles of Ajijic
*Photos with copyright reserved