LAKE CHAPALA ACTIVITIES
Those who call Lakeside home are definitely not lacking in things to keep them happy and busy. The natural landscape and environment offers a wonderful opportunity to become involved in physical activities, whether it be group sports or individual pursuits.
There are also numerous gatherings of local residents dedicated to the exercise of the mind. Intellectual, social, political, cultural, and religious groups are both various and abundant. Many have members from all corners of the world and all windows of perspective, thus creating a distinct and interesting intersection of people and various points of view. Such meetings often occur weekly or monthly and are easily found out about and joined.
People find keeping busy is not a problem; the dilemma is finding time for all the available activities.
THE LAKESIDE LITERARY SCENE
By Alejandro Grattan-Dominguez
The Lakeside area has long been a mecca for writers from all over the world. In 1923, D.H. Lawrence took up residence in Chapala, where he would eventually complete one of his most celebrated novels, The Plumed Serpent. In the late thirties, W. Somerset Maugham lived for several months in Ajijic, putting the final touches on The Razor´s Edge, a book that when transposed to the screen would be nominated for several Oscars.
Another famous work had its genesis here at Lakeside. In the 1940s, Tennessee Williams spent time in Ajijic, staying at the legendary Old Posada, where almost every night he hosted a poker game. These games were the inspiration for a short story called “The Poker Night,” which eventually became the play (and later the movie) A Streetcar Named Desire.
Since then, many other (albeit less famous) writers have spent time in our area, encouraged by not only the literary tradition but the glorious weather and low cost of living. A few of the more illustrious of these scribes were Barbara Bickmore, who while living here wrote several best-selling novels, and Jim Tuck, a writer who penned several well-known non-fictional books. At present, there are several excellent writers in our midst, among them Jim Tipton, a writer/poet with a large following both in Mexico as well as the US, and Neil McKinnon, whose humorous short stories have won several awards in Canada.
Over the past fifty years, there has often been a writers’ group in Ajijic. The latest incarnation was born in 1988, when a woman named Mary Kimbrough, along with Alejandro Grattan, organized the group that still exists today. The lady, however, never returned after the initial meeting. Years later, she was asked why she had not returned to the very group she had helped to found. She replied that when she observed the rowdy antics of the writers who had responded to the call, she felt much like Dr. Frankenstein must have when first seeing the over-the-top behavior of his creation.
Today, the Ajijic Writers’ Group still sports many of the most outrageous characters to be found at Lakeside. But writers have never been noted for their docile manner. The group meets the first and third Fridays of every month in a beautiful garden restaurant, a deceptively placid setting for what often becomes a battle-ground of hotly-contested views and opinions. Visitors interested in such intellectual carnage are warmly invited.
(The author is the editor of El Ojo del Lago, who after serving a twenty-five year sentence in Hollywood as a director/writer, came to Ajijic to try his hand at writing novels. His first book, The Dark Side of the Dream, was published in 1995. His second novel, Breaking Even, was published in November of 1997. He has since published five more novels. His background can be checked out on google.com)
Golf Opportunities, Lakeside
By Carol Bowman and Ernie Sowers
For the Lakeside newcomer, the visitor, the part-timer or the veteran retiree wanting to take up the game, the environs around Lake Chapala offer a wide choice of golf courses and levels of play. Year round golfing weather in this eternal springtime elevation of 5200 feet makes the area ripe for avid golfers.
Using Ajijic as a starting point, the duffer, the casual golfer or pro can find a course to fit his play and his pocketbook from ten minutes to one hour away.
First up, the Chula Vista Country Club, located less than a mile east of Ajijic, just off the Chapala-Jocotepec highway. This public, 9-hole, par 3 golf course offers a challenging, no-cart policy, with holes planted into the mountainside and incredible lake vistas. Caddies, lunch and private facilities, driving range and putting green are available on-site. www.chulavista.html.
Continuing East, traveling eight miles on the Chapala-Vista del Lago road that parallels the lake, lies the beautiful Country Club de Chapala. This member owned golf course, gracing the shores of Lake Chapala for over half a century, offers a 9-hole course, adapted into 18 holes by using double tees on each hole.
Nestled among the gated community of Vista del Lago, with clear day views of Nevado and Colima volcanoes, 60 miles away, CCC provides caddies, on site cart rental or private cart storage, full service restaurant, club house and all customary golfing amenities. Member owned policy welcomes non-member green fees players. www.ccchapala.com.
For the more serious golfer, wanting a private club, the Atlas Country Club, located four miles north of the Guadalajara Airport, offers 18 holes, par 72 along with exceptional club amenities. More than just a golf course, Atlas provides an entire playground for the entire family, with Olympic swimming pool, spa, fitness center, clay tennis courts and gourmet restaurants. Perhaps 20% of the current membership comes from the foreign community.
Last in the immediate area, an hour from Ajijic near Costco on the Jocotepec-Guadalajara highway, Santa Anita Golf Course, with its Bermuda fairways, bent grass greens and mountainous terrain, waits. Built in 1969, this 18 hole, semi-private course welcomes guests and offers all golfing amenities in a beautiful setting. www.clubsantaanita.com.mx.
CHARITIES AND NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS
Lake Chapala is well-known for its climate, affordability, its affable people and for all the help that the open-hearted foreign community give to the many charities at Lakeside. The majority of ex-pats living at Lakeside are active in one or more of the many non-profit organizations. Indeed, many of them were founded by foreigners. There are over fifty diverse charities in our area and new ones are always being formed.
So why belong to a non-profit organization? Since being retired gives people a lot of free time, many have the time to put something back into the community. It's also a great way to make new friends. But most importantly, what better way is there to help those who are not as fortunate as yourself?
If you measure Lakeside by the character and caliber of its people, you will fast decide that this is the place to be.
- ANIMAL SHELTER
Owned and operated by Geoffrey John Kaye. The organization's main financial contributor is also Geoffrey John Kaye. There are 100 "Friendship Memberships." The group can help as many as 70 dogs and cats at any given time, and has found homes for hundreds of animals.
JOCOTEPEC SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF
Founded in the early 1980s. School now run by the government. Associated organization helps provide meals, hearing aids and medical attention. Also pays for room and board for children who come from long distances.
- NIÑOS Y JOVENES CARAVAN
Formed five years ago, this organization delivers every week food and clothing to the Niños y Jovenes orphanage in San Juan Cosala. They also bring soap and other cleaning materials for use by the 150 children at the orphanage.
- RED CROSS VOLUNTEERS
Founded in 1990 by Fred and Dolores Roswold, and Sam and Rose Perey, the group today has over 50 members. The group hosts several fund-raisers each year, adding substantially to the support of the local chapter of the Red Cross.
PASOS MILAGROSOS (MIRACULOUS STEPS)
Helping Handicapped Children Through the Magic of Horses.
- AMIGOS DEL LAGO
Friends of the Lake was founded by Sra. Natalia Gomez de Cuevas to help improve the quality of life around the lake. More recently the group is working with Living Lakes, the most powerful and best-funded lake-saving group in the world.
- AMERICAN LEGION & WOMEN'S AUXILIARY-POST #7A
Long-time Lakeside mainstay, the Legion is active in raising monies for various charities, such as the Ninos Incapacitados, Red Cross, nurse´s scholarships, as well as sponsoring local soccer teams. Post memberships number in the hundreds, with another 100 in the Women´s Auxiliary.
- CHILI COOK-OFF
Founded in 1977. The Cook-Off is today one of Lakeside's most celebrated annual events, drawing contestants and visitors from several countries. Mainstays include Vierl Bunnell, Ann Whiting and Ron Dorsey. The proceeds all go to ten Lakeside charities, several of who are included here.
- NIÑOS INCAPACITADOS
Founded eight years ago by the late Lance Elmstrom and other kind-hearted Lakesiders, the group helps about 250 disabled children a year. The group assists with everything from crutches to paying for major surgery, a portion of the cost of which is often assumed by Mexican doctors.
SPAY AND NEUTER CENTER
The Lakeside Spay and Neuter Center, AC, was formed in September 2001 by Diane Hazen and Gudrun Jones. The Center helps curtail the over-population of animals. Service is free to needy pet owners. Past success is due to donations and the enthusiastic support of the entire Lakeside community.
- NEW TRADE SCHOOL
Spearheaded by Stuart McCowan and Dan McTavish, their group was able to raise a substantial amount of donations, which in combination with state and federal funds, made the long awaited trade school a reality.
BANKS AND CHURCHES AT LAKESIDE
There are four major banks in the town of Chapala, and one has two branches in Ajijic. Most banks in Mexico are foreign owned, so banking can be very familiar to you, sending or receiving money from the US or Canada is a daily task for banks and over the years it has become surprisingly easy. All the banks at Lakeside have some English-speaking personnel. There are also a couple of large brokerage and mutual fund companies in the lakeside area, catering mostly to North Americans.
Many ATM’s are found through out the whole strip, all the way from Jocotepec to Chapala, some are placed inside convenience stores, some at malls, others at supermarkets. Getting cash from the same debit card you use at home is very common. Many businesses including the best restaurants, stores and boutiques accept mayor credit cards.
As for churches, Mexico is (of course) heavily Catholic, and our area has more than its share of impressive cathedrals. There are, however, several other churches which cater to various Protestant creeds. Many of these same churches provide valuable charitable services to the Mexican community. Please visit www.chapala.com/chapala/churches.html for a lakeside list of churches. If your church is not listed, not to worry, Guadalajara only 45 minutes away is a big cosmopolitan city where you can find just about any kind of church.
THEATER AT LAKESIDE
By Michael Warren
Lakeside boasts the oldest English-speaking theater in Mexico. Back in 1965, people interested in the theater got together and said “Gee, let’s put on a show!” They started out in the Chula Vista clubhouse, with an original production of “The Saddlebag Saloon” written and directed by the first president Betty Kuzell.
Then, a few years later, some alumni from the famous Pasadena Playhouse in California retired to this area, and set to work gathering funds for a permanent theatrical home. The current building – the Lakeside Little Theatre – opened in 1986 with a production of “Don’t Drink The Water” directed by Rocky Karns. It’s a splendid place that seats 112 people, a theater that any community group in any country would be proud to have.
Currently there are 6 shows every winter season. Each show has 9 performances, mostly evenings at 7.30 pm except for two Sunday matinee shows with curtain time at 3 pm. Sometimes a musical show requires one or two extra performances, due to popular demand. Anyone can audition for a part, or assist backstage with make-up, wardrobe, set design and construction, or any other job that the director may require. Of course there are some people with considerable show business experience, either as actors or directors, and they help by passing along their knowledge to others. And at the same time many retirees who never worked in the theater before have found a second career in the Lakeside Little Theatre. It’s demanding and it can be a lot of fun.
RESTAURANTS AT LAKESIDE
Lake Chapala has over 100 restaurants catering to the foreign community, all in their own way distinctive. Greek, Italian, Argentinean, Chinese, American, International and Mexican are but a few of the restaurants that can be found. Some are outdoors, indoors, big, small, high-end, with views, with palapas, on second floors you name it. They are scattered all over lakeside, and what’s most important most of these outfits have low-end prices, considering the strict budget of the retiree. You can have a nice dinner with a glass of wine with what you pay for a combo at a fast food restaurant in North America, lunch is much less.
The big city of Guadalajara is less than an hours drive away, and features literally hundreds of excellent restaurants--but why drive that far when you can enjoy the finest dining right here at lakeside?
Treating yourself to a nice dinner will become much more frequent than up north. This is but one of the reasons why foreigners enjoy their life greatly at lakeside.
THE CHAPALA SOCIETY
Serving Lakeside ex-pats as well as the Mexican community for more than fifty years, the Lake Chapala Society today has a membership of around 3600 representing more than 24 nations, and is the largest ex-pat organization in existence worldwide. The LCS is located in Ajijic, serving as an informational resource and meeting place for Lakeside’s expanding ex-pat community.
Membership benefits include access to a 20,000-volume library, a video library, resources on Lakeside living, as well as a wide variety of recreational and learning opportunities for its members, staffed by over 170 enthusiastic volunteers. Weekly and quarterly medical services are offered to both ex-pats and Mexican locals. A ticket booth for local charity events is a recent addition on the spacious tropical grounds. A membership Directory containing local business listings, as well as vital medical, utility and government phone contacts is available annually to the membership. The LCS website, www.lakechapalasociety.org, maintains listings of daily activities, community events, Consulate notices, etc. of interest to ex-pats.
Fiestas and other events benefit the LCS educational and scholarship programs for the Mexican community; dinner dances and drama productions benefit the LCS Library Fund. In addition to the Scholarship Program for local Mexican youth, the Society also conducts free on-going classes at the Wilkes Education Center in Computer Training, Cooking, English, and Art, all staffed by volunteers.
NON PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS
AA- Meets daily at 10:00 am. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday at 4 pm. Marcos Castellanos 51-A. 766-5961. Meets every Wednesday 8 am for breakfast at La Nueva Posada. www.aalakechapala.org.
AA Lakeside- M+TH 4-6 Gazebo at the Lake Chapala Society. www.aalakechapala.org
AA Women- TH 10:30-12 Sala at the Lake Chapala Society. www.aalakechapala.org
AIR FORCE ASSOCIATION OF CANADA 904 WING- September to April meet the 2nd Thursday 4pm-6pm at La Nueva Posada. Ron Hudson 766-21-42.
AJIJIC SCRABBLE CLUB- Tuesdays and Thursdays noon-3 pm at LCS Ken Gosh Pavilion. Dan Stark 766-0411.
AJIJIC WRITERS’ GROUP- Meets 1st and 3rd Fridays at 10 am. Nueva Posada. Coffee. Meeting followed by lunch at the Nueva Posada.
AL-ANON- Meeting Time: Monday, 10:30 am. Location: THE LITTLE CHAPEL BY THE LAKE (located in Riberas on the carretera, near the entrance to the Chula Vista Golf Course. It is on the mountain side of the highway, just past the golf course as you head east toward Chapala from Ajijic.) Call 376-106-1199 or 376-766-4409 for more information.
On Saturday, at 10 a.m. at Marcos Castellanos 51-A. 376-106-1199
AMERICAN LEGION OF CHAPALA POST- #7 General Membership meets 11 am 2nd Thursday. Tel: 765-2259.
AMERICAN LEGION, FRANK M. VALENTINE POST 9 - (Fito’s Restaurant in Riberas Del Pilar) 3rd Wednesday. For meeting times and information call Perry King at 763-5126 or Al King at 737-0859.
AMIGOS INTERNACIONALES- Every Wednesday 6 to 8 pm, Nueva Posada; informal friendly group meet to make new friends.
ANIMAL SHELTER- Provide shelter and new homes for dogs and cats. Tel: 765-5514.
ANITA’S ANIMALS- Free loving dogs and cats. www.anitasanimals.com.
ASA- Ajijic Society of the Arts. Meets the 1st Monday of every Month, except August, 10am at La Bodega in Ajijic.
AXIXIC MASONIC LODGE #31- Meets 2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month at LCS 5:00pm. Contact the Secretary at (387) 7610017 for details.
BARBERSHOP MIXED CHORUS- Meets Mondays 10 a.m. Lake Chapala Baptist Church. Contact Audrey 387-761-0204 or Don 376-766-2521.
BRIDGE- Old Posada (Maria Isabel Rest) at Colon & Malecon in Ajijic. Monday. For more information call Alicia Salcido (387) 761-0185.
CARD & DOMINO CLUB- Wednesday, Friday & Sunday. Call for times. We will teach; make friends! Tel. 766-4253, Cell: (045) 33-1295-6485.
CANADIAN CLUB OF LAKE CHAPALA- 2nd Wednesday of month, Sept. through April. Social hour: 3:00 pm, program 4:00 pm. www.canadianclub.mx.com
CASA DE ANCIANOS- Provides support for elderly citizens, 765-2497.
CASA DE LA AMISTAD PARA NIÑOS CON CANCER.- Provides funds, obtain cancer treatments. www.casadelaamistad.org.mx. 01-55-3000-6900, 766-2612
CENTERING PRAYER - Contemplative prayer/meditation in the Christian tradition. Meets Tuesday from 10:30 am until 12:00 pm at St. Andrew's Anglican church, Riberas del Pilar. Additional info contact Erin Knox 766-2713.
CENTRO DE DESARROLLO AJIJIC- Provides family planning and reproductive health education. 766-1679.
CHILI COOK OFF- Providing a carnival for residents raising charitable funds, 763-5038.
DAR- (Guadalajara)- Daughters of the American Revolution, meets monthly Sep. through June. Cell:333-897-0660 or Tel: (376) 766-2284.
DAR- (At Lakeside)- THOMAS PAINE CHAPTER meets every 3 Wednesday at 12:30 noon, September thru June. Tel: 766-2981 or 762-0834.
DEMOCRATS- Meets 2nd Thursday 4pm at La Nueva Posada
EASTERN STAR ESTRELLA DEL LAGO CHAPTER #10- 1st Wed. at 1:00 pm at Hotel Monte Carlo. 766-3785, www.oesestrelladellago.org.
ECKANKAR- For information about HU Chants and Dream Workshops please call Penny White.766 1230
GAMBLERS ANONYMOUS- Wednesday 11:30-1:30 Ken Gosh Pavilion at the Lake Chapala Society
GARDEN CLUB- Meets the 3rd. Wednesday 11 am for lunch at La Nueva Posada.
GARDEN GUILD- promoting the interest in the development of local gardens with an accent on the exotic species available in central Mexico.
GERMAN MEETING- 2nd Thursday, 1:00 pm. La Nueva Posada. Call Thea 765-2442 or Werner 763-5446.
GOLDEN STRINGS OF LAKE CHAPALA, A.C.- Rehearsals at auditorio de la Floresta. Tuesday & Friday, 3-6 pm.
HASH HOUSE HARRIERS- Every Saturday at 8:30 am at La Nueva Posada.
JUKEBOX SING-ALONG FOR THE BRAIN. Every Monday 2-3pm in the Gazebo of the Lake Chapala Society. Free and open to the public. Antonia 766-3359.
LAKE CHAPALA DUPLICATE BRIDGE CLUB- Meets every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 1:15 p.m.. www.chapalabridge.com.
LAKE CHAPALA FARMERS MARKET - Tuesdays,10 am-12-30pm, West ajijic La Huerta.
LAKE CHAPALA GREEN GROUP- Sustainable living for a better tomorrow. Meets first Tuesday, Sept. through May. LCS, 3:00. www.lakechapalagreengroup.com.
LAKE CHAPALA SHRINE CLUB.- Meets the 3rd Tuesday of every month at 1 pm in the Nueva Posada. Denny Strole (376) 766-0485
LAKE CHAPALA SOCIETY - LCS- 16 de Sep. # 16-A Ajijic, Open Monday - Saturday, 10 am to 2 pm. www.lakechapalasociety.org. 766-1140.
LAKESIDE COMMUNITY AWARDS- We benefit all the community by honoring lakeside’s most talented. 766-3232.
LAKESIDE FRIENDS OF THE ANIMALS- For information contact John at 766-1170 or visit our website www.lakesidefriendsoftheanimals.org
LAKESIDE LITTLE THEATRE A.C.- Balanced theatrical entertainment, English-speaking, 765-5942.
LAKESIDE SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF- The 4th of each month. Nueva Posada 10:30 am. Call 766-3964, www.lakesideschoolforthedeaf.org.
LAKESIDE USA TEA PARTY- Meeting 2nd Tuesday at 4pm, Sunrise Restaurant, Carretera, San Antonio Tlayacapan
LAKESIDE WILDLIFE RESCUE & REHABILITATION- Rescue & rehabilitation of wild animals. 765-4916.
LAKE SPAY AND NEUTER CENTR A.C.- Provides shelter and helps curtail the over-population of animals. 766-3813.
LCS EDUCATION CENTER- Provides classes in language and other topics for both Anglo and Mexican community. 766-0499.
LCS STUDENT AID FUND- Provides financial support to area students to enroll in university, vocational and high school program. 766-0716.
LITTLE BLUE SCHOOLHOUSE- Provides financial assistance for students at school for disabled children in Chapala 766-1552.
LOS NINOS DE CHAPALA Y AJIJIC, AC Providing educational scholarships to Lakeside children 376-765-7032, www.lakesideninos.org.
LOVE IN ACTION- Shelter for abused and abandoned children. For volunteers and donations. Anabel Frutos 765-7409, cell: 331-351 7826.
LUCKY DOGS SHELTER AND ADOPTION CENTER- Open House 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM, March 24.
MAS- Music Appreciation Society. Concerts from fall to spring. Classical music and dance concerts. For info call Kathleen Phelps, 766-0010.
NAVY LEAGUE, LAKE CHAPALA COUNCIL- Meets the third Saturday for lunch at 1 pm, Manix Rest. 766 4750 or 766-1848.
NEEDLE PUSHERS- Sew dresses, knit or chet sweaters for local kids. Every Tues. 10 am at LCS. Gay Westmoreland - 765-5607.
NIÑOS INCAPACITADOS DEL LAGO, AC.- Assisting Lakeside disabled children www.programaninos.org , 766-2201.
NIÑOS Y JOVENES CARAVAN- Delivers foodstuffs and used clothing to orphanage in San Juan. Call Reuben Varela, 01-387-761-0828.
OVEREATERS ANONYMOUS- 2 Meeting Times: Monday, Noon. Thursday, 10:15 a.m. Location: THE LITTLE CHAPEL BY THE LAKE (located in Riberas on the carretera, near the entrance to the Chula Vista Golf Course. It is on the mountain side of the highway, just past the golf course as you head east toward Chapala from Ajijic.) Call 376-106-1199 or 376-766-4409 for more information.
PASOS MILAGROSOS (MIRACULOUS STEPS.)- Helping Handicapped Children Through the Magic of Horses. Saturdays 8-2. www.pasosmilagrosos.com.
RED CROSS VOLUNTEERS- Meets 1st Wednesday at 1:30-4 Gazebo at the Lake Chapala Society. New members welcome.
ROTARY CLUB OF AJIJIC-Every Tuesday at 12.30 p.m. Doors open at 12.00 p.m. for fellowship. Hotel Real de Chapala, Paseo del Prado #20, La Floresta, Ajijic. Info (376) 766-2410 or 331-158-5461, or visit www.rotaryajijic.org
SAILING LAKE CHAPALA- Meets for lunch/drinks - 1PM, the 1st Thursday of each month. Visit www.sailinglakechapala.com for location, info and updates.
SAN ANTONIO TLAYACAPAN (SAT) EXPATS.- Meets last Saturday of the month 6pm, at Cenaduria de Elvira, #127 Ramon Corona, San Antonio
SCOTIABANK NORTHERN LIGHTS ANNUAL MUSIC FESTIVAL- For details please visit: www.scotiabanknorthernlightsmusicfestival.com
THE GENEALOGY FORUM- Meets monthly on the fourth Monday in the Sala at LCS, from 2:00 to 3:45.
UVA - University/Vocational Assistance (Little Chapel by the Lake a.c.)- Sue Torres, 766-2932 or Lynn Hanson 766-2660.
VIVA LA MUSICA - Bus trips to the symphony, summer concert series, call Rosemay Keeling 766-1801. www.ajijicviva.org.
VOLLEYBALL IN CHAPALA- At Cristiania park Tues., Thurs., Sat. mornings at 10, 333-502-1264.
VOLUNTEER HEALTH RESOURCE GROUP- Meeting last Saturday of each month at LCS in sala, 10:30.
VOLUNTEERS OF THE CRUZ ROJA- Sponsors fund raising events and provides administrative and support services to the Delegation.
(NOTE: If there is any change in the above, please advise us so that corrections may be made. Call: 765-2877)
By Mildred Boyd
Tlaquepaque had a tradition of fine craftsmanship long before the Spanish came. The original name was Tlacopan, a heavy-duty Nahuatl word meaning “Men who make clay utensils with their hands,” derived from Tlalic-pac, “Over clay hills.” After its conquest by Nuño de Guzmán in 1530 it was known as San Pedro Tlaquepaque and reached official Villa status in 1843. In the 1700s many of the wealthy from nearby Guadalajara built summer homes here to escape the hustle-bustle of the big city. Permanent boundaries were established in 1892 to limit encroachment of that city so that, although Tlaquepaque is now merely an enclave of the sprawling megalopolis, it has retained its own unique character.
The area would be well worth a visit just for its lovely plaza, 18th century architecture and fine restaurants but Tlaquepaque is not just another colonial village. It has become a shoppers paradise; a veritable Arabian nights bazaar of the exotic, the beautiful and the just plain funky treasures for which Mexican artisans are justly famous. If you cannot find what you seek here, it either hasn’t been invented yet or you probably didn’t need it anyway.
The entire city center is one vast shopping mall. The main street is a broad avenue closed to all but foot traffic and lined with trees and benches and imposing colonial mansions which now house elegant shops. Here you will find furniture, from rustic chairs to elaborately carved cabinets; clothing, from embroidered peasant blouses to the latest Paris creations; ceramics, from crude pots to fine dinnerware and a bewildering variety of items in leather, wood, paper, glass, metal, clay, and stone, not to mention such unlikely materials as straw and corn husks. A charming bauble will cost only a few pesos while an original sculpture or painting by a noted artist can run to thousands of dollars.
While much of the work on display has been imported from all over Mexico—silver jewelry from Taxco, hand loomed rugs from Oaxaca, copper ware from Santa Clara del Cobre, lacquer ware from Uruapan and textiles and pottery from almost everywhere—local artisans, and their name is legion, produce an astonishing array of goods in small workshops behind their salesrooms or hidden in back alleys. Men women and children weave, embroider, sculpt, carve and paint an endless variety of decorative items, from tiny costumed dolls to enormous statues.
In keeping with the tradition of “making clay utensils by hand”, there are a number of potteries. Most are cottage industries, small family operations with few, if any, employees and limited production. A few, like Ken Edwards and EI Palomar, have gained international reputations and export their fine, hand crafted earthenware world-wide.
Sometimes the public is invited into these inner sanctums to watch the small miracle of common clay, beach sand or old rags being transformed into items of use and beauty. One can watch as the skilled potter turns an amorphous grey lump into a handsome bowl or see a glowing blob of molten glass turn into a graceful vase or pulped paper taking shape as a life-sized, and incredibly life-like, parrot.
Weary shoppers can find refuge and sustenance and listen to strolling mariachis in numerous fine restaurants. Unique among them is El Restaurante Sin Nombre (No Name Restaurant) which lacks, not only a name, but a menu. Your waiter will lovingly recite the day’s specials and then serenade you as you dine while peacocks and other birds of exotic plumage stroll among the tables.
Tourists beware! With such enticements, it is virtually impossible to leave Tlaquepaque with a full purse and empty hands!