Written by piensalo on 01 Dec, 2002
Fiesta! Ajijic is famous for its long Fall and Winter season of parties, starting with the celebration of Mexico’s Independence Day on September 16 and ending with Candlemas Day on February 2.However, the biggest, most whoopdedoo wonderful fiesta time of the year comes at…Read More
Fiesta! Ajijic is famous for its long Fall and Winter season of parties, starting with the celebration of Mexico’s Independence Day on September 16 and ending with Candlemas Day on February 2.
However, the biggest, most whoopdedoo wonderful fiesta time of the year comes at the end of every November. Starting the night of November 22 and culminating on the night of November 30, the town celebrates the fiesta of its patron saint, San Andrés (St. Andrew). Each day of the fiesta is sponsored by a different worker’s group, or gremio. Every pre-dawn morning the angels are awakened (so goes a local saying) by hundreds of booming skyrockets set off in the church atrium, by pealing church bells calling the faithful to 6:00 AM Mass, and by oompah bands of musicians processing through the cobbled streets leading a procession to the church.
More skyrockets thunder to the heavens throughout the day~every day: the faint of heart leave town for the duration, dogs bark, cats hide, and the tiniest babies yawn and cuddle closer to their mothers to sleep.
Each gremio sponsors a procession and celebration of Mass at 7:00PM every evening, and then the fun begins. The fiestas are part circus sideshow, part food festival, part dance party, part courtship, and part competition. You’ll find every sort of food: seasonal guasanas (fresh garbanzo beans, steamed in the shell) on a brazier, tacos of every sort~carne asada, marinated beef, tongue, and steamed pork, among others~tamales, pozole, atole, pizza baked in a portable oven, hot dogs, hot cakes, fresh-made hot potato chips, hot breads, hot drinks…cinnamon tea is a specialty of the fiestas, served sugared and more often than not with piquete, a stiff shot of tequila, rum, or rompope (eggnog).
There are games of chance galore: typical ring toss games (circle the prize and you get it!), shooting gallery games (watch out for the little stuffed monkey~somebody hits it and it…ummm…pees, and the trajectory is long), canaries that will tell your fortune, and myriads of others. There’s a long street of tchotchke booths, from plastic kitchen wares to CDs to toys (Christmas is just around the corner) to souvenirs of the fiestas. It’s easy to get lost in the vast amount of tiny trinkets in each booth. There are specialty crafts booths~fantastic embroidery, wood carvings, pottery, and regional candy specialties. Want to ride a big white goat with a saddle? Hop up! Everything is made luminous by the chilly, starry skies, the warmth of twinkling colored lights, the sounds, the smells, the excitement of young and old alike palpable in the air.
The band revs up around 8:00PM and plays con gusto till the last dog is dead, frequently until two…or three…or four…in the morning.
And in amongst it all, wonder of wonders, is the castillo, the castle. A set-piece fireworks display made of thin strips of bamboo, wires, strings, black powder and fuses, mounted on a 20-foot-high 6-inch thick pole in the middle of one of the narrowest streets in town, this miracle of engineering and architecture has its moments of glory around 11:00PM each evening. The cueteros (the men who build the fireworks marvels) mill around their creation all evening, having a few beers while they babysit the ‘castle’. At about 10:30, murmurs start running through the crowded plaza: ‘A que horas se quema?’ (‘What time will it be burned?’) Suddenly the castillo moves~the long fuses are loosened and shaken! It's TIME! The cueteros grin and suck their cigarettes and the music crescendos. All eyes fix on the bamboo center of attention. And whoooooosh the first long fuse is lit with the hot end of a cigarette, the sparks climb higher, and BANG! the first of the display catches fire with a whistle, a whir, and a buzz. Brilliantly colored flames shoot out in the form of…wait! What is that? It’s an elephant~no, wait, it’s a bull! For mere moments the bull whirls in space, isolated in the darkness and shooting sparks into the crowd. And then whoosh another fuse, and this time it’s a champagne glass that bursts into the night, and then a flower, and then spinning discs of neon green flame, and then fountains of what look like diamonds fall into the night, showering over the crowd. Six little boys run merrily under the exploding castillo, protected by cardboard cartons held over their heads. Oh the risk! Oh the joy! And BANG! the castillo erupts again, now the higher levels…this time a guitar, and an apple, and a poinsettia flame out into the night. And at the highest level, what’s this? A folded fan falls open, shooting flames of purple, pink, blue, and green~NO, there’s a head! It’s a peacock, twirling and shooting fantastic fountains, cascades of sparks from the ends of its tail. And then the coup de grace~at the very top, a ring of brilliant fuschia fire spins faster, faster, faster, and the corona (crown) loosens its moorings from the structure and flies higher and higher into the starry sky, glittering sparks falling and falling until finally it burns out with a hiss that is echoed by the sigh of the crowd as the castillo is finished for tonight, the smell of smoke and gunpowder lingering in the air.
The band music takes up the slack, the young men and women again begin their sloe-eyed walk around the plaza, another beer is drunk, another taco eaten, and then home to bed~to dream of what’s been tonight, and what tomorrow night might bring. And all the while you dream, the band plays, the stars shine, and the cueteros smile and tip another beer.
Written by Ponton on 27 Feb, 2004
On the western shore is the sleepy little village of San Antonio Tlayacapan, right out of a storybook with its church, town square, and cobblestone streets. It is here where Dane Chandos wrote the book Village in the Sun, which brought many people to the…Read More
On the western shore is the sleepy little village of San Antonio Tlayacapan, right out of a storybook with its church, town square, and cobblestone streets. It is here where Dane Chandos wrote the book Village in the Sun, which brought many people to the area. Excellent personalized tours are available to see the monarch butterflies and other west Mexico attractions.
On the highway at Riberas del Pilar is The Duke Conglomeration. Designer Ted Duke, manufactures and sells (wholesale and retail) fine hand-crafted wrought iron, pottery, glass and tin decorative items for high-end furniture stores in the United States.
At Independencia 9-A is La Coleccion barbara (with a small "b"), easily the best antiques shop for miles around. Owner Tom Thompson is an authority on Oriental rugs. All kinds of marvelous objects fill this store, including centuries-old examples of Mexican folk art.
CABA, at Colon 43, is a fine arts center run by a cooperative of local artists, some of whom have international reputations. After viewing the dozens of unusual and intriguing works of art, enjoy a refreshing drink or snack in their garden restaurant. At CABA you can also sign up for cultural tours of the region, including a countryside hacienda tour, a nightlife tour of Guadalajara, and a handicrafts tour of Michoacan.
Across the street, at Morelos 15, is the charmingly decorated Opus Boutique y Galeria. It features fine clothing designed by Diana Martin, as well as the Opus and Tipicano lines, and a wide selection of designer and ethnic jewelry, including creations by Donna Browne and Argentinean Louisa Conti. Other rooms in this attractive colonial building are used to display Mexican folk art. This is a fun place to explore and find unusual gift items. Lois Cugini, the proprietor, is always on hand to offer assistance.
At 16 de Septiembre 4 is Centro Artesanal La Vieja Posada, housed in part of a former tequila-making hacienda that dates back 146 years. You'll find selected arts and crafts from all over Mexico, as well as delicately hand-painted colonial-style furniture and cool cotton clothing, wholesale or retail.
West of Morelos, at Ocampo 30, is Galeria Daniel Palma. Palma, who was born in Ajijic, is gaining international renown for his wonderfully powerful kinetic animal sculptures made by combining natural stone, wood and iron.
A few doors away, at Ocampo 33, is Ferriolo, with beautiful village-made hand-loomed bedspreads, tapestries, pillowcases, and a variety of textile-based gift items. You can watch the weaving process at their workshop at Ocampo 20.
At Rio Zula 4, behind the Danza del Sol Hotel, is the factory-showroom of the internationally recognized American designer Billy Moon. Galeria Moon consists of home decorations that combine ceramics with iron, wood and hand-blown glass. All items in the collection have a weathered or textured finish. Prices are very reasonable.
Written by piensalo on 09 Jul, 2002
One of the most significant family observances in the Mexican calendar is the Day of the Dead, November 2. Here in Ajijic this day is observed by the construction of public and private altars memorializing a public figure or a private family member, by…Read More
One of the most significant family observances in the Mexican calendar is the Day of the Dead, November 2. Here in Ajijic this day is observed by the construction of public and private altars memorializing a public figure or a private family member, by the renovation and decoration of the Municipal Cemetery, and by special religious customs.
If you're fortunate enough to be in town at this time, make a special point to visit the altars set up in galleries and shops. Each one is prepared with special remembrances of the person to whom it is dedicated: an artist's altar bears paints, a palette, his favorite brand of tequila, a plate heaped with his prefered sweet breads, his photo, cut tissue paper decorations in deep purple and hot pink, the orange flowers traditional for this day, and other personal amulets. Other altars are specific to other individuals, and just as personalized.
After you've investigated altars, make the minutes-long trip (by foot or by bus) to the cemetery west of town. Family members have spent days cleaning and decorating graves, with elaborate floral wreathes, crepe paper streamers, fresh flowers, and offerings of food and drink for the deceased. Take time to wander with respect around the small cemetery. Some families will have spent the night at the grave of a loved one, often eating and drinking in the family member's memory, reminiscing the night away. Sometimes there are meandering mariachis, ready to play the deceased's favorite songs during the night. Tequila, beer, and brandy flow freely in toasts to the one who has gone before, and many prayers float up to heaven in his or her name.
This is one of the most special days of the Mexican calendar; it's a privilege to be part of the cycle of life on the Day of the Dead.
People from countless countries have chosen Ajijic as their best choice for a retirement. According to historians, the first American came to the area in 1885, but it wasn't until the mid-‘50s that the larger influx of foreigners began. Now it is estimated that more…Read More
People from countless countries have chosen Ajijic as their best choice for a retirement. According to historians, the first American came to the area in 1885, but it wasn't until the mid-‘50s that the larger influx of foreigners began. Now it is estimated that more than 6,000 foreigners, mostly Americans and Canadians, live on the north shore. The area has grown to be one of the most popular retirement colonies in North America.
Located on the north shore of Lake Chapala, surrounded by the Western Sierra Madre Mountains, Ajijic is a pre-colonial village where you find a very Mexican atmosphere with cobbled stone streets and typical local buildings. Artists and writers from around the world discovered the area's perfect climate decades ago and have been settling here since. Many people have also discovered the area as a retirement haven and now they live happily here.
This area has a wonderful weather and many different amenities. You can enjoy the beauty of the walled gardens with tropical plants and flowers, and gorgeous views of mountains and the lake.Close