High Desert Life

by Miles Hutchins

From Jocotepec to Mezcala — a quick trip from our lakeside hideaway. With a goodly stopover in Riberas del Pilar, because that is where we hang out.

Jocotepec is a town and municipality at the west end of Lake Chapala, the largest fresh water lake in Mexico. Jocotepec, had a 2005 population of 38,000, more or less, or as we say here, mas o menos. A nice town, with a fairly new hospital and, surprise, a privately owned outdoor dolphin aquarium.

Heading east along the lakeside, you go through San Juan Cosalá, part of the municipality of Jocotepec. A town of 10,500 in 2010. The outstanding features of S.J. Cosalá, to us, are a great restaurant and an even greater nursery, where we select our rose bushes, bougainvillea and other pretty stuff. Yes, the old Hutchins dirty thumb is still in play.

Ajijic is next in line as we move ever eastward. It is about three miles from Chapala, the main town and municipality of what is commonly referred to as Lakeside, just to cover the whole shebang. Many consider Ajijic the artsy, happening area. Lake Chapala Society is there where lots of events are held. Some for fun and some for more serious issues helpful to foreigners.

La Floresta is a lovely subdivision of Ajijic, with giant Jacaranda trees arching over the road.

Next is San Antonio Tlayacapan, about two miles further on. And then, finally, Riberas del Pilar, home to many foreigners, as well as Mexicans, many of whom are merchants and professionals.

Riberas has recently added Pancho’s grocery, deli and cafe to our neighborhood, much to our delight. This addition pretty much rounded out the basic needs of Riberas residents. About the only thing missing is a bank. Pancho is working with a couple of banks to bring in an ATM, so fingers crossed for that.

Several doctors, dentists, labs and other health care assistance grace our area. Need a spa for a manicure or pedicure? Yep, we’ve got that. Fast stop food or coffee, too. Even a 7-Eleven.

Need furniture, artwork or such? There are furniture stores and what are called bazaars for used goods purchase. Most of these are small and most are fundraising projects. Churches and nonprofit organizations run them.

A unique business, hole in the wall, or outdoor tent with seating style, is Mexican fast food at its best. And plenty of good restaurants are available in Riberas. Automobile repair, service and the ubiquitous Pemex gas station is all here.

Oh, and for your spiritual needs, we have a synagogue, Catholic, Anglican (Episcopalian), Baptist, Presbyterian, Seventh Day Adventist and Unitarian Universalist churches all here in Riberas. Whew, never realized how much praying must be going on here.

Dragging myself away from the homestead we head to Chapala, the main town and municipality of Lakeside, but on our way we pass a lakeside park, just great for water bird watching, bocce ball, picnicking or strolling along the blue. (Yes I said blue) sidewalk. It attracts local families and retired foreigners alike.

Chapala is home to a 16th century cathedral, municipal and police offices, as well as street and indoor businesses. Its population in the 2015 census was over 50,000. That must include the entire municipality, Ajijic. San Antonio Tlayacapan, Riberas, as well as Chapala the town.

Finally, I promised you Mezcala, too. It is several miles east of Chapala and is not home to many foreigners, as the places we have already visited are. But it is home to some 5,000 residents, a church and plaza. And small tour boats that will take you out to a very historic island that still has ruins of a Spanish fort and prison. Upon return, you find a lovely malecon (lakeside walk) and local authentic food offerings.

As Walter Cronkite said, “and that’s the way it was.” Or something like that. Adios for now.

— Miles Hutchins is a retired Redmond resident who grew up in Central Oregon. Contact him at milesredmond@gmail.com .