Before I moved to Mexico I had the idea that I would settle near the smaller lake instead of Lake Chapala. I figured it would be less crowded than the popular Chapala area and less expensive. But I have lived here for eight years and never bothered to even visit it until this last weekend. I had forgotten my previous plan of settling there. (Life was too good at the Lake Chapala area.) It was not a bad plan if I could have spoken Spanish enough to have had a social life. My friend and I were there all afternoon and we didn’t see any other expats. That would make life hard on a day to day basis. But it is a lovely area.
Lake Cajititlan is only nine kilometers long and two kilometers wide. There are interesting areas all around the lake, enough for many more day trips. The area is about half way between Chapala and Guadalajara.
As you can see from these photos, it was a beautiful, cloudy day, windy and perfect for kite flying. We saw some kites when we were at the lake. The first town we visited was San Juan Evangelista. It is small. The population is only about two thousand. It would be a lot higher if they counted cows and horses. This area is filled with ranches.
As we drove through town, we saw several horses tied up in front of houses and stores. The town is small enough to get around on foot but horses make it easier. I would call it a one horse town but I saw more than one horse there.
We were there on a Sunday afternoon and the town was very quiet. I liked it. The people we met were friendly towards us. I read that there are many crafts people in and around the town but we didn’t see them on this trip. I would like to go again and search them out. I saw several stores that were selling the molcajetes. Those are the three legged bowls carved out of lava rock for grinding salsas. I bought one but never use it. Electric grinders are so much more convenient.
The man on the right in this lower photo was looking at us as if we were a curiosity. Maybe expats are rare in town. The man on the left wasn’t concerned with us. He had a camera around his neck. He may have been another tourist. There were many old buildings in town like the one behind him. They are always interesting to photograph.
We drove past the church but it was closed already. Next trip I would like to take photos of the inside of it. The town was clean. Besides old adobe houses, there were new brick ones too. Most of them were small. Outside of the town there were big ranches gated off so no one could see inside and fields with cows or horses grazing in them. Some of the horses were expensive breeds.
The next town we saw was San Miguel Cuyutlan. It is larger than San Juan Evangelista and appears to be more prosperous. It was also much busier. The population is 8,000. This area is known for handmade Lariats. That brings in over 300,000 U.S. dollars a year to the local community. Their motto for a good lariat is: Strength, Resistance, Simplicity and Beauty. This was also a friendly community and everyone we met made us feel welcome.
Above is a photo of the center of town and the plaza is in the photo below. There were several stalls around the plaza. One was selling fruits and vegetables. One was selling hot food and there were several music and craft stalls.
Most of the people resting in the plaza were men. Maybe the women were working in the stalls or home taking care of the children. The men looked very relaxed.
I did not see the local buses when we were there. I saw many other means of travel; motorcycles, bicycles, mopeds, trucks and ATVs. Rarely did I see anything with only one person on it.
The entire family must have decided to take a ride in this ATV. Not much danger in the streets because there wasn’t much traffic and no one was in a hurry.
There is the ever popular pile-them-all-in-the-back-of-the-pick-up-truck method of travel. In Mexico, if the driver isn’t wearing a seat belt, he or she can get a ticket but there can be any number of people riding dangerously in the back of the truck.
In the above photo, you can see in the background that there are some nice homes in the town. Look how clean they keep the street.
I love this photo of the little boy in the back of the truck. He was happy with his ice cream cone and drink in a plastic bag. Sometimes children are easy to please. Wish I could be so easily satisfied.
If all other means of transportation fail, you can always WALK. This little boy was just learning to walk. His mother was reaching out for him but he was too fast for her. He was after our dogs. He looked so pleased with himself for getting away from her grip.
There were many small places to eat in the town. Ice cream stores and loncherias. Lonches are large sandwiches, slathered in mayonnaise and grilled with lots of grease. Very fattening and delicious. We stopped for ice cream instead. I don’t know which has more calories. Mexicans don’t show much concern about calories.
The store above sold pinatas and all the things that go inside of them. Those monster pinatas looked to me like images out of a nightmare but they would be fun for the children to beat to death with baseball bats or sticks.
On our way out of town we saw a pottery store. My friend bought a candle holder as a gift. As we were driving away, I took this photo of the man who made the crafts and his little girl. She was shy. It was worth stopping just to get this photo.
After we left San Miguel Cuyutlan, we stopped by a long shore area of the lake that was filled with Mexicans having picnics. People had driven their cars next to the water. Many people were swimming. There was a man selling watermelons out of the back of his pick up truck, an old woman pushing an ice cream cart through the crowds, and even Mariachi singers going from group to group.
I admire the industriousness of the Mexican people. They know how to have fun with very little resources or accommodations. No bed, no problem. Sleeping on a hammock will do or even on a mat on the ground. No restaurant, that is okay. They set up their own. And check out the bathroom at the end of this article. Very clever.
My friend thought this was a restaurant and she went over and asked if they had any watermelon. Everyone laughed. It wasn’t a restaurant (just a family gathering) but they gladly sold her a plastic bag of slices of sweet watermelon.
The Mariachi music in the background completed the feeling of relaxation. I could have stayed there the rest of the afternoon but we needed to drive back to Ajijic.
It was tempting to swim in the lake but I forgot to bring my bathing suit. (That was my excuse. I hate swimming in cold water.) But it looked refreshing. Cold and refreshing. The people in the water in the photo below didn’t have on bathing suits. No problem. Swimming in underwear works just as well.
I highly recommend a day trip to the Lake Cajititlan. I hope to make it back there before long. First, I need to study up on my Spanish. It would help if I could also get used to swimming in cold lake water in my underwear. But I am a spoiled expat. I like soft beds, comfortable restaurants, private indoor bathrooms, electric appliances, bathing suits and warm water for swimming.
I know that I miss out on a lot of fun but old habits are hard to break. The longer I live around Mexicans, the more I admire their ability to enjoy the moment. Their expectations of physical comfort are little and the love of their families is large. They have their priorities straight. They also know that fresh salsa made in molcajetes tastes better than when it is made in electric grinders. They have patience! I have none. I have much to learn from them.
Their lariat motto would be good for humans too: Strength, Resistance, Simplicity and Beauty.