Sep 282023
What's the story behind the 1939 rom-com Serenata de Chapala?

Serenata de Chapala was first performed at the Padua Hills Theatre, California, on 2 August 1939 and had a highly successful one-month run. This makes it the earliest Chapala-linked play I have so far come across! Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that a script still exists, since its author and director, Charles Alvah Dickinson, was […]

Sep 222023
Lake Chapala on a postcard: Demetrio Sánchez Ortega, the magician behind México Fotográfico

Among the many early postcards of Lake Chapala that were published in Mexico City are several labeled with a caption and stylized “MF” logo. These cards were produced and distributed by México Fotográfico, a Mexico City firm founded by Demetrio Sánchez Ortega. Sánchez Ortega himself took many of the photographs used for the company’s early […]

Sep 142023
Lake Chapala on a postcard: Pedro Magallanes

Pedro Magallanes López was a Guadalajara photographer, active from the mid-1880s until the start of the 1920s, whose studio was initially located in the city center at Santuario #1, and then at Pedro Loza 17. This latter location was advertised in 1922 as for sale or rent, suggesting that this may be when Magallanes retired. […]

Sep 072023
Lake Chapala postcard publishers: Ruhland & Ahlschier

Librería Ruhland & Ahlschier, publisher of the earliest illustrated postcards of Mexico, was a bookstore in Mexico City owned by Emil Ruhland and Max Ahlschier. The store advertised as “Libreria Internacional de Ruhland & Ahlschier” and was located at Coliseo Viejo #16. The company published at least seven different postcards of Lake Chapala, including views […]

Aug 312023
Acclaimed watercolorist Millard Sheets visited Chapala several times, starting in 1947

Renowned American painter, educator, designer and architect Millard Owen Sheets was born in Pomona, California, on 24 June 1907, and died in Anchor Bay, California, on 31 March 1989. Details of his biography are readily available online, at Wikipedia and at the website of the California Watercolor gallery. But, in summary, Sheets studied at the […]

Aug 172023
Lake Chapala on a postcard: José María Lupercio

Mexican photographer José María Lupercio (1870-1929) took numerous outstanding photos of Lake Chapala at the start of the twentieth century. Lupercio was born in Guadalajara on 29 December 1870 and was one of the most noteworthy Mexican photographers of his era. Lupercio was one of several fine photographers whose work reached a wide audience because […]

Aug 102023
Fred Carmichael wrote a two-act play set in a small hotel in Ajijic

Prolific playwright Fred Walker Carmichael (1924-2009) visited his brother Thomas M. Carmichael in Ajijic at some point during the latter’s residence there with his family from 1966 to 1972. Fred subsequently wrote a play, dedicated to Tom, set in Ajijic entitled Mixed Doubles: A Comedy in Two Acts (Samuel French Inc., 1973). Curiously, despite its […]

Aug 032023

Herbert Johnson (1877-1960) and his wife, Georgette (1893-1975), settled in Ajijic in December 1939. Shortly after Herbert died in Ajijic in 1960, Georgette returned to live in the UK. These photographs come from a photo album that once belonged to Georgette. For the story of its fortuitous rediscovery by historian Dr Kimberly Lamay Licursi in […]

Jul 272023
Chapala: Ciudad Señorial e Insigne (Chapala: Stately and Distinguished City)

In a rare departure from my ongoing efforts to document the history of the authors and artists associated with Lake Chapala, this is a review of the Spanish language book Chapala: Ciudad Señorial e Insigne. Chapala cuenta su historia. (Chapala: Stately and Distinguished City. Chapala tells its history). This book, coordinated by Moisés Alejandro Anaya […]

Jul 202023
Herbert Johnson, Ajijic photographer of the early 1940s

Herbert and Georgette Johnson were almost certainly the earliest English couple to settle in Ajijic. They arrived in December 1939 and were fixtures of the local community for the next two decades. The pioneering Johnsons acquired an extensive lakefront property one block east of the current pier and built a roomy single-story home in the […]

Jul 132023
US journalist Virginia Snow on Ajijic and its silk industry in 1952

US journalist Virginia Snow spent about 15 years in Mexico, reporting for Texas newspapers on all manner of events, Mexican customs, curiosities and meetings from her base in Mexico City. Born in Detroit, Michigan, on 4 October 1908, she spent the last year of her life in a nursing home in that city, before her […]

Jul 062023
American artist Emily Meeker lived in Chula Vista from the 1960s

American artist Emily Meeker (1908-1983) was a long-time resident of Chula Vista who had previously led an extraordinarily exciting life in India and elsewhere. Born Emily Preston in Abilene, Texas, on 26 June 1908, her architect father moved the family to Brazil three years later. Emily later attended the New York School of Interior Design […]

Jun 222023
Helen Marie Krustev has an abiding passion for portraying Mexico

Helen Marie Krustev, born in the USA on 16 September 1933, and wife of Bulgarian-born artist Dimitar Krustev, is an accomplished portraitist in her own right. Helen Marie had private art training in the Middle East before studying in Des Moines, Iowa, where Dimitar was one of her teachers. She continued to develop her own […]

Jun 152023
“El poema del lago” (“The Lake Poem”)  by Luis Gonzaga Urbina

Luis Gonzaga Urbina  (1864-1934) began composing “El poema del lago” (“The Lake Poem”) (1907) on the shores of Lake Chapala, before completing it in Mexico City. The poem consists of 18 sonnets, each with its own particular direction and strength. This is the full text of the poem, in Spanish: El poema del lago A […]

Jun 082023
Juan Olivarez: Ajijic artist turned village photographer

Juan (‘Juanito’) Olivarez Sánchez was born in Ajijic on 12 July 1944 and died there at the age of 77 on 28 May 2022. Like numerous other local artists in Ajijic, Olivarez’ interest in art began as a student of the Children’s Art Program (CAP) started by Neill James. Olivarez was among the first generation […]

Jun 012023
25 novels set largely or entirely at Lake Chapala

Two decades ago, when I first began to document the artists and authors associated with Lake Chapala, I knew of only three or four twentieth century novels set at the lake. To my astonishment, many more (some long forgotten) have since emerged. Ignoring, for simplicity’s sake, any attempt to define the precise limits of what […]

May 252023
Dimitar Krustev's subjects ranged from dignitaries in Ohio to indigenous people in Mexico

Dimitar Iliev Krustev (1920-2013) was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, on 12 January 1920 and died in Ajijic on 11 February 2013. After studying at The Natioual Academy of Art for Portrait Painting in Sofia, Krustev served in the army under German rule for three years during the second world war. He moved to the US […]

May 182023
Marion Freeman Wakeman painted Chapala church in 1948

Marion Delamater Freeman (later Marion D Freeman Wakeman) was born in Montclair, New Jersey, on 5 December 1891 and died in Northampton, Massachusetts, on 22 September 1954 (not 1953 as stated in most online sources). Freeman graduated from Smith College, Northampton, in 1914 and then joined the Art Students League, where she studied with George […]

May 112023
Hilda Osterhout completed her 1940s' novel in an adobe hut in Ajijic

Hilda Marie Osterhout was born in Brooklyn, New York in about 1925 and died in 2016. She grew up in a well-to-do family and, after attending Packer Collegiate Institute, was “presented to society” at the “Allied Flag Ball and Victory Cotillion in New York.” She then studied at Vassar College, where she won the Dodd […]

May 042023
Architect Arne Dehli and the Hotel Plaza, Chapala

This beautiful architectural sketch for a major railroad and hotel complex in Chapala offers intriguing insights into plans at the start of the twentieth century to transform Chapala into an international tourist destination. The drawing is dated 1912. This is despite the fact that the company that eventually built the La Capilla-Chapala railroad was not […]

Apr 272023
What did journalist Frederic Haskin make of Lake Chapala in 1916?

Frederic Jennings Haskin was born 1873 in Shelbina, Missouri. With only the most rudimentary formal education, his first job, at the age of ten, was as housekeeper for a weekly publication called Torchlight. Many years later, Haskin became its publisher, and a correspondent with papers such as the St. Louis Globe Democrat and the Kansas […]

Apr 202023
Young Ajijic artists helped by Studio City, Ajijic’s sister city in California

Ajijic’s sister city connection to Studio City in California had already been going five years by the time journalist Bill Reed wrote about it in 1967. The sister city program was part of the People to People initiative begun a decade earlier by former US president Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 1964 the executive board of […]

Apr 132023
Journalist Bill Reed reported on Ajijic in 1967

What was Ajijic like in 1967? Fortunately for us, that was the year when long-time journalist Ellis E. ‘Bill’ Reed reported from Ajijic on the status of the village’s sister city relationship with his home base of Studio City, California. Reed, then the Executive Editor of the Valley Times in San Fernando, first highlighted the […]

Mar 312023

Hello Michael, You emailed me two photos earlier today (31 March 2023) taken in Ajijic in the early 1950s, and asking me about your parents. Unfortunately, my email responding to you was returned as undeliverable. Please can you contact me – via this email – and let me know your correct email and, if you […]

 Posted by at 10:02 am
Mar 302023
The Hotel Ribera Castellanos, Lake Chapala's writers' resort that is no more

This year (2023) marks the centenary of D H Lawrence’s visit to Chapala, where he wrote Quetzalcoatl, the first draft of The Plumed Serpent. At some point in the trip, perhaps en route to Chapala, Lawrence stayed at the Hotel Ribera Castellanos (located on the lakeshore between Ocotlán and Jamay). This hotel, often called simply […]

Mar 232023
Artist-author Henry F Edwards lived in Ajijic in the 1960s and 1970s

Artist and author Henry F. Edwards lived in Ajijic, with his wife, Corinne, and their numerous children, for many years in the 1960s and 1970s. Henry ‘Hank’ Edwards was born on 9 May 1933 and completed studies at the University of New Mexico; San Diego State University; and the University of California. He served in […]

Mar 162023
Historian Álvaro Ochoa Serrano, Lake Chapala and mariachi

This post considers the extraordinarily productive career of historian Álvaro Ochoa Serrano, who has dedicated much of his life to writing about his two main loves: Lake Chapala and mariachi (in its broad historical sense of music, folkloric dancing and partying). These two interests are not necessarily as unrelated as you might think since some […]

Mar 092023
Duncan de Kergommeaux and "Winter Days" in San Juan Cosalá, Lake Chapala

More than sixty years after his first solo exhibit in 1951, Canadian artist Duncan de Kergommeaux displayed a series of charcoal and graphite on mylar drawings called “Winter Days,” completed following a visit to Lake Chapala in 2006. Duncan de Kergommeaux was born in Premier, in northern British Columbia, on 15 July 1927. His career […]

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