Jul 082021
 

German painter Paul “Pablo” Fischer lived in Mexico for many years and painted at least two watercolors of Lake Chapala. Fischer (1864-1932) was born in Stuttgart, Germany, and earned a medical degree at the University of Munich in 1884.

He traveled to Mexico in about 1890 to administer an inheritance in the northern Mexico state of Durango. From 1890 to 1895, Fischer worked was the resident doctor in the Mina del Promontorio mine in that state.

During those years he became known as Pablo Fischer. He went into private practice in the City of Durango in 1895, the same year he married a local Mexican girl, Gertrudis; they had a son and two daughters.

The family later moved to Lerdo and still later to Torreón (Coahuila) where Paul Fischer died in 1932.

Fischer painted watercolors for pleasure and was completely self-taught. Painting was clearly his passion, He made preliminary sketches for his paintings during the family’s vacation trips to various parts of Mexico. Fischer rarely dated his paintings, but is known to have painted scenes in numerous states, including Durango, Mexico City, Cuernavaca, Cuautla (dated 1897), Puebla, Oaxaca, and Chapala.

Pablo Fischer: Chapala (date unknown)

Pablo Fischer: Chapala (date unknown)

It is not known for sure when Fischer painted his small watercolors of Chapala, though they were probably all painted at roughly the same time. The first is a view of the lakeshore and fishing boats, as seen from west of Chapala, looking back towards the main church.  [Note: This painting is incorrectly attributed on several art websites–presumably because of the coincidence of name–to Danish painter Paul Gustave Fischer (1860-1934), though there is zero evidence that the Danish Paul Fischer ever visited Mexico.]

Pablo Fischer’s second view is from a boat on the lake, looking back towards the town of Chapala, the church, and the Hotel Arzapalo. Since the Hotel Arzapalo is shown as complete (with its second story), we know that this painting was completed after 1898, the year when the hotel opened.

Pablo Fischer: Chapala (date unknown)

Pablo Fischer: Chapala (date unknown)

Art researcher Juan Manuel Campo has informed me that a third painting of Chapala by Fischer is also known.

Fischer’s landscapes are keenly observed and painstakingly executed, with exquisite details and a wonderful grasp of color. Fischer signed most of his paintings simply “PF” though on occasion he used “P. Fischer”. He often gave his paintings as gifts, and there appears to be little evidence that he sold any of his works, but his outstanding watercolors became quite well known.

I was mistaken to claim (in an earlier version of this post) that Fischer never held an exhibition of his works in Mexico. It is now known that he definitely held an exhibit of watercolor paintings at the retail store of the Sonora News Company (Gante #4, Mexico City) in December 1914. (Mexican Herald) The fact that the store received “a new collection of Paul Fischer water colors of Mexican scenes” in March 1915 suggests that Fischer maintained an ever-changing selection of his paintings for sale at the store, one of the main locations where tourists could purchase artwork and souvenirs while visiting Mexico.

It is quite likely that Fischer would have known fellow artist August Lohr (1842-1920), who was also living in Mexico City at that time.

Fischer had close links to El Paso, Texas. In June 1906 he declared he was carrying $1000 with him—a considerable sum of money for the time—when he entered the US via El Paso. Fischer held more than one showing of his works in El Paso.

A Fischer painting in the SURA (formerly ING) collection in Mexico was included in a touring exhibition entitled “Horizontes. Pasión por el paisaje,” which showed in Guadalajara and several other cities, from 2005 to 2010. The biography of Fischer attached to the SURA collection in Mexico says that he held his first exhibition in El Paso in 1910. The precise location is unclear. In April 1926 an exhibition of his work was held in the Woman’s Club of El Paso.

The El Paso Museum of Art, El Paso, Texas, has amassed a significant collection of his works, and hosted a showing, with catalog, in September-October 1963, entitled: An Exhibition of Watercolors by Pablo Fischer, 1864-1932. Several members of the artist’s family attended the opening reception. Prior to the exhibition, the museum asked local residents for the loan of any Pablo Fischer paintings in their possession, since “The painter was very popular in this area about 50 years ago.” It is believed that some of his paintings were brought to the El Paso area by his son.

Painting must run in the family since two direct descendants – Lilia Fischer-Ruiz, who paints under the pseudonym Rhiux A. and her daughter Liliana – have also both become successful professional artists.

Note – This is an updated version of a post first published 15 January 2015.

Sources

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

 Posted by at 6:27 am  Tagged with:
Jun 102021
 

This scenic view was painted in 1911 by Austrian artist August Lohr (1842-1920).

Lohr lived in Mexico City for almost thirty years. He undertook commissions, including interior decorations and murals, and is known to have traveled to many other locations to paint.

August Lohr. 1911. (Unknown location in Mexico)

August Lohr. 1911. (Unknown location in Mexico) Photo courtesy Juan Manuel Campo.

This painting (above) was sold at auction in the US, at which time it was described as a view of Lake Chapala.

Doubts have been raised about this description. Please get in touch if you recognize this view or can suggest a likely location.

Acknowledgment

  • My sincere thanks to researcher Juan Manuel Campo for bringing this painting to my attention.

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcome. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

May 272021
 

August Lohr was an Austrian landscape artist, born in 1842 in Hallein, near Salzburg. Lohr lived and worked in Europe, the U.S. and Mexico. After studying at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, Germany, Lohr initially specialized in painting Alpine scenery. He and his Austrian wife, Franziska Geuhs, had three daughters, Rosina, Elise and Elsa, all born in Munich. From 1879 to 1881 Lohr worked with the Munich art professor Ludwig Braun to paint a panoramic view of the Battle of Sedan. The two men also worked on panoramic scenes of the battles of Weissenburg and St. Privat.

By 1884, Lohr had traveled to New Orleans to supervise the installation of the panoramic painting The Battle of Sedan, displayed for the World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition in New Orleans (1884-1885). Later in 1884, Lohr joined William Wehner in establishing the American Panorama Company in Milwaukee, where they commissioned approximately twenty German artists to paint monumental “cycloramas” depicting the Storming of Missionary Ridge, the Battle of Chattanooga and the Battle of Atlanta.

In 1887, Lohr, in association with Frederick Heine, purchased the Wells Street studio from the American Panorama Company and created the panorama Jerusalem on the Day of the Crucifixion. Several other panoramas were also produced at the Wells Street studio.

Although his name was still listed in the 1890 Milwaukee city directory, he left Milwaukee for Mexico in December 1890.

lohr-lake-chapala-ca-1899

August Lohr : Lake Chapala, Mexico. ca 1905

Lohr established himself in Mexico City and began to take on commissions including interior decorations and murals.

In September 1898, when it was reported that “Mr August Lohr, the well known landscape painter,” had just left the city for California to paint “a grand panorama representing the battle of Manila for an American syndicate,” Lohr had only just “completed painting the interior decorations of a restaurant” with his daughter, Elsa. While Lohr was in California, Elsa was busy painting decorations for the Requiem mass about to be held “in the Profesa church in memory of the Empress Elizabeth of Austria.” That church is in downtown Mexico City. (Mexican Herald)

“The Battle of Manila Bay” was painted in 1898, after the end of the Spanish American War (1895-1898), by Lohr and several other panorama artists in San Francisco. The following year, the San Francisco Sentinel reported that he was the manager of a company that was planning to exhibit panoramas in Mexico.

The Lohr home in Mexico City was in the Santa María suburb.

Only a few months before Lohr embarked on a trip to Europe in 1909, he had designed the decorations for the Aztec parlor at the then recently opened Hotel Geneve on Calle Londres. According to a contemporary news report, the Hotel had “four public parlors, each with different decorations.” The Aztec parlor was intended to showcase “an invaluable collection of genuine Aztec relics” which “should prove of immense interest to the tourists…”

Lohr continued to reside in Mexico with his family until his death in 1920. Mexico paintings by Lohr are known with dates ranging from 1899 to 1915.

In 1891, Lohr’s painting of Chapultepec Castle was exhibited at the San Carlos Academy in Mexico City. In 1899, Lohr exhibited two landscape paintings (of Mt. Tamaulipas and the Santa Cruz Mountains in California) in San Francisco at the Mechanics Institute Fair.

Lohr’s oil painting “Lake Chapala, Mexico” (image) was probably painted circa 1905.

Acknowledgment

  • This is an updated version of a post first published in 2014. My sincere thanks to researcher Juan Manuel Campo for correcting various details in the original version, thereby greatly improving the content of this post.

Sources

  • German-American Artists in Early Milwaukee, A Biographical Dictionary, by Peter C. Merrill.
  • August Lohr (1842-1920) (Museum of Wisconsin Art)
  • The Mexican Herald: 23 Sep 1898, 8; 15 Oct 1899, 2; 14 February 1909.

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcome. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

 Posted by at 5:39 am  Tagged with:
Nov 262020
 

Jesus Acal Ilisaliturri (sometimes “Ilizaliturri”) was born in Guadalajara on 16 August 1856 and died in the city on 25 September 1902. Acal’s parents were Ignacio Acal Ilizaliturri and Josefa Ilizaliturri. Acal left school after secundaria and was a founding member of two literary circles: “La Aurora Literaria” and “La Bohemia Jalisciense.”

Acal, who married Magdalena Mejia, became a renowned poet, narrator, journalist and playwright. According to Gabriel Agraz García de Alba, Acal reached the summit of the bohemian poetry world of his time and was the peak exponent of that literary form.

Acal’s most significant link to Lake Chapala is a poem dated 5 August 1889 entitled “El Chapala.” Dedicated to Catalina Villaseñor y Peredo, the poem was published in La República Literaria. The owner-editors of La República Literaria were Esther Tapia de Castellanos, Manuel Puga y Acal, Antonio Zaragoza and José López Portillo y Rojas.

This lengthy poem is more than 150 lines long in total. Some idea of its style is provided by this loose translation of an early section:

I come to seek your laughing beaches.
A roving pariah of no fixed abode, I walk
Without direction or path;
My only encouragement: a divine ideal,
And the starry vault, my awning.

A sanctuary on your beaches I guess
In the midst of severe storms;
In sympathy you will give me calm;
Because we are the two immensities:
You create immense loneliness. … and my soul
It also has immense solitude.

A play of Acal’s authorship, entitled “¿Qué quiere decir cristiano?” (“What does Christian mean?”) was performed at the Teatro Alarcón (now known as the Teatro Degollado) in Guadalajara on 31 August 1882.

Ilisaliturri

Acal was a professional poet, accepting paid commissions to write poetry on any topic and for any occasion. By 1894, after the demise of La República Literaria, Acal directed La Mariposa, a publication where all the contents, even including advertisements and letters to the editor, were in verse.

In 1895, Acal, a liberal, was the secretary for the inaugural meeting of “Grupo Reformista y Constitucional Jalisciense,” a group of like-minded residents of Guadalajara. The provisional president at the meeting, held in the Hotel Humboldt, was Ing. Salvador Pérez Arce, who also had close connections to Chapala.

Works authored by Jesús Acal Ilizaliturri, all published in Guadalajara, included: El ángel de la caridad (1892), Corona de Guadalupe (1892), El segundo Fray Antonio (1899), Romancero de Jalisco (1901), and Recitaciones escolares (1908). In El Romancero de Jalisco, Acal recounted the history of his native state, Jalisco, in verse.

Acknowledgment

  • My thanks to Jorge Varela Martínez Negrete for sharing scans of the poem as it was originally published.

Sources

  • Jesús Acal Ilisaliturri. 1889. “El Chapala.” (Poem). La República Literaria, Año 4, Vol 5 (Marzo 89- Marzo 90), 428-432.
  • Ángel Muñoz Fernández. 1995. Fichero bio-bibliográfico de la literatura mexicana del siglo XIX. Mexico: Factoría Ediciones.
  • Celia del Palacio. 2019. “Las publicaciones satíricas y literarias de Guadalajara (siglo xix)” Estudios jaliscienses 116, Mayo de 2019.
  • El hijo del Ahuizote: August, 1895, Volume 10 (Issues 454-504).

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcomed. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Sep 242020
 

In researching the artists and authors associated with Lake Chapala, I now have a long list of enigmatic references to lesser known artists, whose life and work remain very much a mystery.

One of the more intriguing is a “Miss Trude Neuhaus,” a German artist, who, according to the New York Times of 1 Nov 1925, brought “an exhibition of paintings, water colors and drawings of Mexican types and scenery” to the Anderson Galleries in New York. The show at the Anderson Galleries ran from 3-14 November 1925. The pieces had previously been exhibited at the National Art Gallery in Mexico City, and the exhibition also included “Aztec figurines and pottery recently excavated by the artist in Chapala, Mexico”. (Note that collecting ancient artifacts as souvenirs and removing them from the country was a common practice at the time, albeit one that is now subject to legal provisions and generally frowned upon.)

The only background offered about Miss Neuhaus is that she had “studied under Burmester in Munich” (possibly Georg Burmester, 1864–1936) and was a portrait painter in Germany. According to the short piece in the New York Times, she planned to return to Germany “after exhibiting her work in the large cities of the United States”, in order “to make several portraits, for which she has commissions.”

This Trude Neuhaus painting dates from 1919, before she visited Mexico.

Trude Neuhaus. 1919. Untitled, Credit: Willem Eppink.

Trude Neuhaus. 1919. Untitled, Credit: Willem Eppink.

A few more details have surfaced over the past few years about Trude Neuhaus, but none that explains why she visited Chapala.

According to U.S. immigration records, Neuhaus was born in early 1899 in Gottingen, Germany, and was 26 years and 7 months of age when she entered the U.S. for the exhibition in New York. The exhibit followed a stay of 14 months in Mexico from summer 1924 to September 1925, which means she was in Chapala shortly after D. H. Lawrence was there, and at exactly the same time as artist Everett Gee Jackson was living in the lakeside village.

Trude Neuhaus. c. 1925 "Florista Mexicana."

Trude Neuhaus. c. 1925 “Florista Mexicana.”

No details have yet emerged of her exhibition at the National Art Gallery in Mexico City. However, after New York, “the young and already renowned artist” returned to Germany and showed her drawings, paintings and collection of artifacts at the Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Decorative Arts) in Berlin in February 1925. A reviewer of the show described Miss Neuhaus as “an enthusiastic admirer” of Mexico, who “has dedicated her brush to reproducing popular types and customs of that country,” ranging from beggars and young people on the street to “a little Indian girl with a sad expression,” potters in their workshops and florists from Xochimilco.

Trude Neuhaus. c. 1925 "Remero de Xochimilco."

Trude Neuhaus. c. 1925 “Remero de Xochimilco.”

The watercolors in the show that attracted attention included paintings of “the picturesque streets of Aguascalientes and Zacatlán and a sunset by the sea.” The mention of Zacatlán (in the state of Puebla), which is rarely visited even today by tourists, is especially interesting and suggests that Trude Neuhaus was a very adventurous young lady.

In addition to her artwork, the Berlin exhibit included the objects Neuhaus had found at Chapala and elsewhere as well as “some samples of the artistic industries that currently exist in Mexico, such as yarns, fabrics and ceramics made by Galán [sic], the famous potter from Tlaquepaque.” This is likely to refer to Armando Galván Rodríguez, born in 1898, who was recognized as a preeminent potter in Tonalá.

The artist was accompanied by her mother, Toni Neuhaus, to the opening of the show, which attracted numerous German and Mexican dignitaries.

Only one month after the show in Berlin, Trude Neuhaus was on her way back to Mexico, this time as a married woman, the wife of Rudolf (Rodolfo) May. May was born on 17 June 1894 in Nuremberg, Germany, and served in a Germany artillery unit during the first world war. By the mid-1920s, he was living in Mexico City. While May was not in New York at the time of Neuhaus’ show there, he passed through the city en route to Germany at the end of November 1925.

In March 1926, the newly married couple returned to Mexico from Hamburg on board the SS Rio Bravo. The ship’s manifest lists them as Rudolf May, a merchant aged 32, and Trude May, aged 30. (Trude would actually have been 27 years old according to the US immigration document referred to earlier.)

A decade later, “Trude Neuhaus-May” was the co-applicant with Angel M. Diez for a patent and trade-mark for a “mechanism for veering the headlamps of automobiles”. This patent was granted in Mexico in 1936 and in the U.S. two years later.

Both Rodolfo and Trude became naturalized Mexican citizens at some point prior to when Rodolfo visited Germany for several weeks in 1937-1938. Rodolfo (unaccompanied by his wife) entered the U.S. on his way to Europe on 23 November 1937 and landed at New York on his return on 4 February 1938.

In May 1955, and again in May 1959, Rodolfo and Trude took an Air France flight from Mexico City to New York; it is unclear if New York was their final destination or whether they were in transit to Europe. These flights list the address of their Mexico City residence as Amores #211 (Colonia del Valle).

Rodolfo died in Mexico City in March 1961 and Trude died there seven months later.

Trude and Rodolfo had three children: Beatriz, Rodolfo (1929-1996) and Luis (c 1932-1965).

Among the many questions still unanswered is whether or not Trude Neuhaus continued her art career after she married and returned to live in Mexico—the only known works of this artist all date back to before her exhibitions in 1925 and 1926.

The only auction record for Trude Neuhaus is for a painting entitled “Indian mother and child” (date unknown) which sold in the U.S. in 1984 for $500.

Can anyone help fill in some of the blanks about this “mystery artist”? If so, please get in touch!

Sources

  • Luis Kabikef. 1926. “Exposición de cuadros.” Berliner Tageblatt, Año 4, #2 (February 1926), 8.
  • New York Times. 1925. “Miss Neuhaus shows paintings.” New York Times, 1 Nov 1925, W20.

Acknowledgment

  • My sincere thanks to Willem Eppink (see comments) for allowing me the use of a photo of a Trude Neuhaus painting in his possession.

Note: This post is an extended version of a post first published 13 December 2015.

Other mysteries relating to Lake Chapala authors and artists:

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcome. Please email us or use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts.

Sep 172020
 

José López Portillo y Rojas (1850-1923) was born in Guadalajara. He graduated as a lawyer in Guadalajara in 1871, before spending three years traveling in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East. On his return, he published his first book: Egypt and Palestine. Notes from a trip (1874).

portillo-y-rojas-jose-lopezHe began an illustrious political career as deputy for Jalisco to the national Congress from 1875-1877. Shortly after that first experience of national politics, he returned to Guadalajara and became a journalist, teacher of law, and member of that city’s literary circle.

The group included other young Jalisco writers such as Antonio Zaragoza and Manuel Álvarez del Castillo, one of whose relatives, Jesús, would later start the El Informador newspaper in Guadalajara, which remains one of the city’s most important dailies.

In 1880, López Portillo y Rojas returned to Mexico City as a deputy. In 1882, he became a state senator. In 1886, he joined with Manuel Álvarez del Castillo and Esther Tapia de Castellanos to start a new publication in Guadalajara. La República Literaria, a magazine of science, art and literature quickly became nationally famous, but only lasted until 1890.

In 1891, López Portillo published the first transcription, albeit partial, of Father Antonio Tello’s invaluable 17th century account relating to Lake Chapala. In 1892, he published his only book of verse Transitory harmonies. By 1902, López Portillo was living in Mexico City and had joined the Partido Científico (Scientific Party). After the fall of Díaz, he held various federal government posts before becoming Governor of the State of Jalisco (1912-1914). For a brief period in 1914, he was appointed as Foreign Relations Secretary in the government of Victoriano Huerta, during the time when the U.S. invaded the port of Veracruz.

He left politics shortly afterwards and dedicated himself to teaching and writing. He left a vast body of work, ranging from travel accounts, poems, and literary criticism to historical and legal essays, short stories and novels. His best known collection of short stories is Stories, tales and short stories (1918). His best known novel, The parcel (1898), relates the fight between two hacienda owners for a worthless parcel of land.

At the time of his death in Mexico City on 22 of May, 1923, he was director of the Academia Mexicana de la Lengua (Mexican Academy of Language). One of López Portillo’s grandsons, José López Portillo y Pacheco (1920-2004), served as President of Mexico between 1976 and 1982. In Guadalajara, the Casa-Museo López Portillo, a museum and exhibition space honoring the family, can be visited at Calle Liceo #177.

A short story about Lake Chapala, entitled “José la garza morena” (“José the Great Blue Heron”) was published in Cosmos (a monthly magazine published in Mexico City) in June 1912. It is a tale about someone finding a heron that has been shot and wounded, and trying in vain to cure it.

The story starts by remembering the times before Lake Chapala’s shores has been altered by civilization:

When I visited the lakeside hamlet of Chapala for the first time, now many years ago, I found everything in an almost primitive state, better than now from some points of view, but worse from others.

The author compares the Chapala of earlier times with the situation during the Porfiriato (when he was active in politics as a supporter of President Díaz):

Not a sign back then of the picturesque villas that today adorn and decorate these shores from the town to El Manglar, which is the house where Don Porfirio Díaz used to stay during the time, happy for him, of his all-embracing command; but everywhere was thick scrub, cheerful orchards with severe rocky places, which were in harmony with that rustic and unspoiled landscape.

The scene is set; the action begins with an evening trip in a rowboat on the lake. The beauty of the lake, as depicted by the author, creates an impression of decadence and morbidity, because there are no signs of life out on the water:

But that scene of glorification seemed dead and desolate, without any bird to make it cheerful; not a stork, nor a crane, nor a duck stained the burnished horizon with its graceful silhouette.

Further on, the author continues:

The lake appeared magnificent and solitary under that divine show, as if it were another asphalt lake, a new Dead Sea. But it was not always thus; and the recollections of better times engraved in my memory transformed this most unhappy spectacle because, before the rising tide of civilization invaded these places with platoons of armed hunters with shining rifles, flocks of ducks would rise suddenly into the air from the marshes as the boat approached.

The second part of the short story is about someone finding a heron that has been shot and wounded, and trying in vain to cure it.

Note: The translations included above are by the author of this post, which was first published 18 June 2014.

Credit and reference:

My sincere thanks to Dr. Wolfgang Vogt of the University of Guadalajara for bringing this short story (and his analysis of it) to my attention.

Vogt, Wolfgang (1989) “El lago de Chapala en la literatura” in Estudios sociales: revista cuatrimestral del Instituto de Estudios Sociales. Universidad de Guadalajara: Year 2, Number 5: 1989, 37-47. Republished in 1994 as pp 163-176 of Vogt (1994) La cultura jalisciense desde la colonia hasta la Revolución (Guadalajara: H. Ayuntamiento).

Please feel free to comment or suggest corrections or additional material related to any post via our comments feature or email.

Jun 252020
 

When enthusiastic British traveler William English Carson visited Chapala in 1908–1909, he liked what he found. His book about Mexico—Mexico, the Wonderland of the South—was based on four months’ residence in the country and published just before the start of the Mexican Revolution,

Carson arrived in Guadalajara in November 1908 and stayed over the New Year before staying at the Hotel Arzapalo in the village of Chapala for a few days. His description of a noxious weed infestation at Lake Chapala is one of the earliest detailed descriptions of its kind:

“All along the shores of the lake, and in the Lerma River which runs into it, hundreds of peons are employed in gathering and burning yellow water-lily which has invaded the waters. A few years ago, some imbecile planted a quantity of the lily in the river, thinking it would look pretty. In an incredibly short time it spread like wildfire; some of the streams were completely choked with it, and when I visited Chapala the river was covered in places with green masses of the plant. It had spread all along the lake when the Mexican government took the matter in hand and appropriated a large sum of money for its destruction. At night, fires can be seen blazing along the shores of the lake where the peons have collected and are burning large piles of the noxious weed.”

Either Carson’s sense of color was flawed or his description of the “yellow water-lily” was not intended to refer to the violet-flowered water hyacinth described at about the same time in Terry’s Mexico Handbook. More than a century later, the water hyacinth is still periodically a problem.

Commenting that “very few Americans have ever heard of Lake Chapala”, Carson described how “a number of pretty villas are dotted along the lake’s edge, embowered in bougainvillea and hibiscus, palms and orange trees. ” The popularity of the village had led to some land speculation:

“On a hill a short distance from the shore some land has been divided into building lots for villas, with the idea of starting a model American summer village; but the price of the ground is so high—about $1000 per lot—that very few purchasers had been found.”

After an eloquent description of the tourist life at Chapala, and the lake’s potential for fishing and hunting, Carson wrote that,

“A short distance along the shore, within sight of the beautiful electric-lighted villas, there is another of those queer contrasts so often met with in Mexico. Here is a little village of Indian fishermen who live in huts or wigwams of rushes and adobe, some of the fishing houses being built on piles in the lake like those of the prehistoric lake-dwellers in Switzerland…. To visit this place when the sun is setting, and see the weird figures flitting about beneath the semitropical foliage, conversing in low tones in their ancient dialect, living the most primitive of lives, makes it almost impossible to realize that hardly a mile away are comfortable hotels, a railway, Pullman cars and other adjuncts of latter-day civilization.”

Elsewhere in the book, many of his views about Mexicans will strike modern readers as stereotypical. For example, in an otherwise fascinating chapter about “The Mexican Woman”, he makes several outrageous over-generalizations, including:

—  “As a rule, the Mexican women are not beautiful”

—  “no foreigner, unless he be associated with diplomacy, is likely to have any chance of studying and judging the Mexican women

— “the Mexican girl has but two things in life to occupy her, love and religion”

According to Carson, “fevers and malaria are certain to result from exposure to the rains or the intense heat of the midday sun.” He attributed the progress (as evidenced by the bustling city and high costs of living) in Mexico City and elsewhere to American influence. Carson thought that “Americanization” was such a positive impact that Mexico might one day become “peacefully annexed to the United States.” (!)

Very little is known about his early life, but journalist and author William English Carson (1870-1940), apparently toured the Outer Hebrides in 1897 in the company of future tabloid pioneer Alfred Harmsworth (later Lord Northcliffe). Carson later made his home in New York and became a naturalized American citizen. He also wrote The marriage revolt; a study of marriage and divorce (Hearst’s International Library Co., 1915) and Northcliffe, Britain’s Man of Power (Dodge Publishing Co., 1918).

[This is a lightly edited excerpt from chapter 52 of my Lake Chapala through the ages: an anthology of travelers’ tales.]

Source

  • William English Carson. 1909 Mexico: the wonderland of the south. New York:
    Macmillan.

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcome. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Jun 112020
 

“A Gringo”, an English-speaking traveler about whom very little is known, arrived in Mexico in 1883. He was an observant and enthusiastic visitor. In the preface to his book Through The Land of the Aztecs (published in 1892), “A Gringo” states that his object “is simply to give a plain account of several years experience in the country, to show its recent progress and to enable the reader to judge the future,” based on “prolonged periods of travel over the greater part of its territory, by rail, stagecoach and steamer, on horseback and in canoes [which] have afforded me exceptional facilities for studying the country and all classes of the people.” Contemporary adverts for the book claimed it was based on “seven years’ life and travel in Mexico.”

One contemporary review called the work an “interesting little book descriptive of life and travel in Mexico from 1883 until a recent date,” and congratulated the author “on the felicitous manner in which he has performed his task.” The reviewer found that the book was “a pleasantly written handbook” though it lacked a map, an omission that “is really unpardonable.”

“A Gringo”‘s visit to Chapala definitely took place prior to 1889, though he did not publish anything about it until a few years later. He starts by summarizing his trip to Chapala, which would have taken close to 12 hours:

“Taking a carriage, which ran weekly between Guadalajara and Chapala, a town on the border of the lake of that name, I set forth one morning, and, after climbing a hill, from which a grand view of the city and surrounding countryside was obtained, I reached Chapala.”

He provides only the briefest of descriptions of the village of Chapala, commenting on the inn where he stayed and the moonlight on the lake:

Chapala lies at the foot of a hill, overlooking the lake, the waters of which lapped the little garden of the inn where I put up. After a supper, with the agreeable addition of a bottle of lager beer, I spent the evening chatting with the pleasant old people who kept the inn, and enjoying the still night as I watched the moonbeams playing on the lake, on which loomed the black shape of the paddle steamer that was to take me tomorrow across its waters.”

“A Gringo” gives us a rare description of taking a trip aboard the Libertad (“Freedom”) paddle steamer around the lake to the various lakeshore villages. The San Francisco-built Libertad had been brought to Lake Chapala in 1868 by the Compañía de Navegación por Vapor en el Lago de Chapala (Lake Chapala Steamboat Company), whose managing director was a transplanted Scotsman, Mr. Duncan Cameron.

“It was a wonderful old tub, evidently built in the days when shipbuilding was “in its infancy, judging from its uncouth shape and old timbers, that creaked at every movement of the paddles. Our voyage took in several villages round the lake. At each stopping place we would land on the little mud jetties to suck a piece of sugar-cane or quaff a festive glass of tequila. At one of the villages a sad accident has since occurred; the crazy old steamer toppled over with her living freight of over two hundred passengers just as she reached the landing-stage, nearly all being drowned… One heroic American, employed on the Central Railroad, who was on board at the time, succeeded in saving the lives of sixteen by his pluck and great swimming powers.”

The tragic accident referred to by “A Gringo” occurred on Sunday 24 March 1889 when the steamship capsized at Ocotlán. Even though this took place only six meters from the shore, 28 people were drowned. The American referred to by “A Gringo” was the Railway Superintendent, Mr. C. E. Halbert.

“A Gringo” also noted that efforts had been made to exploit an underwater petroleum deposit at Lake Chapala:

“At one place the captain called my attention to a spot where the water was bubbling, and told me that at the bottom of the lake there was a petroleum well. Although efforts had been made to utilize it, they had hitherto been unsuccessful.”

“A Gringo” disembarked from the Libertad at La Barca, from where he continued his wanderings around Mexico.

If anyone can supply any biographical details about “A Gringo”, please get in touch!

Note:

The previous identification of “A Gringo” as Arthur St. Hill has proved impossible to substantiate. If “A Gringo” was written by a member of the St. Hill family, the most likely contender is Charles Manwell St. Hill, who was born in Trinidad in 1849 and apparently died in Mexico prior to 1906.

[The excerpts are taken from chapter 35 of my Lake Chapala through the ages: an anthology of travelers’ tales.]

Source

  • “A Gringo”. 1892. Through The Land of the Aztecs Or Life and Travel In Mexico. London: Sampson, Low, Marston & Company.

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcome. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

May 142020
 

Thomas Philip Terry (1864-1945) was born in Georgetown, Kentucky. Terry first visited Mexico in his early twenties and spent 5 years working for The Mexican Financier, a Mexico City weekly, while writing a series of short stories and news reports for U.S. newspapers and completing a popular Spanish-English phrase book. Terry then lived briefly in New York before moving to Japan for a decade.

He had a flair for languages and this inveterate traveler and reporter witnessed first-hand the China-Japanese War, the Boxer outbreak, the Russo-Japanese war, and the Spanish-American war in the Philippines. He returned to Mexico, with his wife and their two young sons, in 1905 as manager (administrator) of the Sonora News Company, a position he held until 1910.

The Sonora News Company was a prominent publishing house, founded in Nogales, Arizona, in about 1884 by W. F. Layer. Layer established the company in order to control the news business along the Sonora railroad which ran from Guaymas to Nogales. In 1888, not long after the company opened a Mexico City office, it won the contract for supplying periodicals and other items on the Mexican National Railway (linking Mexico City to Nuevo Laredo), and for running news agents on its trains. As more and more railroad lines were built, the company continued to expand; by 1891 it had contracts with the Sonora, Central, International, National, Monterrey, and Mexican Gulf railroads.

In addition to its regular news gathering and disseminating activities, the Sonora News Company published two seminal guide books about Mexico. The first was Campbell’s new revised complete guide and descriptive book of Mexico, by Reau Campbell, published in 1899, and the second was Terry’s Mexico handbook for travellers, first published in 1909. This encyclopedic guide, thoroughly good reading, covers lots of ground that was, and still is, hard to find elsewhere.

Terry-map-Chapala

This map in Terry’s handbook, which helped persuade D. H. Lawrence to visit Chapala, shows the lake larger than it really was in 1909—the eastern swamps had been drained and reclaimed as farmland by that time.

Terry’s Mexico handbook was so well-received by President Díaz and his cabinet members that they ordered copies to be sent to every Mexican embassy, legation and trade office across the world. The guide quickly became the travel bible for Thomas Cook and Sons and other travel agencies and tourist organizations, and remained the tourist “bible” for decades.

Its description of Chapala is credited with convincing the English novelist D. H. Lawrence that he simply had to see the town and its eponymous lake for himself. During his residence at Lake Chapala, Lawrence wrote the first draft of The Plumed Serpent, using local settings and characters for inspiration.

Terry’s research was meticulous and his informative guide delves into the details of everything from history to hotels, and from shopping to excursions. It was expanded in numerous subsequent editions as Terry’s Guide to Mexico, with later editions revised by James Norman.

In 1914, Terry produced a second book on Mexico: Mexico: an outline sketch of the country, its people and their history from the earliest times to the present.

Thomas Philip Terry died in Hingham, Massachusetts in 1945.

In a curious twist of fate, Terry also has a much more recent connection to Lake Chapala in that Robert C. Terry (his grandson) retired with his wife, Judith, to Ajijic in 2007.

For more about Terry and his description of Lake Chapala, see chapter 53 of my Lake Chapala Through the Ages, an anthology of travelers’ tales.

Sources include

  • Reau Campbell. 1899. Campbell’s new revised complete guide and descriptive book of Mexico. Mexico City: Sonora News Company, 1899.
  • The Jalisco Times, 22 August 1908.
  • The Mexican Herald, 31 March 1910, 3.
  • The Rock Island Argus (Rock Island, Illinois), 26 Mar 1910, 4.
  • Thomas Philip Terry. 1909. Terry’s Mexico Handbook for Travellers. México City: Sonora News Company and Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.
  • James Tipton. 2011. “Peace Corps couple retire to their Mexico paradise.” Article on MexConnect.com
  • The Two Republics, 2 Sep 1888, 4; 2 Nov 1888, 4.

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcome. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Apr 232020
 

At first glance this may not seem to be the most exciting photograph of Lake Chapala ever used for a postcard. However, “Casa Abitia” – the card’s publisher – was the business name for one of Mexico’s most interesting, pioneering and remarkable photographers.

Casa Abitia: Chapala postcard

Casa Abitia. “Orillas del lago, Chapala, Jal.” ca 1920.

Jesús Hermenegildo Abitia Garcés, commonly known simply as Chucho Abitia, was born in Batuchic, Chihuahua, on 13 April 1881, spent his early years in Sonora, and died in Mexico City in 1960.

He took his first photographs at the age of 12, after spending his savings – all US$2.50 of them – on an American camera. In 1905, in his twenties, he set up a photography business in Hermosillo, Sonora, named Abitia Hermanos Fotógrafos, that specialized in the distribution of Eastman Kodak products and materials. He was also a pioneer of moving pictures in Mexico, shooting such reels as El mata mujeres (“He kills women”), Los amores de Novelty (“The loves of Novelty”), Los dos reclutas (“The two recruits”) and El robo del perico (“Theft of the parakeet”), all released in 1913.

During the Mexican Revolution, Abitia joined the Ejército del Noroeste (Constitutional Army of the Northwest) commanded by his former school friend, Álvaro Obregón. As a propaganda officer, Abitia recorded the advance of Obregón’s constitutionalist troops as they took control of Culiacán, Mazatlán and Guadalajara before entering Mexico City in August 1914. Obregón was joined in Mexico City a few days later by Venustiano Carranza who established a new government.

In about 1914, and in cooperation with other family members, he established a photographic business – Abitia Hermanos Fotógrafos – in Guadalajara. He was commissioned by then president, Venustiano Carranza, to travel throughout Mexico, shooting documentaries to be shown across Latin America as a means of promoting the country’s progress.

Abitia’s family photography business in Guadalajara continued to operate until 1926. The family store, operating initially as “Abitia Hnos y Cia” and later as “La Casa del Fotógrafo”, was located at Avenida 16 de Septiembre #160. It advertised its products – all sizes and formats of Kodak film “direct from the factory” – and services sporadically over the next few years, occasionally offering discounts such as “10% off all films, plates, papers and postcards”.

This mention of postcards strongly suggests that the Abitia view of Chapala, illustrating this post, dates from about this time. In 1921, a display advert in El Informador boasted that Casa Abitia offered “Tarjetas Postales de Guadalajara y Chapala. Hermosa colección, única en la ciudad.” (“Postcards of Guadalajara and Chapala. Beautiful collection. Unique in the city.”)

Abitia also continued to make movies and, in 1922, with a budget of $300,000 pesos, he founded the Estudios Chapultepec in Mexico City. The earliest Mexican movie with sound was Santa, filmed here in 1931.

At some point, Abitia acquired the Hacienda San Gaspar in Jiutepec, just outside the city of Cuernavaca in the state of Morelos. In the late 1940s, he built a trout farm on part of the property.

In addition to his career as a photographer, Abitia was an accomplished violinist and built several innovative stringed instruments. He first made string instruments in about 1900. His instruments were of high acoustic quality and craftsmanship and included a viola, a violeta (between a viola and a violin) and a violetín (a fifth sharper than a violin) as well as an ultrabajo (five tones below a doublebass). He collaborated with the notable Mexican musical inventor, Julián Carillo in the development and perfection of Sonido 13. (For more about this unusual musical system, see chapter 25 of my Mexican Kaleidoscope.)

For a sample of Abitia’s documentary work, this short silent documentary – “Los combates de Celaya (Abril 1915)” – is viewable on Youtube. Abitia filmed this in April 1915 as General Alvaro Obregón and his forces took the city of Celaya, Guanajuato. (The music accompanying the film on Youtube is by the Hermanos Záizar.)

Sources

  • Anon. 2018. “Jesús Hermenegildo Abitia Garcés“, post dated 17 April 2019 on Facebook page, Jesus H. Abitia (1881-1960).  [4 June 2019]
  • El Constitucionalista, Diario Oficial. 3 September 1914, 2.
  • El Informador: 23 Dec 1917, 2; 7 June 1918, 3; 21 February 1920, 8; 20 June 1920, 6; 4 August 1920; 8 January 1921, 7; 24 June 1922; 12 Feb 1923, 3; 14 March 1926, 8.
  • Angel Miguel. Undated. Jesús Hermenegildo Abitia Garcés: Biografía. Fundación Carmen Toscano, archivo histórico cinematográfico. [4 June 2019]
  • Periódico Oficial del Estado de Morelos. 18 June 1939, 1; 27 September 1942, 2; 26 Nov 1947, 1.
  • El Pueblo, 25 Feb 1918, 1.

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcomed. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Apr 022020
 

Winifred Martin, a journalist working for the The San Bernardino Sun in California, spent six weeks in Mexico in 1909 and has left us a first-hand account of staying at the Hotel Ribera Castellanos (located mid-way between Jamay and Ocotlán near the eastern end of the lake), one of Mexico’s most fashionable resorts at the time.

Extolling the virtues of “the delightful balminess,” perfect temperature and “gentle lapping of the waves,” Martin labeled the Hotel Ribera Castellanos “a place unique in all the great republic of Mexico.”

The hotel is picturesque and charming with lawns sloping steeply to the water’s edge… the long rambling building with its tiled roof fits well into the setting. Song birds fill the trees and birds of brilliant scarlet plumage, mingle with their kin of the silver voices. Mesquite trees with foliage like a species of acacia, are among those which dot the lawn, with banana plants, palms, bougainvillea, geraniums and other plants with gorgeous blooms in unstudied arrangement.”

She praised the hotel management:

Mr. and Mrs Sumrow, formerly of the Kenilworth Inn at Asheville, North Carolina, are managing the Ribera now, and give Americans a warm welcome. The chef is Chinese and the other servants as a matter of course are Mexicans. Horseback and coach rides are very popular and a number of interesting trips may be made, that to the old Indian village of Jamay, being one of the most popular.”

Martin also comments on how native boats with square sails plied the waters of the picturesque lake, which was a “hunters paradise during October, November and December, 22 species of game birds being found thereabouts.”

When Martin visited in 1909, the hotel was building an “addition with 58 rooms and baths.” The hacienda, of which the hotel was part, employed 230 men and produced “wheat, corn, and garbanzas.”

During her Mexico trip in 1909, Martin also made “delightful visits to Mexico City, Guadalajara, Guanajuato, Aguascalientes, and a score of other places of interest in the mañana land.” She concludes in her article that she shares “the experience of every traveler there, in that she was loath to leave and longs to enjoy the trip again.”

Winifred Martin, who never married, was born on 6 February 1869 in Cloverdale, Indiana, and died in San Bernardino, at the age of 92, on 22 June 1961. She began her career by working on The Transcript, a newspaper started in San Bernardino by her father in 1898. Her brother, Ernest Martin, who later became the San Bernardino postmaster, also worked there. At that time, San Bernardino was little more than “a harsh frontier town of muddy streets and drab buildings.” When her father sold The Transcript, Martin moved to the Daily Sun, beginning a long career with that paper (and its later iterations) that extended almost 60 years.

Martin was the paper’s social correspondent and chronicled social activities, births, marriages and deaths of three generations of San Bernardino families, always insisting on checking out key facts in person and never relying only on telephone conversations. She would work late into the night writing and checking material that would appear in the following morning’s edition.

Even as her health declined, Martin refused to slow down or retire. Even though needing a wheelchair in her later years, she still attended the annual Sun Company Christmas party, where she would be introduced as the “Grand Lady of the Sun Company”. In memory of her outstanding contributions, the paper established a Winifred Martin Scholarship which was awarded annually to the outstanding female journalism student in San Bernardino high schools.

Sources

  • Anon. “Personal”. The San Bernardino County Sun, 9 Dec 1909, 5.
  • Robert L Harrison. 1961. Winifred Martin Taken by Death. San Bernardino Sun-Telegram, 23 June 1961, C12, C17.
  • Winifrid Martin. 1909. “Astray in Mexico: South Republic Exiles Give Thanks.” The San Bernardino Sun, 4 Dec 1909, 5.

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcome. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Mar 262020
 

German artist Peter Woltze is primarily known as a watercolorist who specialized in street scenes and architectural studies. He lived in the U.S. for many years at the end of the 19th century and his beautiful painting of Chapala, dated 1899, is among the earliest watercolors known of the region.

Friedrich Karl Peter Berthold Woltze was born in Halberstadt, Germany, on 1 April 1860, the son of portrait painter Berthold Woltze (1829-1896) and his wife, Anna. Peter Woltze studied in Weimar, Karlsruhe, Munich, Venice and Rome.

At the age of 26, he left Germany on 29 August 1886 for the U.S., where he lived for most of the next 14 years.

Woltze was one of some twenty artists who were hired by Austrian artist August Lohr (1842-1920) and German artist William Wehner who had partnered to establish the American Panorama Company (APC) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, two years earlier. They commissioned these artists to work on large panoramic paintings for the APC. Lohr later moved to Mexico, where he painted Lake Chapala in about 1905.

During his years in Milwaukee, Woltze contributed to several German language publications and studied art with Friedrich Wilhelm Heine (1845–1921), who set up the Heine School of Art in 1888.

Peter Woltze. 1899. Chapala. (Credit: Auktionshaus Angerland, Germany)

Peter Woltze. 1899. Chapala. (Credit: Auktionshaus Angerland, Germany)

The Milwaukee Art Museum has several Woltze paintings, including one of his few known portraits, in its permanent collection. In style, Woltze, influenced by the Grand-Ducal Saxon Art School in Weimar, moved away from classical composition towards more natural “genre” paintings based on an appreciation of nature. Among the prominent artists of this School was Max Beckmann, who also moved to the U.S., where he taught creative American artist Barbara Zacheisz Elstob, who painted in Ajijic in the early 1950s.

Woltze became a member of the influential Salmagundi Club of New York, which holds regular art exhibitions and has amassed its own permanent collection, which includes a work by Gerald Collins Gleeson (1915-1986) who also painted in Chapala. Alan Horton Crane (1901-1969), also a member of the Salmagundi Club, visited Chapala in 1949 to produce some striking lithographs.

In addition to painting scenes in the Milwaukee region, Woltze also spent time in New Orleans and the south, where he painted numerous street and genre scenes.

Woltze visited Mexico in 1899, perhaps to visit former colleague August Lohr, and painted at Chapala that year, only a year after the opening of the town’s first international hotel, the Hotel Arzapalo. (Chicago-based artist Richard Smith Robbins (1863-1908) had visited Chapala the year before.) Woltzes lovely watercolor of Chapala, sold at auction in Germany in 2019, is unusual in that it does not show the lake but focuses on the essential elements of rural life.

In 1900, Woltze returned to live in Germany, settling initially in Frankfurt am Main. Three years later, on 27 March 1903, he married Helene Meurer in Weimar in central Germany. The couple moved to Weimar in 1907, the same year Woltze published a portfolio of watercolor views of the city’s historic buildings.

Peter and Helene Woltze visited the U.S. in October 1909. Four years later, his wife returned to New York to mount an exhibition of almost 100 of her husband’s superb watercolors at the Waldorf-Astoria. A news report of the time emphasized the quality of the works on display, which were all “painted on English water color paper in English-made colors.”

Peter Woltze died in Weimar on 4 April 1925, at the age of 65. Examples of his Milwaukee paintings have occasionally appeared in group shows, such as Wisconsin Artists 1855 Until Today (1963); A Century Plus of Wisconsin Watercolors (1976); Collecting the Art of Wisconsin – The Early Years (1996) and An Unfolding Story… Panorama Painting In Milwaukee (2008).

Sources

  • The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 6 December 1913, 7.
  • William Gerdts. 1990. Art Across America. Abbeville Pr, vol. 2: 333.
  • John A. Mahé, Rosanne McCaffrey (eds). 1987. Encyclopaedia of New Orleans Artists, 1718-1918, p 418.
  • Museum of Wisconsin Art. 2007. “Peter Woltze” (biography).
  • Estill C Pennington (Contributor), James C Kelly (Contributor). 1985. The South on Paper: Line, Color and Light. Saraland Pr/Robert M Hicklin Jr Inc.
  • The Post-Crescent (Appleton, Wisconsin) 29 January 1967, 22.

Note: This is an updated version of a post first published 26 March 2020.

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcome. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

 Posted by at 5:39 am  Tagged with:
Nov 212019
 

Francisco González Rubalcaba y Cabo wrote and illustrated a short book about Lake Chapala in the 1880s. His charming naïf illustrations may not be fine art but are some of the earliest paintings known of the lake. What is more, Rubalcaba did not paint only the village of Chapala (as so many other artists have done), he also painted several places that have rarely, if ever, been painted since! These include La Palma, La Angostura and Agua Caliente, all on the southern shore.

González Rubalcaba’s book – Geografía del territorio del lago de Chapala – was published in a facsimile edition in 2002 by ITESM in Guadalajara. The text is dated 29 May 1880 but the map in the manuscript was completed in Guadalajara and is dated 28 April 1882.

Francisco González Ruvalcaba. Chapala. c 1882.

Francisco González Ruvalcaba. Chapala. c 1882.

The color illustrations in the book were drawn in tinta china (India ink) with a wash of watercolor added.The image above shows far more buildings (and larger buildings) along the shoreline beneath Cerro de San Miguel in Chapala than most historians have claimed existed there at the time. Was this wishful thinking on  González Rubalcaba’s part or was he really depicting what he saw?

I have long argued that the commonly-repeated date of 1895 for the start of holiday homes in Chapala is demonstrably inaccurate, and this drawing serves to bolster my conviction. For more details, see chapter 37 of my Lake Chapala Through the Ages: an anthology of travellers’ tales.

Francisco González Ruvalcaba. Vista General, Chapala. c 1882.

Francisco González Ruvalcaba. General view of the lake at night from Chapala. c 1882.

This unusual nocturnal view of the lake, as seen from the village of Chapala, is especially interesting. It includes a typical square-sailed canoa, an island (presumably Isla de Mezcala, given its relief) and, in the distance, a steamship. Elsewhere in the book, González Ruvalcaba includes a drawing of the steamship Chapala approaching a port.

Virtually nothing is known about Francisco González Ruvalcaba. He is presumed to have been a lawyer. In 1853, as “juez de letras” (professional judge) in Sayula, he published a complaint “made by the Supreme Government of the State of Jalisco against the jefe politico of that place [Sayula], D. Claudio Gutiérrez, for the many excesses he had committed…”

If you know any more details about this interesting author-artist, please get in touch!

Source

  • Francisco González Ruvalcaba. 1882. Geografía del territorio del lago de Chapala. (edited by Ricardo Elizondo). Published in 2002 by ITESM, Guadalajara.

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcomed. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Nov 142019
 

Among the very few early images of Chapala that depict village people going about their everyday lives, is this postcard from about 1910 entitled (on its reverse side) “Chapala. Un mercado en México – Mexican market.”

Photographer unknown. Postcard published by Juan Kaiser. “Chapala-Market in Mexico”. c 1910.

The postcard was published by Juan Kaiser. Given that Kaiser lived in Guadalajara, he was somewhat loose with his titles and his geography. The postcard actually shows an open-air market in the village of El Salto, much closer to Guadalajara than to Chapala! The building to the left of the open-air market in the image is the former tienda de raya (hacienda store) in El Salto, Jalisco, near Juanacatlán Falls; the building is now the town’s Centro Cultural.

In his defense, Kaiser was a savvy businessman and postcards such as this one were clearly designed to appeal to a much broader audience than only those visiting El Salto. The market vendors displaying their wares on the sidewalk and prospective purchasers inspecting the fresh produce made for a timeless scene.

Fortunately for Chapalaphiles, there are several early descriptions of the market in Chapala, including this one by Polish traveler Vitold de Szyszlo who witnessed the real Chapala market in 1910:

On the dusty road appeared groups of horsemen. They were selling milk, fruit and vegetables, trotting, loaded with baskets and containers of various sizes. Large cowboy hats completely masked their faces; a blue shirt with pants of the same color and leather huaraches completed their attire. Country girls with olive complexions and braids black as ebony, carefully tied on the nape of the neck, followed, sometimes sitting two on the same mule or donkey, like proud Amazons. Others, darker skinned, let the ivory of their pearly white teeth show through their gracious smiles and the blazing heat of the Andalusian gypsy show through their burning gaze while their silvery voices resounded in harmonious bursts of laughter.

The market, in the center of the village, is the meeting point of all these colourful people. Under multicoloured awnings are mounted pyramids of fruit and vegetables, bananas, oranges, lemons, watermelons, melons, papayas, mameyes, lettuces, sweet potatoes, red and hot peppers. Elsewhere, zealous merchants offer fresh tortillas and tamales of golden cooked corn, and pulque, the smell of which fills one with intense repulsion.

On the other side of the square, cluttered stalls display sombreros, wool sarapes and leather huaraches.”

More details of Vitold de Szyszlo and his visit to Chapala can be found in chapter 55 of  my Lake Chapala Through the Ages: an anthology of travellers’ tales.

Source

  • Szyszlo, Vitold de. 1913. Dix mille kilomètres à travers le Mexique, 1909-1910. Paris: Plon-Nourrit et Cie., pp 235-236; translation by Marie-Josée Bayeur.

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcomed. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Nov 062019
 

Rose Georgina Kingsley (1845-1925) was the oldest child of the Rev. Charles Kingsley, the celebrated English clergyman and novelist, who contributed the prologue to her book South by west or winter in the Rocky Mountains and spring in Mexico.

Rose Kingsley had crossed the Atlantic to Colorado Springs in November 1871 to join her brother, Maurice, who was assistant treasurer of the company developing Colorado Springs. Even by 1872, there were less than 800 residents, so both Kingsleys were pioneer settlers.

The founder of Colorado Springs, General William Jackson Palmer, a railway entrepreneur, also owned a newspaper Out West which published several columns and sketches by Rose Kingsley. The Denver and Rio Grande train had been operating for only a week when Rose Kingsley boarded it en route to Colorado Springs. She quickly felt at home and rapidly made friends in the ever-changing community that she grew to love. She taught in the local school, begun by Palmer’s wife, Queen, for a short while, but did not enjoy the experience. Little did she realize at that time that she would, in 1884 – with the help of Dr. Joseph Wood, later Headmaster of Harrow – found The Kingsley School, in Leamington Spa, England. Rose Kingsley went on to write many more books, including A History of French Art, 1100-1899 (1899) and Roses and Rose Growing (1908).

When General Palmer decided in 1872 to examine possible routes for a railway linking Texas to Manzanillo, Rose Kingsley was invited to join his wife Queen and General William Rosencrans on the trip. The group landed in Manzanillo and then headed inland to Colima, Guadalajara, Guanajuato, Querétaro and Mexico City.

Illustration from Georgina Kinsley's "South by West"

Illustration from Rose Georgina Kinsley’s South by West

In chapter XVII of South by west or winter in the Rocky Mountains and spring in Mexico, Kingsley describes the route from Guadalajara past the northern shore of Lake Chapala on the way to Mexico City. Following a common convention of the time, she uses only initials to identify important people; several of the individuals referred to have been identified by historians. For instance, “Mrs. P.” is Mrs Queen Palmer, and Mr. C. is Mr. Duncan Cameron. Kingsley’s account of this route serves as an introduction to set the scene for so many other travelers, who would follow this exact same route from Guadalajara to Chapala in years to come. It is 1872…

“April 13.— Guadalajara to Ocotlan. At 6.15 A.M. we left hospitable Guadalajara, carrying away none but the pleasantest reminiscences of our stay of six days.

Pablo, a pleasant young fellow, who had been our cochero in Guadalajara, came with us as mozo, and was in a state of supreme delight at being armed with a Henry rifle and revolver. Mr. M. also came with us as far as La Barca.

The usual route from Guadalajara to the capital is by La Venta, Lagos, Leon, and Guanaguato; but for two reasons we chose the more southern route, past Lake Chapala and up the Rio Lerma. First, because the engineer’s party from the north (of whom we had heard nothing as yet, which made us very anxious) must pass along that route, and so be able to give a report on it. Secondly, because we were told the Chapala route was shorter and better, if there can be anything “better” in one Mexican road than another. Certainly, after the first few miles it was bad enough—rough and stony, and in the softer places there were clouds of dust.

At San Pedro [Tlaquepaque] we stopped and got three men as escort, and at 9.30 came to San Antonio, a hacienda where we changed mules, and had breakfast in a hut by the roadside. The women in the hut, which was only made of sticks and thatch, gave us eggs, frijoles, tortillas, and carne seca, in chilli colorado sauce, which for hotness almost beat the mole de guajalote at Atenquique. But besides these native viands we got capital chocolate, made from some cakes we had brought with us. So, on the whole, we fared well.

At 12.15 we came to the summit of a small pass (4850 feet), and there before us lay a splendid valley, rich with golden wheat-fields, with a fine river flowing through it on our left to the north-west; and we knew we had struck the great central valley of Mexico, commonly known as the Valley of the Lerma.

This valley is one of the richest portions of the Republic. Its length, between Guadalajara and Queretaro, is about 230 miles, and its greatest width (between Leon and the mountains of Michoacán), 60 miles. About one-tenth of the available land in it is under cultivation. Wheat, maize, and beans grow freely without irrigation, yielding good crops year after year without the slightest pains being taken to improve the soil. With irrigation and better farming two crops might be obtained; and when a market for the produce, and easy means of transportation are supplied, this tract will become one of the most important wheat-growing districts of the world. The amount of wheat which could be raised in this valley alone has been variously estimated from 500,000 to 1,000,000 tons yearly, equal to or surpassing the whole yearly yield of California.”

This is an extract from chapter 30 of “Lake Chapala Through the Ages: an anthology of travellers’ tales”, available as either as a regular print book or a Kindle e-book.

Note: This post was first published 22 April 2012.

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcome. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Oct 242019
 

Marie Robinson Wright (1853-1914) was the author of two non-fiction books about Mexico, the first published in 1897 and the second in 1911. The later book includes a short description of Lake Chapala and an early photo of the shoreline villas as seen from the lake.

Born in Newnan, Georgia, on 4 May 1853 to a wealthy plantation owner and his wife, Wright grew up in privileged surroundings. She was disinherited after running away from home at age 16 to marry Hinton P. Wright, the son of a prominent lawyer.

Both her family and her husband lost everything in the Civil War and in 1886, now in her early thirties, she divorced her husband and, in order to support her two children, turned her hand to journalism and travel writing. She became a correspondent for the New York World and wrote a series of well-illustrated and keenly observed articles and books on Mexico, Central America, and South America.

In 1891, she visited Mexico and in 1892 she penned an eight-page article about the country for the New York World, supplemented by illustrations. The newspaper was paid 20,000 dollar in gold by the Mexican government for this supplement, a record price for a newspaper article at the time.

The following year, Wright was commissioned to write an illustrated booklet about the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Shortly afterwards, Wright decided she could do better on her own.

Accompanied by her daughter, Ida Dent Wright, she returned to Mexico in 1895 and received official approval for a book about the country. President Porfirio Díaz and Foreign Secretary Ignacio Mariscal gave her letters of introduction to every governor in the country and arranged for her to have access to steamboats and private trains, with military escort if required, wherever she wished to travel.

The two women spent the next year traveling throughout the country, covering thousands of miles by mule, railroad and steamboat. Few women tourists had ever visited some of the remote areas that Wright and her daughter explored. (One notable exception was Englishwoman Adela Breton, who, in 1893, began her own odyssey exploring unlikely parts of Mexico on horseback, accompanied only by a local guide.)

Frontispiece of Marie Robinson Wright, Picturesque Mexico (1897).

Frontispiece of Marie Robinson Wright, Picturesque Mexico (1897).

The result of Wright’s travels was her first book on Mexico – Picturesque Mexico – published in 1897. It was “the most comprehensive and beautiful book on Mexico ever written in any language” and 8,000 copies were ordered by the Mexican government in advance for distribution to government officials and representatives at home and abroad. It included only this brief description of Lake Chapala:

Among the lakes which stud with beauty this prosperous state [Jalisco] is Lake Chapala, larger than Lake Geneva, and the largest and most beautiful in the republic. This lake, by reason of its area of eight hundred and ten square miles, is sometimes known by the name of the Chapalan Sea. Lake Chapala is a summer resort of the highest grade, and is frequented by the most prominent residents of Guadalajara and other large towns. There has recently been discovered a large deposit of petroleum discharging from the bottom of the lake.”

Wright was invited back to Mexico in 1910 and her second book, produced in 1911, commemorated Mexico’s centennial. This book, entitled Mexico – A history of its progress and development in one hundred years, includes, on page 418, this photograph of the shoreline villas at Lake Chapala.

 

Photograph of Chapala from Marie Wright (1911), p 418.

Photograph of Chapala from Marie Robinson Wright (1911), p 418.

During this trip, Wright learned about the Hotel Ribera Castellanos, on the lakeshore near Ocotlán. The hotel had opened a few years earlier, in 1906, and Wright clearly appreciated its delights:

Chapala, where they are some famous hot springs and a fine new hotel of modern equipment called the Ribera Castellanos. This resort is very convenient to Guadalajara. No more charming excursion for a lover of beautiful scenery can be found in all Mexico that around this beautiful lake. For water-fowl shooting during the fall and winter months and for sailing and bathing during the entire year, these shores are delightful. Most all the members of Mexican society find themselves there during Holy Week and other holidays. The President goes on his yearly hunting trip to these parts, accompanied by his son and some members of his cabinet and intimates. He is noted for his powers of endurance, often outstripping the others in his ardent quest for game.”

While this description is not entirely accurate (President Díaz did not actually hunt at Lake Chapala every year) the essence of her account was spot-on.

Among other books, Wright also wrote Salvador (1893); The New Brazil (1901); The Republic of Chile (1904); The Brazilian National Exposition of 1908 (1908); Bolivia, the central highway of South America (1907); and The old and the new Peru (1908).

Wright was an elected member of several learned societies and served as a special delegate to international expositions. She made her home in New York City and died there on 1 February 1914.

Sources

  • Atlanta Constitution. 1914. Marie Robinson Wright (obituary). Atlanta Constitution, 3 February 1914, 1.
  • Frances Elizabeth Willard and Mary Ashton Rice Livermore. 1893. A Woman of the Century: Fourteen Hundred Seventy Biographical Sketches Accompanied by Portraits of Leading American Women in All Walks of Life. Moulton.
  • Frances Elizabeth Willard; Helen Maria Winslow and Sallie Elizabeth Joy White. 1897. Occupations for Women: A Book of Practical Suggestions for the Material Advancement, the Mental and Physical Development, and the Moral and Spiritual Uplift of Women. Success Company.
  • Marie Robinson Wright. 1897. Picturesque Mexico. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co.
  • Marie Robinson Wright. 1911. Mexico – A history of its progress and development in one hundred years. Lipincott.

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcome. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Sep 052019
 

This post looks at the small number of early stereoscopic photo pairs of Chapala that have come to light. A stereoscopic pair of photos is obtained by taking the same picture twice, but from slightly different positions, akin to the two slightly different views from your left eye and right eye, respectively. When a stereo pair of photos is printed side by side and viewed through the two lenses of a stereoscope, the brain can combine the two slightly different images into a vivid 3-dimensional image, with depth and perspective.

Taking stereoscopic views was much more expensive and time-consuming than taking regular postcard photographs, so the paucity of images is no surprise. What is a surprise is the subject matter of some of the photo pairs.

I only know of two stereo pairs that definitely show Lake Chapala. The first (below) was apparently taken privately (ie for his own use, not for commercial use) by a French mining engineer, L. Legrand.

L. Legrand. 1907. Stereo pair showing Chapala.

L. Legrand. 1907. Stereo pair showing Chapala.

Dated 14 April 1907 it shows the view looking west from Playa Chacaltita, the beach originally to the east of the church in Chapala. In the distance, at the foot of Cerro San Miguel, is the distinctive holiday house of the Capetillo family.

Several small fishing boats occupy the foreground, making for a pleasing composition, similar to the bottom left photo appearing on this Juan Kaiser triple-view postcard.

Juan Kaiser postcard

The second known Chapala-related stereo pair of photos (uncredited and undated) shows a sunset as seen from the pier at El Fuerte, near Ocotlán.

Uncredited photo of Lake Chapala from Hotel Ribera near Ocotlán.

There is a a third stereo pair (below), also uncredited and undated, that purportedly has a connection to Lake Chapala. This pair, not published commercially, has a handwritten caption on the back: “Pueblo de Chapala.” It is an unusual view looking down on rustic single-story homes and buildings surrounding a crowded central square. The inclusion of an animal-drawn cart headed for the “jardín” makes for an interesting and compelling composition.

Uncredited photo from stereo pair. Location unknown.

Unfortunately, the profile of the hills in the background does not appear to match any location near the settlement of Chapala itself. It is possible that the “Pueblo de Chapala” was shorthand for “Pueblo del Lago de Chapala” and that the photo actually shows some other lakeside village. If you can suggest where this photograph was taken, then please let me know!

At least two other stereo pairs are indirectly related to Lake Chapala. Visitors traveling from Guadalajara to Lake Chapala in the early part of the 20th century often stopped off in Juanacatlán in order to admire the beautiful waterfalls there: “The Niagara of Mexico.”

The Keystone View Company, of Meadville, Pennsylvania, and St. Louis, Missouri, published two stereo pairs of the Juanacatlán Falls. The earliest, dated 1900 and copyrighted by B. L. Singley, shows a group of men and women on a ferryboat on the River Grande (Santiago) immediately above the falls. A second, later, Keystone stereo pair shows the falls themselves in all their glory. Whether or not Keystone also published a stereo pair of Lake Chapala is unknown but it would seem very likely given the company’s immense output.

Are there any more stereoscopic images of Lake Chapala out there? If so, please let me know!

Acknowledgment

  • My thanks to the members of the “Imágenes históricas de Guadalajara, México” Facebook group for their valuable comments on the “Pueblos de Chapala” image.

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcomed. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

Aug 222019
 

French-born photographer Frédèric Faideau (1880-1954) took some remarkable photos of Lake Chapala in the early 1920s. Unlike the commercial postcard photographers and publishers who portrayed the Chapala area and its inhabitants at that time, Faideau was an unpaid amateur. It is precisely because his photographs had no commercial or monetary motivation that they are so interesting.

F. Faideau. ca 1920. Truck on road to Chapala. (Delcampe image)

F. Faideau. ca 1920. Truck on road to Chapala. (Delcampe image)

Faideau was not the only talented and skilled amateur photographer portraying the Chapala area and its inhabitants in the first half of the 20th century. For example, two local photographers, architect Guillermo de Alba and hotelier Antonio Mólgora, are known to have published a limited number of their images as postcards, with Mólgora apparently giving away or selling his own photos to guests of the various hotels he managed as a means of garnering publicity and clientele.

A very small number of fine photographers appear never to have made any attempt to formally publish their photos, and only ever shared them with family and friends. Faideau is probably the most noteworthy member of this group.

F. Faideau. ca 1920. Local children near Chapala. (Delcampe image)

F. Faideau. ca 1920. Local children near Chapala. (Delcampe image)

Faideau was born in Bouresse, Vienne, Francia in 1880. He left France in 1905 to join his cousin, Dr. Adolphe Faideau, who was living in Guadalajara. Faideau began working for Las Fábricas de Francia, and later became a representative and shareholder of the company.

In 1914, Faideau returned to Europe to serve as a nurse during the first world war and married Lucie Muzard, a girl from his home village. The couple had two children: Suzanne and Pierre. After the war ended, the family settled in Guadalajara where they lived until 1925, the year they returned permanently to Europe.

While living in Guadalajara Faideau indulged his serious passion for photography. His techniques were sound and his subject matter varied from pictures of his workplace, co-workers, family and friends to urban and rural landscapes, including some views of Chapala and its eponymous lake.

Faideau’s photos of children are especially charming and his portraits of local people are valuable ethnographic images, revealing the wide disparities in the social, economic and cultural life of the time.

The Musée de la Vallée in Barcelonnette, France, has a collection of Faideau’s photographs, donated in 2009 by Cristian and Catherine Dejoie, two of Faideau’s descendants. Faideau’s photographs were showcased in an exhibition entitled “Frédèric Faideau and Charlotte Lions-Plisson: views of Mexico” hosted by the museum from 10 August to 30 October 2011.

Main source (biographical details)

  • Sergio Valerio Ulloa. 2014. “Tras las huellas luminosas. Fotógrafos e imágenes, la construcción de la memoria de los barcelonnettesen Guadalajara, 1880-1930.” Letras Históricas (Universidad de Guadalajara), No 10 (2014).

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcomed. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

May 162019
 

Edward Percy Moran was born in Philadelphia in 1862 and died in New York City in 1935. He was born into an extremely artistic family. His father, Edward Moran was one of three siblings – Edward, Thomas and Peter – who were all born in the U.K. and became well-known artists in their time, as did Thomas’s wife, Mary, and various other relatives.

Edward Percy Moran studied with his father and took formal art classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the National Academy of Design. He also studied in Europe (London and Paris) before returning to New York, where he eventually established his studio at East Hampton on Long Island.

Moran painted in the realist style and tended to specialize in historical subjects but also painted portraits and landscapes and became known for his etchings. His work was shown frequently at the National Academy of Design and the Brooklyn Art Association from 1861 to 1899. In 1886, he won a prize at the National Academy of Design and in 1888 he received a gold medal for a work shown at the American Artists Association in New York City.

Among the works shown in exhibition were at least two paintings of Chapala. A watercolor entitled “The Market Place, Chapala” was shown at the 1905 Boston Art Club fine arts exhibition and another watercolor, “Old Church, Chapala, Mexico,” was included in the catalogues of both the Forty-Ninth and Fiftieth Annual Exhibitions of the American Water Color Society (held in 1916 and 1917 respectively) at the Galleries of the National Arts Club. That particular painting was priced at $125.

Edward Percy Moran (1916). On The Beach, East Hampton. (Doyle-Auctions 2014)

Edward Percy Moran (1916). On The Beach, East Hampton. (Doyle Auctions, 2014)

This image of the beach at East Hampton, dating from 1916, gives a good idea of Moran’s realist style, strength of composition and sense of color.

It is unknown precisely when Moran visited Chapala or whether he visited on more than one occasion. If anyone has an image of any of Moran’s paintings of Chapala, please get in touch!

Moran was a member of the American Water Color Society from 1885 until his death. Examples of his work can be found in many prominent collections in the U.S., including the Wilstach Gallery in Philadelphia, the Masonic Hall in Chicago, Plymouth Museum, and at Hamilton Club in Brooklyn.

Source

Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcomed. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.

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Apr 252019
 

The earliest commercial movie to include footage of Lake Chapala was almost certainly the silent movie El Escándalo (1920), based on English writer Cosmo Hamilton’s novel Scandal (1917).

El Escándalo was directed and produced by Alfredo B. Cuéllar. Cuéllar had studied law and economics at UNAM before working as a journalist. He owned the ABC shoe store in Mexico City. In 1921 he founded the National Charro Association. Cuellar headed the Mexican delegation to Paris for the 1924 Olympics in that city.

Alfredo B. Cuellar. Credit: Fototeca Nacional.

Alfredo B. Cuellar. Credit: Fototeca Nacional.

The opening credits for El Escándalo show that the movie was intended to highlight the best of Mexico’s national life: high society, clubs, outings, sports, historic buildings, lakes, rivers and scenery. Parts of the film were shot in Guadalajara and surrounding areas, including Juanacatlán Falls and Lake Chapala, in May 1920.

The plot is a love story centered on Ana María, the beautiful, spoiled daughter of a formerly wealthy father who hopes to restore his family’s fortunes by marrying her off to a rich engineer of English heritage who has just increased his fortune by finding oil off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

However, Ana María, who lives in Mexico City, has fallen in love with a penniless sculptor, Armando Baltazar, whose exploits help fill the pages of the local weeklies. Baltazar sculpts a bust of Ana María as rumors swirl about their relationship. When she is seen one night entering the hotel where he has his studio, she lies that she is on her way to see the engineer who happened to be staying there.

Given her family’s misfortunes and the looming potential scandal, Ana María feels no option but to marry the engineer despite the fact that she doesn’t love him. The newlyweds endure a “cold and hostile” honeymoon – in Guadalajara, at Juanacatlán Falls and in the “Hotel Villa Niza” in Chapala – before returning to live in Mexico City.

Meanwhle, Baltazar’s bust of Ana María has won him a major art prize.

The ten-reel film, starring Emilia Ruíz del Castillo as Ana María, best known for her role in an earlier silent movie, Alma de sacrificio (1917), premiered in Mexico City on 12 March 1921 and was first shown in Guadalajara three months later. While it was generally liked by the press, it did not do well at the box office.

Besides directing and producing El Escándalo, Alfredo B. Cuéllar also edited, directed and produced a documentary short entitled Las carreras de autos y motos en la condesa (1920).

Source

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