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

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 Posted by at 5:43 am  Tagged with:
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 Villa Niza hotel 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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 Posted by at 6:49 am  Tagged with:
Dec 132018
 

When American travel writer Harry Franck hiked from Atequiza station to Chapala in 1912, he finally arrived just as night was falling. The Mexican Revolution was underway and some of the local hotels had been closed for several months; others had already shuttered their doors.

Franck discovered that:

“once in the cobble-paved village I must pay high in the “Hotel Victor”— the larger ones being closed since anarchy had confined the wealthy to their cities — for a billowy bed and a chicken centuries old served by waiters in evening dress and trained-monkey manners. The free and easy old casa de asistencia of Guadalajara was far more to my liking. But at least the landlord loaned me a pair of trunks for a moonlight swim in Lake Chapala, whispering some secret to its sandy beaches in the silence of the silver-flooded night.”

The following day:

“Waves were dashing high at the foot of the town in the morning. Its fishermen are ever fearful of its fury and go to pray for a safe return from every trip before their patron St. Peter in the twin-spired village church up toward which the lake was surging this morning as if in anger that this place of refuge should be granted its legitimate victims.”

Harry Franck. 1912. Photo of view from Ribera Castellanos.

Harry Franck. 1912. Photo of view from Ribera Castellanos (from Franck, 1916).

Because of the stormy conditions, Franck decided it was wiser to hike back to Atequiza, rather than risk taking an open boat to the Ribera Castellanos hotel near Ocotlán. From Atequiza, he took a train to Ocotlán:

“From Ocotlan station a broad level highway, from which a glimpse is had of the sharp, double peak of Colima volcano, runs out to Ribera Castellanos. Sam Rogers was building a tourist hotel there. Its broad lawn sloped down to the edge of Lake Chapala, lapping at the shores like some smaller ocean; from its verandas spread a view of sixty miles across the Mexican Titicaca, with all vacation sports, a perennial summer without undue heat, and such sunsets as none can describe. The hacienda San Andres, also American owned, embraced thousands of acres of rich bottom land on which already many varieties of fruit were producing marvelously, as well as several mountain peaks and a long stretch of lake front. The estate headquarters was like some modern railway office, with its staff of employees.”

After a couple of nights at Ribera Castellanos, Franck took the hotel launch across the lake to La Palma, from where he hiked towards Sahuayo and into Michoacán.

Harry Alverson Franck (1881-1962) was one of the foremost travel writers of the first half of the twentieth century, often taking temporary employment to help finance the next stage of his trip. Franck was a prolific writer, turning out some thirty travel books in a very productive life, including volumes on Mexico, Spain, Andes, Germany, Patagonia, the West Indies, China, Japan, Siam (Thailand), the Moslem World, Greece, Scandinavia, British Isles, Soviet Union, Hawaii and Alaska.

Franck served his country in both world wars. In the first world war, he was a Second Lieutenant with the American Expeditionary Forces in Paris. When the second world war began, Franck was urged by his friends to rejoin the army, “to teach geography to generals.” Franck signed up on June 15, 1942, and was made a General.

During the latter stages of his life, Franck lectured on board cruise ships touring the Caribbean, South America and the Mediterranean.

Tramping through Mexico, Guatemala & Honduras: Being the Random notes of an Incurable Vagabond was Franck’s fourth book. It was dedicated to the “Mexican peon – for emancipation”. Franck entered the country in 1912 armed with a “vest pocket automatic so much in vogue in advertising pages that season”, and with the clear intention of trying to see and experience everything possible within a short time, by foot and by horseback, from schools to jails, from cemeteries to mines.

Because of his direct contact with ordinary people, Franck’s descriptions of their customs, dress and personalities usually carry some authority. For instance, he provides a detailed account of a mine in Guanajuato, and its workers, based on when he worked there as an overseer. But, as one contemporary reviewer pointed out, “Franck is always too hurried. We are very conscious of the forced marches, of the early risings, of the day-long, perspiring tramps. He is fond of calling himself a vagabond, an idler, a tramp, but that is just what he is not.”

Sources

  • Anon. Tramping through Mexico (review), The Nation, Vol 104 (Feb 1, 1917) p 138.
  • Harry A. Franck. 1916 Tramping through Mexico, Guatemala & Honduras: Being the Random notes of an Incurable Vagabond. New York: The Century Co.
  • Katharine Franck Huettner. Undated. “Harry A. Franck: A Brief Biography” [April 3, 2005]

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 112018
 

José Juan Tablada (1871-1945) did not mince words when lamenting the ruination of Chapala in an opinion piece published more than a century ago in 1914. Tablada was writing in El Mundo Ilustrado, a very popular weekly that ran for twenty years before closing later that year in the throes of the Mexican Revolution.

Acknowledging that the lake had attracted such outstanding authors and poets as Justo Sierra, Luis Urbina and Ruben Campos, and acclaimed artists as Jorge Enciso, Gerardo Murillo (better known as Dr Atl) and Roberto Montenegro, Tablada bemoaned the lack of upscale development. He argued that if Lake Chapala were in Europe it would already have innumerable fine houses and parks. As it was it only had a few good houses, “as well as some very ordinary hotels” and had no park on the lakeshore.

El Mundo Ilustrado, 8 March 1914, page 6

El Mundo Ilustrado, 8 March 1914, page 6

Equally, Chapala lacked any jetty, pier, casino or any kind of rail link (steam, electric, animal-drawn) to Guadalajara, while the “road to the lake is terrible and that from Atequiza to Chapala detestable.” There were not even any regular ferries from Ocotlán to the lake.

On top of all this, there was more bad news, this time of an environmental nature. The poet attributed the decline of the whitefish to a wealthy hacendado who had decided to put carp in the lake. When the carp multiplied, they ate almost all the whitefish. “And then there is the lirio aquatico, rotting on the shores, smelly from miles away, harboring malaria and typhoid fever.” The dangers of disease had caused visitors to stay away and avoid coming to the lake. The government had spent a small fortune on trying to rid the lake of the lirio but the only people making good money now were the contratistas hired to collect and haul it off.

Tablada concluded that even if, “just 4 or 5 years ago, this was a paradise” it was certainly not one any longer. His concerns have been echoed by each succeeding generation down the ages, with naysayers always harking back to the real or imagined better times of the past.

José Juan Tablado. Credit: Unknown.

José Juan Tablado. Credit: Unknown.

Who was José Juan Tablada? He was a bright, witty and artistic poet, writer and diplomat who was born in Mexico City on 3 April 1871 but lived much of his life outside Mexico.

At age 19, after working for the national railroads, he began to contribute stories and poems to newspapers and magazines, including El Mundo Ilustrado, Revista de Revistas, Excélsior, El Universal Ilustrado, Revista Azul, Revista Moderna, La Falange and El Maestro.

Within a decade he was acclaimed as a fine poet and is now regarded as a key figure in the development of modern Mexican poetry. Tablada published Florilegio, his first collection of poetry, in 1899.

Shortly afterwards, he traveled to Japan. This trip had a profound influence on his later work. It led to a book about the Japanese artist Hiroshige (1914) and a collection of articles on various aspects of Japan, En el país del sol (1919). It also led to him introducing the Japanese verse form haiku into Mexico. Tablada’s collection of 38 poems, entitled Un dia, (1919) has been described as “the first book of original haiku written by a poet outside Japan” (a claim that excludes certain earlier tiny-edition haiku works in Europe).

The artistic talents of Tablada enabled him to write evocative calligrams (poems designed as visual images), such as those in Li-Po y otros poemas (1920).

His other works of poetry include El jarro de flores (1922); Intersecciones (1924); La feria: poemas mexicanos (1928) and Del humorismo a la carcajada (1944).

Tablada also lived in, and wrote about, Paris before moving to New York City in 1914. Towards the end of the Mexican Revolution, he was appointed (in 1918) to Mexico’s foreign service to work in Bogotá and Caracas. Soon after being reassigned to Quito in 1920, he resigned and returned to New York, where he ran a bookshop, Librería de los Latinos, and founded a new journal, Mexican Art and Life (1938-1939).

Tablada came back to Mexico to live in Cuernavaca in 1935 and was elected a member of the Mexican Literary Academy in 1941. He accepted a position in New York as Mexican Vice-Consul in 1945 but died there on 2 August, only a few weeks after taking up his post. The following year his remains were interred in Mexico City’s Rotonda de las Personas Ilustres) Rotunda of Illustrious Persons.

Sources

  • David William Foster (ed). 2010. Mexican Literature: A History, University of Texas 2010, 159.
  • José Luis Martínez. 1975. Semblanzas de Académicos. Ediciones del Centenario de la Academia Mexicana. México, 1975, 313 pp.
  • José Juan Tablada. 1914. “La ruina de Chapala”. El Mundo Ilustrado, 8 March 1914, 6.
  • José Juan Tablada. 1914. Hiroshigué, el pintor de la nieve y de la lluvia, de la noche y de la luna. [http://www.tablada.unam.mx/hiroshigue/portada.htm; 11 Oct 2018]
  • José Juan Tablada. 1919. En el país del sol (In the land of the sun).
  • José Juan Tablada. 1920. Li-Po y otros poemas.
  • José Juan Tablada. 1927. La Historia del arte en México.
  • Eliot Weinberger. 1992. Outside Stories (New York: New Directions), 27.

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.

 Posted by at 5:08 am  Tagged with:
Sep 062018
 

One of the earliest films related to Lake Chapala is the silent movie La gran noticia. Most of the film was shot in studios in Mexico City but some parts were shot on location in the town of Chapala in the summer of 1921.

Novel by Carlos Noriega Hope

Novel by Carlos Noriega Hope

The director (and co-screenplay writer) of La gran noticia was Carlos Noriega Hope, a Mexican journalist, author and director who was in charge of the print magazine El Universal Ilustrado from 1920 to 1934.

[Note: In the absence of any image from La gran noticia, the illustration to the left is the cover of one of Noriega Hope’s novels.]

La gran noticia is the story of an adventurous reporter who is given a month’s vacation in Chapala by his editor on condition that he investigate the crimes of a local gang. In Chapala, he meets and falls in love with a beautiful French woman. In his pursuit of her he confronts and kills a mysterious criminal.

The screenplay was written by Noriega Hope and Marco Aurelio Galindo.

Carlos Noriega Hope (1896-1034) studied law before becoming a journalist. One of his early assignments was to visit Hollywood and report on the nascent cinematographic industry there. He wrote several books as well as the screenplays for Santa (1932) and Una vida por otra (1934).

Marco Aurelio Galindo (1902-1989) was a Monterrey-born writer, film critic and translator who won a Silver Ariel for “Best Adaptation” for his work on Los Fernández de Peralvillo (1954). His other screenplays included Se la llevó el Remington (1948), La edad de la tentación (1959) and El Zurdo (1965). He also directed numerous movies, including Corazón de niño (1939), El hombre de la máscara de hierro (1943) and Bodas de fuego (1951). He translated works by Eugene O’Neill and Joseph Conrad, and  was head of publicity for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1934.

American photographer William (“Bill”) J. Beckway (1881-1945) was the principal cinematographer for La gran noticia. He was the cinematographer for numerous films between 1915 and 1937, including Comrade John (1915), The Matrimonial Martyr (1916), 1917 Told at Twilight (1917), Betty Be Good (1917), The One-Way Trail (1920), Secrets of Chinatown (1935), Stampede (1936) and Woman Against the World (1937).

Beckway was a pioneer in the art of cinematography, credited with inventing one of the world’s first portable video cameras. In 1921, The American Cinematographer reported that, “Mr. Beckway, who is not only an artistic cinematographer of long experience, but an expert mechanical engineer, has built a perfect motion camera that not only photographs but develops and projects and the entire apparatus, tripod and all, can be carried in a small suit case.”

Work on the movie La gran noticia was completed in 1922 and the film premiered in Mexico City on 15 January 1923.

Sources

  • The American Cinematographer (Los Angeles), Vol. 2, #20, 1 November 1921.
  • Javier García-Galiano. 2016. “Noriega Hope: un habitante del mundo de las sombras.” El Universal. Confabulario (suplemento cultural), 1 October 2016.
  • Guillermo Vaidovitz. 1989. “Reseña de la producción de cine en Jalisco durante la época muda”, 120-132 in E. E. Sánchez Ruiz (comp.) 1989. Medios de Difusión en Jalisco. Avances de Investigación. Guadalajara: Universidad de Guadalajara, Cuadernos del CEIC, Comunicación y Sociedad, No 4-5).

We welcome 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 5:59 am  Tagged with:
Aug 232018
 

In the early 1990s, a small number of photos signed “Arzapalo” were included in J. Jesús González Gortázar’s book Aquellos tiempos en Chapala. Judging by their subject matter, the Arzapalo who took these photographs was almost certainly Ignacio Arzapalo Palacios (1837-1909), though there is a small possibility that they were the work of his son, José Ignacio Arzapalo Pacheco (1878-1904).

Ignacio Arzapalo was the man who built the Hotel Arzapalo, Chapala’s first purpose-built hotel which opened with 36 large and comfortable rooms in 1898. For the record, brief biographies of Arzapalo appear in each of my previous books about the Chapala area – Western Mexico, A Traveler’s Treasury and Lake Chapala Through the Ages – but I now realize that my descriptions of his life were not entirely accurate.

Ignacio Arzapalo. ca. 1898. San Francisco Church, Chapala. [from Aquellos tiempos en Chapala)

Ignacio Arzapalo. ca. 1898. San Francisco Church, Chapala. [from Aquellos tiempos en Chapala)

I now know that Arzapalo was born in Sinaloa, not Spain, and had been in Guadalajara for many years before he commissioned local architect Guillermo de Alba to build the Arzapalo Hotel in Chapala.

Ignacio Arzapalo was born in the mining town of Cosalá, Sinaloa, in 1837. He had two marriages, the first of which was to Emilia Salgado Maldonado. They married in Mazatlán on 12 February 1963 and four years later Emilia bore him twin girls: Emilia and María Luisa.

It is unclear what became of his first wife, but by the 1870s, Arzapalo was living in Guadalajara, apparently without his daughters. In 1877 he married 16-year-old María Pacheco in that city; their son, José Ignacio, was born the following year on 7 February 1878. José Ignacio, who was sent to school in Denver, eventually married into the highest levels of Guadalajara society, taking as his bride Aurora Pérez Verdía, the daughter of influential lawyer and historian Luis Pérez Verdía and his wife. José Ignacio died in Guadalajara in 1904; his father Ignacio Arzapalo died in Guadalajara five years later, on 6 May 1909.

Ignacio Arzapalo. ca. 1898. Chapala shoreline. [from Aquellos tiempos en Chapala)

Ignacio Arzapalo. ca. 1898. Chapala shoreline. [from Aquellos tiempos en Chapala)

In the 1870s and 1880s, Ignacio Arzapalo was on the board of various different partnerships hoping to build a railway linking Guadalajara to Tlaquepaque. In 1881, for example, he was prepared to invest $10,000 pesos to help capitalize a new company that needed to raise $105,000 in total.

In 1888 Arzapalo was elected to a seat on the Guadalajara city council.

Coincidentally, only a couple of months earlier, his wife had lent her diamond necklace to a group of people interested in witnessing the skills of American mentalist Washington Irving Bishop who was visiting the city. The necklace was hidden, without his knowledge, a mile away from the Hotel Humboldt where he was staying. Wearing a blindfold, he was walked out of the hotel and placed in a carriage. The instructions he relayed to the driver took the carriage directly to the necklace to the cheers and applause of thousands of onlookers.

Ignacio Arzapalo. ca. 1898. Villa Capetillo, Chapala. [from Aquellos tiempos en Chapala)

Ignacio Arzapalo. ca. 1898. Villa Capetillo, Chapala. [from Aquellos tiempos en Chapala)

Arzapalo began preparations for his hotel in Chapala in 1891 after being granted permission to construct a wall at the lakefront side of property he owned.

As plans progressed, he continued to do his civic duty in Guadalajara, sitting on the board of the “Círculo Mercantil” and as a member of the group planning the city’s Parque Agua Azul.

Construction of his two-story hotel in Chapala got underway in earnest in 1896 and the hotel opened for business in 1898.

Arzapalo eventually commissioned de Alba to build him a second, even better-appointed hotel. The Hotel Palmera had its formal opening in 1908. Part of the original Arzapalo Hotel is now the lakefront Beer Garden restaurant-bar. The Hotel Palmera later became two hotels: Hotel Nido (now Chapala’s Presidencia Municipal or city hall) and the short-lived Hotel Niza.

Not surprisingly, given his obvious commercial interests, Ignacio Arzapalo was an active member of the Jalisco Development Company which proposed, in 1902, building an electric railroad from Guadalajara to Chapala, and was one of the business leaders trying, in 1904, to form the first Chapala Yacht Club. Though neither of those projects came to fruition, Arzapalo’s contributions to Chapala were one of the crucial steps in transforming the former fishing village into Mexico’s premier lakeside resort.

Note

While aware that the quality of these images is not up to our usual standards, we believe they are worth reproducing. If any reader has access to better quality images of photographs by Ignacio Arzapalo please get in touch!

Sources

  • Anales del Ministerio de Fomento de la República Mexicana, Volume 4, 1881.
  • El Siglo Diez y Nueve, 16 Jan 1892.
  • El Tiempo, 28 June 1893; 11 Sep 1896.
  • Jalisco Times, 27 Aug 1904.
  • J. Jesús González Gortázar. 1992. Aquellos tiempos en Chapala. Guadalajara: Editorial Agata.
  • La Patria, 12 August 1904, 2.
  • La Voz de México, 27 Sep 1888.

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.

Jul 262018
 

Jakob Granat (1871-1945) was a Jewish merchant and businessman born on 18 October 1871 in Lemberg (now Lviv, Ukraine), then part of the Austrian empire. He left Europe in July 1887 to seek his fortune in the U.S., where he was known as Jacob Granat. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in New York City on 11 July 1900, having worked as a salesman in New York, Chicago and San Antonio, Texas.

Granat moved to Mexico City (where he was known as Jacobo Granat) in about 1905 and lived there, with periodic trips back to the U.S. until at least the 1920s. His brother also lived in Mexico City. Granat established various businesses in Mexico, including a leather and curios shop, a printing company and a small chain of cinemas. Granat is credited with opening the city’s first public cinema – El Salón Rojo – by elegantly remodeling the interior of the downtown eighteenth century building known as Casa de Borda. The renovations included the installation of Mexico’s first electric escalator.

El Salón Rojo quickly became the most famous of Mexico City’s early movie houses and the one favored by all the high society families, including those close to President Porfirio Díaz. To help publicize the silent films being shown, which starred both Mexican and foreign actors, Granat published a series of small movie lobby cards, similar to postcards, sold in the theater lobby. These became popular collectors’ items as did the series of picture postcards he published showing people, views and scenes from all over Mexico.

Granat is believed to have published around 300 postcards, including this one of the buildings along the waterfront in Chapala in about 1905. The most prominent buildings are the Arzapalo Hotel (opened in 1898) with its bathing huts (on the left), the turreted Villa Ana Victoria owned by the Collignon family (in the center) and the San Francisco parish church with its twin towers.

Chapala, ca. 1905. Postcard published by J. Granat.

Lago de Chapala, ca. 1905. Postcard published by J. Granat.

During the Mexican Revolution, Jakob Granat claimed on repeated passport applications to have returned to the U.S. every year since 1905 for between two and six months, though these claims may have been made only to prevent losing his right to a U.S. passport.

Later, Granat sold his cinemas to William O. Jenkins, an unscrupulous American businessman and property speculator who was living in Mexico City, and moved back to Europe. Granat continued to visit Mexico periodically, presumably to see family members (including a sister-in-law and her children) still living in Mexico City.

When the second world war began, Granat (and his wife?) found themselves trapped in Europe. Despite the claim made in Mexican sources that Granat was killed in the gas chambers at Auschwitz in 1943, the Holocaust Survivors and Victims Database lists him as dying in the equally infamous Bergen-Belsen concentration camp two years later, on 27 January 1945. His wife’s name does not appear in the database, though it is possible that she did indeed die in Auschwitz in 1943, since only fragmentary records exist of the thousands who lost their lives there.

This is an outline profile. Contact us if you would like to learn more about this particular artist or have information to share.

Sources:

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.

Jul 052018
 

Swiss-born publisher Juan Kaiser (1858-1916) published some of the earliest postcards of Lake Chapala. His early postcards of the lake, dating back to the start of the 20th century were multi-views, with three small images on each card.

Kaiser was born in Leuzigen, Bern, Switzerland in 1858. In 1881, at the age of 23, he left home to seek his fortune in the Americas. After working with family friends in Peru and traveling in several South and Central American countries, he moved to Mexico in about 1886. After some months in Mexico City, working at “La Helvetia” (part owned by his countryman Guillermo Kaiser who, despite his surname, is not thought to be a relative), Juan Kaiser moved to the silver mining boom town of San Luis Potosí where he bought a bookstore – “Al Libro Mayor” – in 1887.

This proved to be a successful venture and Kaiser envisioned that opening a branch in Guadalajara, which was experiencing rapid growth at the end of the nineteenth century would be similarly profitable. With this in mind, he sent for his younger brother, Arnoldo Kaiser (1875-1952), to join him in Mexico to help run the business. Arnoldo, still a teenager, joined him in San Luis Potosí in 1891. Both brothers were multilingual, having acquired French, German and Spanish in addition to the Romansche spoken at home.

Juan Kaiser postcard

Juan Kaiser’s first wife, Ana Simmen, of Swiss parentage, died in San Luis Potosí on 19 January 1892. The following year, on 13 Nov 1893, Kaiser married her sister, Maria Guillermina Simmen, then 38 years of age, in Mexico City. The couple’s eldest child, Guillermo Juan Kaiser, died as an infant in San Luis Potosí in February 1895.

Juan Kaiser expanded the business to Guadalajara in 1899, opening a store named “Al Libro de Caja”. This bookstore and stationers supplied all manner of pens, inkwells, journals, bookbinding, pocket books, cashbooks and accounts books for the city’s thriving commercial and mining sector. Kaiser also developed a lucrative sideline in publishing picture postcards. His artistic connections were immediately visible to all patrons since the entrance to the store, located at the intersection of Calle San Francisco and Calle López Cotilla, was decorated “in a neat and stylish manner” with the work of another Guadalajara resident, the Brazilian-born artist Félix Bernardelli.

The first series of Kaiser postcards (see triple view of Chapala, above) was published in 1900-1901, with the imprint “Al Libro Mayor. S. Luis Potosi”. Various other imprints were used by the brothers including “Juan Kaiser y hermano”, “Juan y Arnoldo Kaiser”, “Juan Kaiser, Guadalajara”, “Juan Kaiser, San Luis Potosí”, “Juan Kaiser, San Luis Potosí y Guadalajara”, “Arnoldo Kaiser, San Luis Potosí”, “Al Libro Mayor, San Luis Potosí” and “Al Libro de Caja.” According to expert deltiologists (postcard collectors) all the early Juan Kaiser postcards were printed in Germany.

Jose María Lupercio. Chapala. Postcard view published by Juan Kaiser.

Jose María Lupercio. Chapala. Postcard view published by Juan Kaiser.

The Kaiser brothers worked with several photographers, including José María Lupercio and the American hotelier-photographer Winfield Scott. The early Chapala photographs on Kaiser postcards are unattributed but many are believed to be the work of Scott. Scott also sold his own vast collection of photographs of Mexico – “Scott’s Types and Views of Mexico… true pictures of life and scenery in this country of unequaled picturesqueness” – through the Guadalajara store. The majority of later views of Chapala (see above) include a clear attribution to Lupercio.

Juan Kaiser died in Guadalajara on 17 February 1916. His then wife, Berta Meter, and their son Hans Paul Kaiser, aged 4, inherited the business and sold their interests in Al Libro Mayor to Arnoldo Kaiser. Advertisements for the store continued into the 1920s. In 1927, Berta and Hans Paul left Guadalajara for Switzerland. They came back in 1930 to wind up affairs in Mexico before moving permanently to Switzerland in 1932.

Sources:

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.

Jun 282018
 

Everett Gee Jackson (1900-1995), the renowned American painter, illustrator and art educator, lived at Lake Chapala, apart from some short breaks, from 1923 to 1926 (and returned there in 1950 and 1968). Jackson loved Mexico and during his first visit to Chapala he became intimately acquainted with the artistic creativity of Mexico’s ancient pre-Columbian civilizations, later teaching and writing on the subject.

Unlike so many other early foreign visiting artists who have left very little trace of their presence, Jackson wrote entertaining accounts of his experiences in Chapala and Ajijic in his two memoirs —Burros and Paintbrushes, A Mexican Adventure (1985) and It’s a Long Road to Comondú (1987), both published by Texas A&M University Press. Both memoirs are informative and beautifully illustrated.

Given the wealth of available material on Jackson’s life and art, this post will focus on the personal and wider significance of his earliest extended trip to Lake Chapala.

Cover painting is "Street in Ajijic", ca 1924

Cover painting is “Street in Ajijic”, ca 1924

Jackson was born in Mexia, Texas, on 8 October 1900. He enrolled at Texas A&M to study architecture but was persuaded by one of his instructors that his true talents lay in art. In 1921 Jackson moved to Chicago to study at the Art Institute where impressionism was in vogue. At the end of the following year he eschewed another Chicago winter in favor of completing his art studies at the San Diego Academy of Art in sunnier California. He eventually completed a B.A. degree from San Diego State College (now San Diego State University) in 1929 and a Masters degree in art history from the University of Southern California in 1934.

As an educator, Jackson taught and directed the art department at San Diego State University (1930-1963) and was a visiting professor at the University of Costa Rica (1962).

Prior to his first visit to Chapala in 1923, Jackson had already undertaken a brief foray into Mexico, traveling just across the border from Texas into Coahuila with Lowell D. Houser (1902-1971), a friend from the Art Institute of Chicago. In summer 1923, the pair of artists decided to venture further into Mexico, to the city of Guadalajara. After a month in the city, they rented a house in Chapala and were among the earliest American artists to paint at Lake Chapala and Ajijic, though they were not the first, given that the Chicago artist Richard Robbins and Donald Cecil Totten (1903-1967), among others, had painted Lake Chapala much earlier, as had many artists of European origin.

Mexico, though, exerted a much more powerful influence over Houser’s and Jackson’s subsequent art than it did over any of these earlier visitors.

Jackson and Houser stayed in Chapala until the summer of 1925 when they decided to move to Guanajuato to experience a different side of Mexico. En route, they stopped off in Mexico City to view some of the famous Mexican murals, by Diego Rivera and others, that they had heard so much about.

After a few months in Guanajuato, the two young artists briefly parted ways when Jackson went back to El Paso to meet his girlfriend, Eileen Dwyer.

Everett Gee Jackson. ca 1923. Fisherman's Shacks, Chapala. (from Burros and Paintbrushes: A Mexican Adventure, 1985)

Everett Gee Jackson. ca 1923. Fisherman’s Shacks, Chapala. (from Burros and Paintbrushes: A Mexican Adventure, 1985)

Jackson returned to Mexico, newly engaged to Eileen, and discovered that Lowelito had decided to rent another house, not in Chapala but in the smaller, more isolated, village of Ajijic. Jackson is almost certainly correct in writing that they were the “first art students ever to live in Ajijic”, but there may be a hint of exaggeration in his claim that they were, “the only Americans living in Ajijic.”

After Jackson married Eileen in July 1926, the couple had an unconventional honeymoon, sharing a house in Chapala with Lowelito and a friend. In November the group moved to Mexico City, where they were welcomed by Anita Brenner and an elite circle of young artists and intellectuals that included Jean Charlot (1898–1979). They were also visited by the great muralist José Clemente Orozco (1883–1949). Early the following year, at Brenner’s insistence, Jackson and his wife visited the Zapotec Indian area of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec before returning home to San Diego.

Everett Gee Jackson. 1926. Lake Chapala. (Hirshl & Adler Galleries, New York)

Everett Gee Jackson. 1926. Lake Chapala. (Hirshl & Adler Galleries, New York)

Even before their return, fifty of Jackson’s Mexican paintings had been exhibited at the “The Little Gallery” in San Diego. The exhibit was warmly received by critics and art lovers and further showings of his “ultra-modern canvasses” were arranged for venues in Dallas and New York. Among the paintings that attracted most attention in The San Diego exhibition were “The Lake Village,” (Chapala), which had won first prize at the Texas State Fair in Dallas in October 1926, and “Straw Shacks in Chapala”.

There is no question that Jackson’s subsequent artistic trajectory owed much to his time in Chapala at the start of his career. His encounter with Mexican art — from pre-Columbian figurines to modern murals — transformed him from an impressionist to a post-impressionist painter. He was one of the first American artists to be so heavily influenced by Mexican modernism, with its stylized forms, blocks of color and hints of ancient motifs. Jackson’s work remained realist rather than abstract.

Jackson’s work was widely exhibited and won numerous awards. His major exhibitions included Art Institute of Chicago (1927); Corcoran Gallery (1928); Whitney Museum of American Art; School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1928; 1946); Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (1929-30); San Francisco Art Association; San Diego Fine Arts Society; and the Laguna Beach Art Association (1934). Retrospectives of his work included a 1979 show at the Museo del Carmen in Mexico City, jointly organized by INBA (Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes and INAH (Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia); and an exhibit at San Diego Modern in 2007-2008.

Jackson’s wonderful illustrations enliven several books, including Max Miller’s Mexico Around Me (1937) and The Wonderful Adventures of Paul Bunyon (1945).

Everett Gee Jackson, Drying Nets, ca 1924., pen and ink. (from Burros and Paintbrushes: A Mexican Adventure, 1985)

Everett Gee Jackson, Drying Nets, ca 1924., pen and ink. (from Burros and Paintbrushes: A Mexican Adventure, 1985)

In addition to his two volumes of memoirs, Jackson also wrote and illustrated Goat tails and doodlebugs: a journey toward art (1993).

Jackson’s time in Mexico led to a lifelong interest in pre-Columbian art, as evidenced by his short paper, “The Pre-Columbian Figurines from Western Mexico”, published in 1941, and his book, Four Trips to Antiquity: Adventures of an Artist in Maya Ruined Cities (1991). In his 1941 paper, which included images of two figurines found at Lake Chapala, Jackson considered the varying degree of abstraction or expressionism in different figurines.

Everett Gee Jackson, author, pioneering artist, illustrator and much more besides, died in San Diego on 4 March 1995.

Acknowledgment

  • My thanks to Texas art historian James Baker for his interest in this project and for sharing his research about Everett Gee Jackson.

This is an outline profile. Contact us if you would like to learn more about this particular artist or have information to share.

Sources

  • Anon. 1927. “Talented Artist Of Mexia To Have Dallas Exhibition”, Corsicana Daily Sun, 29 Jan 1927, p 13.
  • Archives of American Art. 1964. Oral history interview (by Betty Hoag) with Everett Gee Jackson, 1964 July 31. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
  • D. Scott Atkinson. 2007. Everett Gee Jackson: San Diego Modern, 1920-1955. San Diego Museum of Art.
  • Everett Gee Jackson. 1941. “The Pre-Columbian Ceramic Figurines from Western Mexico”, in Parnassus, Vol. 13, No. 1 (Jan., 1941), pp. 17-20.
  • Everett Gee Jackson. 1985. Burros and Paintbrushes, A Mexican Adventure. Texas A&M University Press.
  • Everett Gee Jackson. 1987. It’s a Long Road to Comondú. Texas A&M University Press.
  • Jerry Williamson. 2000. Eileen: The Story Of Eileen Jackson As Told By Her Daughter. San Diego Historical Society.

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 242018
 

Lowell D. Houser (1902-1971) lived and painted in Chapala, and later Ajijic, in the mid-1920s. He was subsequently hired to paint copies of Mayan murals for an archaeological survey of the Yucatán Peninsula.

Houser was born in Chicago on 18 May 1902. During his childhood, the family moved to Iowa, where Houser graduated from Ames High School in 1921. He then studied briefly at Iowa State University before switching to the Art Institute of Chicago. Lowell D. Houser’s long connection with Mexico began in the company of his fellow artist Everett Gee Jackson. The two had studied together at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Following a brief exploratory foray into Mexico, traveling just across the border from Texas into Coahuila, the pair of artists decided to venture further into Mexico, to the city of Guadalajara, in the summer of 1923. They later rented a house in Chapala.

They were among the earliest American artists to paint at Lake Chapala and Ajijic, though they were not the first, given that the Chicago artist Richard Robbins and Donald Cecil Totten (1903-1967), among others, had painted Lake Chapala before this. So, too, had many artists of European origin. Mexico, though, exerted a much more powerful influence over Houser’s art than it did over any of these previous visitors.

Lowell Houser. 1925. Maidens carrying water jars, Ajijic.

Lowell Houser. 1925. Maidens carrying water jars, Ajijic.

Houser’s “Maidens Carrying Water Jars” has been aptly described by James Oles as a “study in patterns… the women almost seem cut from the same mold, and even their faces lack individuality…”.

A chance encounter with the well-connected young author and art critic Anita Brenner (1905-1974) led to Houser being invited back to Mexico a couple of years later to be the illustrator for an archaeological group studying Mayan ruins on the Yucatán Peninsula.

After returning from Mexico, Houser lived for a short time in New York before returning to Ames to teach at the Arts Students Workshop in Des Moines (1933-36) and at Iowa State College (1936-37). Houser developed his own art career in oils, watercolors and block printing and also undertook commercial illustrations for books and magazines. While living in Ames, Houser worked under Grant Wood on nine murals for the new library at Iowa State College.

Houser was then commissioned by the Works Progress/Projects Administration (WPA; 1935-1943) to paint a mural in the town’s Post Office. The bold mural depicts the evolution of corn (maize), from both an indigenous Indian and more modern American farmer’s perspective.

In 1938, Houser accepted a position teaching printmaking, drawing and painting in the art department at San Diego State College, where his good friend Everett Gee Jackson was directing the art program.

Houser died in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in 1971.

This is an outline profile. Contact us if you would like to learn more about this particular artist or have information to share.

Partial list of sources:

  • Peter H. Falk et al. 1999. Who was who in American art, 1564-1975: 400 years of artists in America. Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1999.
  • Everett Gee Jackson. 1985. Burros and Paintbrushes, A Mexican Adventure. Texas A&M University Press.
  • Meghan A. Navarro. 2013. “Indians at the Post Office. Native Themes in New Deal-Era Murals: The Evolution of Corn”. Smithsonian National Postal Museum.
  • James Oles. 1993. South of the Border: Mexico in the American Imagination, 1914-47. Smithsonian Institution Press.

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.

Mar 012018
 

Ixca Farías was a key figure in the artistic, literary and cultural circles of Guadalajara of the early twentieth century. He was a frequent visitor to Lake Chapala and the lake inspired some of his best artwork. He also wrote a newspaper article about Chapala recalling his early visits to the lake in the 1880s and 1890s.

Farías (whose birth name was Juan Farías y Álvarez del Castillo) was born in Guadalajara on 16 March 1873. He adopted the name Ixca, which comes from a Nahuatl word for “roasting in embers”, a technique used to make traditional pottery.

Isca Farías.Paisaje de Guadalajara. (Guadalajara landscape).

Ixca Farías.Paisaje de Guadalajara. (Guadalajara landscape).

Farías studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, and later took art classes in Paris. He subsequently taught art in a variety of educational institutions in Guadalajara, influencing an entire generation of young aspiring artists. Perhaps the most famous of all his students was Raúl Anguiano (1915-2006) one of Mexico’s best-known muralists, who studied art from the age of 12 with Farías at the Regional Museum’s Escuela Libre de Pintura.

In art circles, Farías is primarily known as a landscape painter. His work apparently included some outstanding images of Lake Chapala, which were exhibited north of the border and helped widen the appeal of some of Mexico’s finest scenery. If anyone has photos of any of his Lake Chapala paintings and is willing to share them, then please get in touch!

Ixca Farías is best known in Guadalajara as one of the two co-founders (alongside Jorge Enciso who also painted Lake Chapala) of the city’s Regional Museum. The museum opened its doors in 1918 and Farías was its director for almost thirty years, until his death in 1947.

As an author, Farías’s most useful work from our perspective is his Biografía de pintores jaliscienses, 1882-1940 (1939) in which he sketched the influences and careers of artists who worked in Jalisco. Several of these painters, muralists and sculptors were closely associated with Lake Chapala, including José Guadalupe Zuno and José Othón de Aguinaga.

Farías also wrote El cultivo del dibujo en la escuela primaria de Guadalajara (1923) and Artes populares (1938). A selection of his newspaper articles was collected posthumously and republished as Casos y cosas de mis tiempos: artículos costumbristas sobre Guadalajara (1963).

Farías’s newspaper article “Casos y cosas de mis tiempos: Chapala” was first published in El Informador in 1937. It is by-lined December 1936 at “Villa Perico, Chapala”. If anyone knows where this building was, and whether or not it still exists, please get in touch!

In the piece, Farías recalled that his first visit to Lake Chapala was in the 1880s, when he traveled to Chapala on horseback in the company of Manuel Rivera Basauri, owner of Hacienda de la Concepción, and of brothers Modesto and Gonzalo Ancira, owners of a lithography business in Guadalajara.

At that time the beach in Chapala had piles of wood stacked up to refuel the Ramón Corona steamboat which traveled regularly between Ocotlán and Chapala, and occasionally other ports of call. (That boat sank in 1889, so we know for sure which decade is being described.)

Looking back on these early visits, Farías wrote, disparagingly, in 1936 that,

“The Chapala of that time was very different to the Chapala of today, because it has lost its natural charm and become a grotesque copy of a gringo spa. The Chapala of that time did not have the plague of hyacinths and of “beer gardens”, the first with their vermin and the second with their drunks.” (My translation)

In the same newspaper, El Informador, but much more recently, José Manuel Gómez Vázquez Aldana claims that Farías was at the forefront of a movement to drain Lake Chapala during the presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas del Río in the late 1930s. This is hard to reconcile with Farías’s obvious love of the lake, at least of the lake as he first saw it in his youth.

Sources

  • Ixca Farías. 1937. “Casos y cosas de mis tiempos: Chapala”, El Informador, 17 January 1937, 6, 12; reprinted in Informador 22 December 1963, 2, 12.
  • Ixca Farías. 1939. Biografia de pintores Jaliscienses, 1882-1940. Guadalajara: Ricardo Delgado.
  • José Manuel Gómez Vázquez Aldana. 2008. “Chapala: Patrimonio de la Humanidad nacional”, El Informador, 27 July 2008.

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.

Feb 152018
 

Newcomers to the village of Ajijic will not necessarily have heard of Zara Alexeyewa, (known popularly as “La Rusa” – “The Russian”), one of the village’s most distinguished long-term foreign residents, and one still remembered affectionately by the entire community, Mexican and non-Mexican. Everyone who knew her has their favorite anecdote about this iron-willed lady who would gallop her horse through the narrow streets, hooves clattering on the cobblestones, cloak billowing in the wind.

When La Nueva Posada opened in 1990, its dining room was named “La Rusa” in honor of Zara, who had passed away the previous year at the age of 92. Zara’s incomparable contribution to Ajijic life over more than sixty years was focused on the welfare of children and the conservation of Lake Chapala.

Zara Alexeyewa Khyva St. Albans (her formal name in Mexico) lived out a very full and dramatic life – from the moment she set foot on the stage on Broadway as a teenager, until her eventual death in Ajijic in 1989. Objectivity was not, however, always one of her strong points, and piecing together the truth behind the legend can be difficult. In her enthralling autobiographical book, Quilocho and the Dancing Stars, which certainly contains fiction alongside fact, Zara weaves some wonderful tales about her ballet career interspersed with an account of the life of a Mexican friend and supporter, Enrique Retolaza, who (according to the book) had been the youngest officer of Pancho Villa.

In reality, Zara was no more Russian than most native New Yorkers, having been born in that city in 1896. After making an early impression as an actress on the New York stage, twice being featured on the cover of the Dramatic Mirror, and playing lead roles in several Shakespearean productions (as Juliet, Portia, and Ophelia among others), she decided, in the wake of the Great War, to go to Europe. She had attended dancing classes from age six, and in Europe she began a new career as a ballerina. She performed her own ballet, “The Red Terror”, based on a poem by Leonid Andreyev, with a musical arrangement which had been worked on by her mother, organist Charlotte Welles.

"Khyva St. Albans". White Studios. 1915.

“Khyva St. Albans”. White Studios. 1915.

While in Europe, Zara met a young Danish dancer, Holger Mehner, and the two remained inseparable dancing partners until his untimely death in Guadalajara in 1944. Zara and Holger gave numerous performances of “The Red Terror” around the world, playing to packed houses in Europe, South America, the U.S., and in Mexico.

In 1926-27, they were engaged by the Philadelphia Opera Company as directors of ballet, and presented an unusual Egyptian ballet, called AIDA. They also choreographed and performed “The Black Swan and the White Lilly”.

While contemporary newspaper accounts speak of “the two geniuses of Dance of the ex-Court of Russia”, “dancers of the imperial court of Nicolas II and of King Constantine of Greece”, and the like, it is probable that the nearest either dancer got to those places was Budapest in Hungary, where they gave one of their many standing-room-only performances.

They first performed in the Degollado Theatre in Guadalajara in January 1925, by which time they had decided to take a prolonged vacation at Lake Chapala, living initially at the Villa Reynera in Chapala. In about 1940, they moved to Ajijic.

Degollado Theater program, 1936.

Zara and Holger. Degollado Theater program, 1936.

Zara seems always to have had the knack of leaving indelible first impressions on people she met.

The American artist Everett Gee Jackson, who resided in Chapala for several years in the 1920s, in Burros and Paintbrushes, his entertaining account of his time in Mexico wrote that, when he and his friend Lowelito first arrived in Chapala, they “did not see any other Americans. The two Russians who lived in the house with the bats were the only other non-Mexicans in the village, as far as we knew.” These two “Russians” were, of course, Zara and Holger.

Not long afterwards, Jackson had a much closer encounter with Zara:

“I set up my easel… because the place was… mysterious and magical… with the lazy hogs asleep in the shadows. I was lost in what I was doing, but, suddenly, to my surprise, all the hogs began to shuffle to their feet and move off the road… grunting ferociously. Then I heard a sound like thunder behind me. But it was not thunder. It was that Russian woman riding at full gallop on a dark horse, and she was coming right at me. She knocked my easel over but missed me… She never slowed down but kept galloping at full speed down the road.”

Another of Ajijic’s marvelous characters, Iona Kupiec, who lived for decades in the village, also remembered her first meeting with Zara. Iona was staying in the Posada Ajijic in 1962, having only just arrived in the village. The next morning, she met Zara:

“While I was standing there entranced with the loveliness of everything, what should I see suddenly appearing in front of me from around a bend in the road but a beautiful woman wearing a big red velvet, gold-embroidered charro sombrero with a red, satin, high-necked Russian blouse with a gold dragon embroidered on it from the belt up to the collar, black culottes, with red leather boots, riding a black satin horse which reared up on its hind legs when she suddenly tightened the reins. I was stunned!”

Iona agreed to rent a cottage from Zara. In order to sign the contract, she followed Zara (still on her horse) “through more than a thousand square feet of garden, with glorious eucalyptus trees standing like stately monarchs, countless other fruit and flowering trees, and vast blooms from all kinds of bushes and shrubs – so much color and beauty, and even cool perfumed air!”

Zara’s house was full of mementos from her theater and ballet days, full length oils portraying her and her “brother”, Holger, in their dancing costumes, gilded-framed portraits from her New York theater appearances, photographs, figurines, books, “a veritable art museum in one, very large, elegantly furnished, parlor”.

Zara’s energies were undiminished as she approached her eighties and she insisted on reviving her ballet career for several performances, including a memorable farewell show in the Degollado Theater in Guadalajara.

She also continued to ride daily until well into her eighties, and was a popular and much-loved figure as, astride her horse, she rode through the streets of Ajijic. This remarkable woman, perhaps the only person ever to reach stardom as an actress under one name (Khyva St. Albans) and as a dancer under another (Ayenara Zara Alexeyewa) is one of the more extraordinary characters ever to have lived in Ajijic.

Note:

This is a lightly edited version of my first article about Zara, originally published in The Chapala Riviera Guide in 1990. It is not a coincidence that a photo of the Villa Reynera, where Zara first stayed in 1924, appears on the front cover of my Lake Chapala through the Ages, an anthology of travelers’ tales.

Acknowledgment:

This article could never have been written (back in 1990) without the help of long-time Ajijic residents Laura Bateman and Iona Kupiec, both of whom have since passed on to a higher world.

Nov 272017
 

Ferdinand Schmoll (usually known in Mexico as Fernando Schmoll) was a German painter, born in Cologne in 1879, who owned a lakefront house west of the pier in Chapala for several years early in the twentieth century. It is unclear when Schmoll first arrived in Mexico, or in the Lake Chapala area, but he was certainly living in the Chapala area between 1919 and 1921. Shortly after, Schmoll and his wife left the lake to establish their home in Cadereyta in the central state of Querétaro. Schmoll is best known for his fine landscapes, painted in the European tradition.

Schmoll first arrived in Mexico several years prior to his residence in Chapala. Schmoll had apparently studied art in Germany and Italy and he and his wife were definitely living in Mexico City by December 1913, the year the Mexican Herald reported the opening of an exhibition of his paintings at Avenida Juarez No 8.

Early the following year, Schmoll and his wife arrived in San Francisco. According to the passenger manifest of the “Peru”, it was the first time either of them had been in the United States. They gave their previous residence as Mexico City.

schmoll-ferdinand-painting

A Mexican landscape painted by Ferdinand Schmoll

In December 1916, Schmoll was living and working in Saltillo in northern Mexico, near Parral. When forces loyal to Pancho Villa invaded the town, Schmoll was initially reported missing but the artist turned up a few days later at the border in El Paso, Texas. According to contemporary newspaper reports, which described him as “formerly of Los Angeles, California”, Schmoll had been forced to flee Parral and leave behind “a large number of sketches and paintings”, as “he feared to bring them out through Villa territory”. A few months later, in April 1917, Schmoll held an exhibition of oils and watercolors of Mexico and California at the art gallery of the El Paso Women’s Club.

By 1919, Schmoll and his wife were back in Mexico, living at Lake Chapala. Among his early solo exhibits in Mexico was one at the then State Museum in Guadalajara in September 1919. The advance notice for the exhibition says that all the oil paintings by Ferdinad (sic) Schmoll had been painted during the artist’s time in Mexico. The following month, Schmoll donated an oil painting entitled “El Patio” to the museum. In November 1919, Schmoll traveled to Mexico City to exhibit his “perfectly finished and undeniably beautiful paintings” there.

Ferdinand Schmoll. 1913. Popocatepetl and Iztaccíhuatl Volcanoes.

Ferdinand Schmoll. 1913. Popocatepetl and Iztaccíhuatl Volcanoes.

Schmoll exhibited in Guadalajara again at the Club Alemán (16 de Sept #140) in 1921. A review of that show, in the Guadalajara daily El Informador, singled out his painting “Serenata” as best of the 19 works on display, for the way it portrayed light playing on the group of singers. It also praised the flower painting “Dahlias” for its use of color and “intense freshness”. The reviewer concluded that Schmoll was more of a portrait artist than a landscape artist, despite the fine quality of landscapes he incorporated into his paintings. The review lauded Schmoll’s meticulous technique, comparing it favorably to that seen “in the works of the best German artists”. Also mentioned (and well ahead of their time for their subject matter) were several works that were “faithful interpretations of the customs of our humble classes”, including a fine portrait study of an indigenous male.

The show included three works clearly painted at Chapala: “Orilla del Lago de Chapala” (Lake Chapala Shore), “Lago de Chapala” (Lake Chapala) and “A orillas del Chapala” (On the Shores of Chapala).

In June 1925, a solo show of paintings by Schmoll, “considered one of the most notable pictorial interpreters of Mexican landscapes”, was held in Berlin, Germany, at the German Economic League for Central and South America. When Schmoll returned from Europe in September on board the “Holsatia”, he stated his residence as Saltillo.

Schmoll was not only an artist, but also a cactus lover, and in 1920, founded a cactus farm in the town of Cadereyta de Montes, Querétaro, with his wife biologist Carolina Wagner (1877-1951), who had a degree in biology from a German university. The couple traveled widely throughout Latin America. It was a match made in cactus heaven. Schmoll’s exquisite drawings of cacti were coupled with his wife’s scientific descriptions, and this at a time when publications much preferred detailed drawings to photographs.

Ferdinand (“Fernando”) Schmoll died on 24 May 1950 at the age of 71 in Cadereyta de Montes. His death certificate confirms that he was an “artist” and “Mexican by naturalization”.

Quinta Fernando Schmoll (the Schmoll Cactus Farm)

Quinta Fernando Schmoll (the Schmoll Cactus Farm)

The cactus farm and nursery continue today as a commercial venture, Quinta Fernando Schmoll, that specializes in growing cacti and succulents for export, as well as testing alternative methods of cultivation. The current owner of the cactus farm is Heinz Wagner, a great nephew of the founders.

The center is the Americas’ most important greenhouse location for cactus breeding and houses more than 4000 plant species, of which 1700 are cacti from the Americas. Research at the center has led to the discovery and description of several new cactus species, among them the endemic lamb’s tale cactus (Echinocereus schmollii) named in the Schmolls’ honor.

[Note: This is an updated version of a post first published on 21 May 2015.]

Sources:

  • El Informador: 16 September 1919; 5 October 1919; 24 November 1919, 30 November 1919; 11 December 1921, p5; 11 June 1925
  • El Paso Herald: 16 April 1917, p12
  • Los Angeles Times: 4 January 1917, p10
  • Mexican Herald: 9 December 1913, p2
  • Reno Gazette-Journal: 3 January 1917, p3
  • The Cactus and Succulent Journal of Great Britain, January 1952

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.

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Nov 232017
 

Eduardo A. Gibbon y Cárdenas (full name Eduardo Anacleto Jesus Maria Antonio Gibbon) was born in Mexico City on 13 July 1845 and was a 19th century Mexican art critic, journalist, writer and diplomat. His father was born in England, his mother was Mexican.

As a young man Gibbon was one of the private secretaries of the ill-fated Emperor Maximilian (who was Emperor of Mexico from 1864 to 1867).

In the 1870s, he made various contributions to El Artista, a Mexico City-based  “monthly review of literature, science and the aesthetical arts.” After the magazine ceased publication (due to lack of financial support) Gibbon resuscitated the title, with the first of the new series of El Artista appearing in October 1891. By all accounts, this was a well-produced magazine, the first issue of which included a translation of part of Hopkinson Smith’s White Umbrella in Mexico. Gibbon’s main contribution as a writer to the first issue of the new series was “a description of the Luray grottoes of Virginia in sprightly and unhackneyed phrase.”

In 1874, Gibbon was elected a Member of the Mexican Society for Geography and Statistics.

gibbon-title-pageHe wrote several books, including La catedral de México (1874) and Reflexiones sobre arte nacional (1892), and a Spanish translation of Felix Salm-Salm’s memoirs about the final days of Emperor Maximilian. Gibbon also translated Father John S. Vaughan’s work, “Life after Death”. According to the brief obituary of Gibbon in The Sun (published in New York), he was also “the author of various novels”.

While holding a diplomatic position in London, England, in the 1880s, Gibbon took the opportunity to write Nocturnal London, published by S. E. Stanley in 1890. He later also served as a diplomat in the United States.

In 1893, Gibbon published Guadalajara, (La Florencia Mexicana). This is essentially a popular guide to the author’s chosen trilogy of major attractions in Jalisco: Guadalajara, Juanacatlán Falls (the “Niagara of Mexico”) and Lake Chapala. Gibbon’s writing is poetic, verging on the flowery, but despite that many of his descriptions make for interesting reading.

Gibbon’s romantic, poetic prose about his trips to Lake Chapala, in 1893 or earlier, includes one of the earliest detailed accounts of a boat trip on the lake. He also mentions the fact that deposits of petroleum have been located under the lake, and that studies are being undertaken to see if the deposits are large enough to be worth exploiting.

Gibbon stayed in a simple hotel; this was at least five years before the famous Arzapalo hotel opened. The author also described the chalet built on the shore by an Englishman (possibly Septimus Crowe), and clearly recognized the tourist potential of the area. This is how he described the then-village of Chapala:

We entered along a straight and long road, like those that form the main street of every village. The houses were of a single story, with white or colored facades. The doors and windows of wood; the latter without bars or glass, showing that in the honored home of the fisherman, they are safe even without these luxuries. So it is just as easy to enter one of the homes here, through the windows, often obstructed by the pots full of flowers or the large cages of melodious birds, as it is through the doorway. A soporific silence, that in this village of fishermen! So quiet that, at mid-day, only the buzz of the clouds of gnats, and the beating wings of the gulls crossing the sky can be heard.

But the great luminous place was at the end of this street: Lake Chapala. A fishing boat, with its lateen sail, was approaching the port. Apart from that, nothing was in sight on the immense surface of the water, on which the afternoon sun shone, producing lights and shadows like those made by marcasite….

The bells of the poetic parish church that rang on the shores of the lake-sea, brought all the village’s inhabitants to their feet. On the rustic wharf, very close to the hotel, one of those regular-sized vessels, called here canoes, but which are really flat-bottomed launches, was already anchored. The unloading of the domestic merchandise that had been brought for sale, had begun; later these would be sold in the Sunday tianguis, [street market] so common in these villages. With a slight following wind, three canoes came through the small waves, which, with sails slightly filled, came towards the beach. The rowers were working to propel the slow advance of these such primitive vessels, which, in rough waters would tip over very easily, and which only progress in their race when the wind is really strong and favorable….”

Eduardo A. Gibbon, who was unmarried, died at the age of 51 in Mexico City on 19 May 1897 following a lengthy illness.

Note

Source

  • The Sun (New York, New York), 21 May 1897, p 5.

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

Oct 192017
 

Following Mexico’s independence from Spain in 1821, a renewed emphasis was placed on the gathering of reliable statistics. Officials of the state of Jalisco made several attempts to gather relevant information, primarily in order to better monitor the state’s development. These efforts began with Victoriano Roa (1825) and were continued by Manuel López Cotilla (1843), Longinus Banda (1873) and Mariano Bárcena (1888). These statistical reports may not be as fun to read as travel accounts but are a veritable gold mine of valuable information.

Manuel López Cotilla (1800-1861) was born in Guadalajara. His father, a Spaniard who died in 1816, was a captain in the Royalist army, and hated the insurgents who were fighting for an independent Mexico. At age 18, Manuel López Cotilla contracted tuberculosis, following which he led a reclusive life for many years, dedicating himself to drawing and studying mathematics.

When he entered public life, he became a popular politician and successful educator. He occupied various posts on the city council and in the state government following Independence and was instrumental in reforming primary education. He founded several schools, including the first night school dedicated to adult education. López Cotilla was also responsible for producing noteworthy textbooks, including a handbook of practical geometry for schools. In 1851 he made a formal proposal for the creation of a teacher training college. This proposal was not carried out until long after his death.

Manuel López Cotilla’s statistical account, entitled Noticias geográficas y estadistísticas del Departamento de Jalisco, provides no details about the lake itself, but does include short descriptions, all following a set pattern, of each of the main villages on its shores. By this time, administrative reorganization had resulted in most of the northern shore of Lake Chapala falling into the Third Division – Tlajomulco – of the District of Jalisco. Apart from Tlajomulco itself, which boasted 3,066 inhabitants, the most important village in the district was Jocotepec, as these brief extracts reveal.

Jocotepec, a village located at the western end of Lake Chapala, is the seat of the curacy and receives payments. It has a justice of the peace, a municipal school and 2,742 inhabitants dedicated to farming, fishing and manufacturing. Its municipal fund produced in 1840 the sum of 456 pesos and 3 reales. It is 16 leagues from Guadalajara and 8½ leagues SSE of Tlajomulco.

San Cristóbal Zapotitlán, similarly situated on the shore of lake Chapala and belonging to the parish of Jocotepec, has a population of 735 inhabitants mainly working in farming, fishing and making mats (petates or esteras). It is 12 leagues SE, ¼ S. of Tlajomulco and 20 from Guadalajara.

San Juan Cosalá, situated like the previous villages, has 667 inhabitants dedicated to farming, fishing and the manufacture of equipales, which are low round seats, with or without high backs, and very commonly used in the country. Its climate is warm compared to its neighbors; it has a justice of the peace and belongs ecclesiastically to the parish of Jocotepec. It is 14 leagues from the capital of the District and 9 SE, ¼ S from Tlajomulco.

San Andrés Ajijic, with 954 inhabitants dedicated to the same jobs as the previous village and whose location and climate it shares, belongs to the curacy of Jocotepec and has a justice of the peace. Its distance from Guadalajara is 15 leagues and from Tlajomulco 11 SE, ¼ E leaning towards the SE

San Antonio Tlayacapan is in similar circumstances to the previous village, except for the occupation of its inhabitants, who number 423, and their dedication to only farming and fishing. It is 14 leagues from the District capital and 12 SE, ¼ E from Tlajomulco.

Chapala is the village that gives its name to the extensive lake that bathes the shores. It is the seat of a curacy, sub-office for payments, has a justice of the peace and 1,029 inhabitants employed mainly in fishing, farming and the cultivation of orchards. It is 14½ leagues from Guadalajara and 12½ ESE of Tlajomulco. Its municipal fund produced in 1840 the sum of 46 pesos 1 real.

Manuel López Cotilla retired in 1855 on the grounds of ill-health and died on 27 October 1861. His remains now repose in the Rotunda of Illustrious Jaliscienses in downtown Guadalajara, overlooked by a fine commemorative statue.

This profile is based on an extract from chapter 22 of my Lake Chapala Through the Ages: an anthology of travelers’ tales.

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.

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