Jan 032019

This post features one of the more evocative photographic images of Lake Chapala taken in the 1930s. Depicting a “dug-out canoe” and fisherman against an evening sky, this carefully staged photo was used to illustrate an article about central Mexico that reached a worldwide audience because it appeared in the The American Foreign Service Journal.

Anon. October 1935. "Native Fisherman on Lake Chapala"

Anon. October 1935. Original caption: “Native Fisherman in his dug-out canoe on Lake Chapala”

The article, by Josephus Daniels – then American Ambassador to Mexico – describes a get-to-know-Mexico junket offered in 1935 to the diplomatic corps by President Lázaro Cárdenas the year after he took office. The President offered the use of his private train for the ten-day trip that, in mid-October, took Mexico City-based diplomats and their partners to various locations in Michoacán (the President’s home state) and Jalisco.

After a brief stay in Guadalajara, where the diplomats “watched from the Governor’s Palace a review of some fifteen thousand school children, lasting one hour or more,” they were driven to Lake Chapala for a splendid lunch at the “Quinta Monte Carlo” (Villa Montecarlo), where they enjoyed caldo michi while listening to music played by a local band.

The photo of the fisherman and his boat is uncredited. Does anyone know who the photographer was?


  • Josephus Daniels. (American Ambassador to Mexico). 1936. “The Diplomatic Corps Tours Central Mexico in the Presidential Train.” The American Foreign Service Journal. Vol XIII, #2 (February 1936), 70-73, 110, 112, 114.

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.

  2 Responses to “Art Mystery – Who took this evocative 1935 photo of Lake Chapala?”

  1. Did the American Foreign Service Journal use the term “dug-out-canoe”? It’s hardly likely to have been trees of that diameter available here–more indicative of the Pacific Northwest.

    Since the article was written to promote a tour being offered by the Mexican president, I would think the promotional material would have been provided by their office and not by Ambassador Daniels.

    • Hi Ardelle, Thanks for your comment. Yes, the AFS really did use “dug-out-canoe” in the caption to the photograph. Certainly by the 1940s, there were no trees of suitable size left near Lake Chapala and, in any case, the boats in the photo do not appear to be genuine dug-outs. Ambassador Daniels wrote the article after the tour. It includes numerous personal reflections and there is no evidence that it is based on any kind of promotional material that the group may have been given. Happy New Year! Tony.

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