Nov 302023
Chapala Wishful Thinking #2: Chapala in the old days?

This is the second in a mini series identifying some examples of photo identification errors which pertain to the Lake Chapala area. Estampas de Chapala by Manuel Galindo Gaitan is an outstanding two-volume collection of mainly vintage photographs of Chapala and other places around the lake. Some of the historical details in the text are […]

Nov 232023
Chapala 1912-1922: Excerpts from Bertha Kaiser's diary

Bertha Kaiser was the third wife of Swiss printer and shopkeeper Juan Kaiser, who—in addition to selling accounting books and ledgers via his store “Al Libro de Caja” in Guadalajara—also published beautiful early postcards of Chapala and Guadalajara featuring the work of such distinguished photographers as José María Lupercio and Winfield Scott. Bertha’s diary, written […]

Nov 162023
Fishing at Lake Chapala: the postcards of Mauricio Yáñez

Mauricio Yáñez was a Mexican photographer and one of the more prolific producers of postcards in Mexico during the 1930s. He took thousands of tourist photos of Mexico, showing towns, cities and people, including at least 20 related to Lake Chapala. This view of Chapala and its lakeshore (below)  includes a lakefront cantina mid-way between […]

Nov 092023
Dr Leo Stanley described searching for idols and attending a band concert in Chapala in 1937

We have looked previously at several excerpts from the journal written by Dr. Leo Leonidas Stanley (1886-1976) about his multi-day visit to Lake Chapala in October 1937. Jocotepec in 1937 San Luis Soyatlán and Tuxcueca in 1937 Stanley and Alonzo (his traveling companion) had ridden on horseback around the western end of the lake to […]

Nov 022023
Alexander Nicolas Muzenic, student of Josef Albers, taught art in Ajijic

Alexander Nicolas (“Nick”) Muzenic was born 25 September 1919 in Kansas, and died in Los Angeles 12 March 1976. His first names are variously listed as Nicolas, Nicholas, Nikolas, A. Nicolas or simply Nick. His family, of Austro-Croatian heritage, also used the anglicized surname Muzenich. He lived and worked in Ajijic from about 1948 to […]

Oct 262023
Frank Herbert, author of Dune, wrote a short novel set at Lake Chapala

As we saw in previous posts, science fiction fans everywhere should be eternally grateful that Frank Herbert (author of Dune) accompanied his friend Jack Vance to Chapala in 1953. They arrived in September and rented a house in Chapala for a couple of months. Several aspects of their joint trip to Mexico are endearingly told […]

Oct 192023
Lake Chapala on a postcard: the mysterious F. Martín from Mexico City

At least two postcards of Lake Chapala from the late 1920s bear the imprint on their reverse side of “F. Martín. Mexico, D.F.” and a stylized “FM” circular logo. According to researcher Arturo Guevara Escobar, the “F. Martín” name was registered as a trade name and used for about 50 years for several distinct series […]

Oct 122023

One of the earliest literary mentions of Lake Chapala comes in “Ixotle,” a story by Andrew Jackson Grayson published in 1870. Here is the full text of the original article: IXOTLE During a sojourn in Tepic of some six weeks, for the purpose of making collections of Ornithology, I went into the almost impenetrable mountains […]

Oct 122023
Ornithologist-artist Andrew Grayson and his early literary mention of Lake Chapala

With the exception of Bernardo de Balbuena’s mention of Chapala in his epic poem “El Bernardo,” (written between 1592 and 1602 and published in Madrid in 1624), one of the earliest literary mentions of Lake Chapala is in a story by Andrew Grayson published in 1870. Grayson, an ornithologist, rarely wrote fictional pieces and is […]

Oct 052023
Chapala Wishful Thinking #1: People on the beach at Chapala?

When cataloguing extensive photo archives, it is inevitable that errors are occasionally made. This mini series identifies some examples of photo identification errors which pertain to the Lake Chapala area. Mexico’s National Photo Archive (Fototeca Nacional INAH) includes this image, titled “Multitud en la ribera del lago de Chapala” (Multitude on the shore of Lake […]

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

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

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

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

Sep 142023
Lake Chapala on a postcard: Pedro Magallanes

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

Sep 072023
Lake Chapala postcard publishers: Ruhland & Ahlschier

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

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

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

Aug 172023
Lake Chapala on a postcard: José María Lupercio

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

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

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

Aug 032023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jun 082023
Juan Olivarez: Ajijic artist turned village photographer

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

Jun 012023
26 novels set largely or entirely at Lake Chapala

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

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

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

May 182023
Marion Freeman Wakeman painted Chapala church in 1948

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

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

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