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 […]

May 042023
Architect Arne Dehli and the Hotel Plaza, Chapala

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

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

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

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

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

Apr 132023
Journalist Bill Reed reported on Ajijic in 1967

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

Mar 312023

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

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

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

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

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

Mar 162023
Historian Álvaro Ochoa Serrano, Lake Chapala and mariachi

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

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

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

Mar 022023
Eccentric artist Lona Isoard lived in Ajijic in the 1960s and 1970s

Lona Mae Christians, later Isoard, (1903-1992) was a long-time resident of Ajijic in the 1960s and 1970s. She was born 8 November 1903 in Williamsburg, Colorado, and died 22 Sep 1992 in Walnut Creek, California, aged 88. Lona married her husband, Max Conlin Isoard (1900-1974), then a medical student, in June 1926. The couple had […]

Feb 232023
American artist Garrett Van Vranken lived his final years in Chapala

American artist Garrett Van Vranken (1887-1961) and his wife, Tommie (Thomy) E Carruthers Van Vranken (1888-1962), lived their final years in Chapala. George Garrett Van Vranken (sometimes Vanvranken) was born in Cadillac, Michigan, on 16 December 1887. He completed four years of high school before serving in the military during the first world war. Known […]

Feb 162023
Prolific American author Robert Lewis Taylor lived in Ajijic in the 1970s

Robert Lewis Taylor (1912-1998) worked as a journalist on the St Louis Post-Dispatch before joining the staff of the New Yorker magazine. He wrote numerous books in a productive literary career which spanned four decades and included a Pulitzer Prize in 1959 for his novel The Travels of Jamie McPheeters, a novel about the travails […]

Feb 092023
British artists Richard and Nancy Carline painted Ajijic in the 1960s and 1970s

Talented British artists Richard and Nancy Carline never lived in Ajijic, but did visit friends in the village more than once and completed several paintings of the area. Richard Cotton Carline (1896-1980) was born in Oxford to a family of painters. After studying in Paris, and doing some teaching, he working on developing camouflage designs […]

Feb 022023
Calvin Tomkins completed his first novel while living at Lake Chapala

Calvin Tomkins, who later wrote extensively for Newsweek and the New Yorker, completed his first novel Intermission while staying at Lake Chapala. The autobiographical novel was first published by Viking Press, New York, in 1951. The book is not set at the lake; its locales are Santa Fe, New York and New Jersey. It explores […]

Jan 262023
Art Mystery: Who painted this 1962 painting?

Does anyone recognize the artist who painted this attractive gouache of a village scene? It is dated ’62. The indistinct signature appears to start with “PETER” in block capitals. Any and all suggestions welcomed! Other Art Mysteries related to Lake Chapala can be found via our index page for artists. Lake Chapala Artists & Authors […]

Jan 192023
Playwright Sam McCulloch thought that Ajijic was crawling with 'Americans' in the 1950s

Multilingual playwright Samuel McCulloch (1921-1991) and his wife, Jennie, lived in an old adobe house in Ajijic for six years from 1956 to 1962. In a 1958 press interview, McCulloch told a reporter that in Ajijic he was writing plays, working daily from 11 am to 7 pm, with a break for lunch, and that […]

Jan 052023
Neill James, Anita Brenner and the origin of the popular Mexican saying about “Dust on my Heart”

One of the modern myths of Lakeside is that long term American resident and benefactor Neill James, author of Dust on my Heart, was the originator of the phrase “When once the dust of Mexico has settled upon your heart, you cannot then find peace in any other land.” Dust on my Heart, published in […]

Dec 292022
Did Bert Pumphrey, whose art is highly collectible, ever live at Lake Chapala?

Despite several popular art sites listing Bert Pumphrey’s exhibitions as including three in Ajijic, I have yet to find any details for them. Pumphrey’s distinctive work is so highly collectible, that he would certainly deserve a place among the Lakeside greats (and in the Ajijic Museum of Art) if his association with Lake Chapala can […]

Dec 152022
Renowned Japanese artist Masaharu Shimada found inspiration in San Antonio Tlayacapan

Japanese artist Masaharu Shimada, who specializes in sumi-e pen and ink drawings and has held dozens of acclaimed exhibitions in Mexico and his native Japan, lived for several months each year in San Antonio Tlayacapan from 1986 onwards. His exquisite works include numerous evocative monochrome impressionist landscapes of Ajijic and San Antonio Tlayacapan. Sumi-e, which […]