First, I headed for the waterfront which, in many ways, defines Chapala. This has always been fishing town, from boats or shore, and with pole or hand net. Many fishermen anchor their boats in the lee of the Chapala pier. The vegetation seen the foreground of the picture is water hyacinth, a floating plant that drifts in and out with the waves and wind.
Bringing home the catch of the day. Fishing is still practiced here, although it is unsafe to eat most of the catch because of pollution from factories located on the rivers that feed the lake. Not to be deterred, the fish restaurants have largely shifted to catch brought in from the Pacific Ocean ports such as Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo.
Tourist transportation. Many of the fishermen (I’ve never seen women crewing a boat) get a big portion of their income taking tourists out for rides on the lake. Carole and I have yet to see life jackets or any other safety provision, so we’ve been a little hesitant to go for a ride as yet.
Fishermen at work. The fishermen's fountain commemorates the history of Chapala as a fishing town. The statues in the fountain very realistically portray the strength and effort needed to handle the nets. I have seen this very activity along the north shore of the Lake on many an evening walk.
Lake front elegance. While Chapala has spread out and up the sides of hills which are extinct (hopefully) volcanic cinder cones, the heart of the town lies within a few blocks of the lake shore. Included are the Parroquia (parish church) named San Francisco, the main plaza, and the line of elegant old lake shore haciendas. Some of these homes are still residences, others have become restaurants such as Los Cazadores which was originally the home of Albert Braniff, who founded Braniff airlines. The steeples of San Francisco can be seen behind Los Cazadores.
Kiosco, the center of the center. The plaza is the heart and nerve center of most Mexican communities, and in the center of nearly every plaza is the bandstand, called the kiosco. It functions as center stage for fiestas, political rallies, and other community events, as well as providing a shady spot for the elderly and young lovers. The Chapala kiosco is quite elegant and well-cared-for, obviously a symbol of community pride. In the background is one of the extinct cinder cones.
Meet the newlyweds, Mr. & Mrs. Death. The recent Dia De Los Muertos fiesta left behind a fine example of Mexico’s humorous, lighthearted attitude toward death and the dead. The two large figures in the picture were in the main traffic intersection near the plaza.
Life in miniature. The plaza is a vortex of activity. Sidewalk street vendors sell clothing, fresh produce, hot food, and handicrafts such as this finely carved set of doll's furniture. Some of these vendors seem to have regular spots, and I picked up a strong sense of community among them. For all America’s talk about free enterprise, most Americans work for somebody else, usually a corporation. Mexico strikes me as a far more entrepreneurial society, no doubt out of necessity. As multinational corporations penetrate further, this will probably start to die, but maybe not.
Chapala harpist. Street performers and musicians are also part of the daily scene. The harpist pictured must be pretty enterprising given the difficulty of hauling the instrument around as well as playing it.
The Portales. Another typical aspect of a Mexican plaza are the colonnades, called the portales. Usually at least one side of a plaza has this feature. Generally there are vendors or open air restaurants nestling in the shade of the portales. In Chapala, the portales extend perhaps 50 yards and provide a nice breezy place to eat lunch and view the kiosco and the activity around the plaza.