The Magic of Lake Chapala

By Kristina Morgan Focus on Mexico

magic of lcLake Chapala is Mexico’s largest lake nestled in a ring of mountains with colorful fishing villages strung like pearls along the north shore where a slower pace of life awaits you. If you want to leave the rat race behind for a time or forever, Lake Chapala warrants a closer look, with friendly people to welcome you, many say the magic of Lake Chapala is something you just have to experience to believe.

national geographicLake Chapala doesn’t have the desert or the hot, humid weather of common tourist areas. Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city, is less than an hour with all the amenities you could hope for with world-class shopping and cultural arts. With its semi-tropical climate, Lake Chapala is a land that is every awakening. Situated in the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountains of South Western Mexico, it is located in a valley with an elevation of over 5,000 feet above sea level. The protective mountains create a micro-climate that averages 75F or 24C year round. According to National Geographic, Lake Chapala has the second best climate in the world. Like the fabled Camelot, even when the cooling rains come from June to September, it almost always rains at night. In the morning, the sunshine is back and the humidity is just high enough to keep the brightly colored flowers blooming and turn the mountains a lush, tropical green. Color is everywhere. Flowers draped from balconies, hanging baskets, fences, borders and trees.

international living magThis is truly a cosmopolitan community where everyone is welcome. International Living Magazine has ranked Mexico as the number one place to retire in the world for the past two years in a row. More people than ever are opting to live outside their home countries to take advantage of the lower cost of living. On average, you can save 30% living here. There is world class health care at a fraction of the cost you’ll find north of the border.

Frequently called the “Chapala Riviera” with its cobblestone streets, flowering trees, lush mountains, tranquil lifestyle, low cost of living, Lake Chapala has become a popular destination for visitors, who then fall in love with the pace and the people and make this their home.

In the 1960’s, hippies and artists discovered Lake Chapala. This created an eclectic blend of art and personality which, of course, attracted more artists and has turned Lakeside into a flourishing artists community, home to dozens of galleries and craftsman of every kind, an attraction that continues to beckon today as is evidenced by the whimsy and color at Lake Chapala.

You’ll also see some delightful forms of transportation such as donkeys and horses. Along with that, is the safety they feel in the village streets and sidewalks, day and night.

ajijic streetEnglish is spoke everywhere. Wireless internet access and Vonage service is inexpensive and people can email or call their families back home. There are many recreational activities – tennis, golf, horseback riding, boating, fishing, biking, hiking. Plus there are so many English language clubs and charitable organizations, that no one could ever be lonely or bored. Mexico has been called the land of fiestas. There are 5,000 registered fiestas in Mexico and festivals are always great fun and feasts for the senses. With all the dancing, food, music, drinking and wonderful sights, culture is expressed through these fiestas and celebrations all year round.

margaritaThe services are world-class – cozy B&Bs, gracious 5-star hotels and bungalows – you’ll find the perfect place to feel at home. There are a wealth of restaurants ranging from Italian, Greek, Argentinian, Chinese, Thai and of course the best margaritas in the world. There are movies in English at the local cinema, English TV, water park and a community theater with plays performed in English. There are places to worship in every Christian denominations. If you are looking for a home with a village-pace of life, you’ll find exactly what you want – condos with concierge services, charming homes with stonework, handpainted tile, beamed ceilings and outdoor living.


Testimonials

Everyone comes to the residency for different reasons. For me it was a
time to reflect upon this whirlwind year. Like many, I lead a hectic life
and run from one exhibition to the next with little time for
contemplation. Even if I hadn’t made a single thing during my residency,
I would have been satisfied because what I really needed was to slow
down and think about what direction my work might take. I reveled in
the environment – the lake and mountains – as well as two trips, one to
see the Monarch butterflies and the other to a fiesta in an indigenous
village with my fellow artists. I left the residency refreshed, with new friends and purpose!

Jennifer Angus, Installation Artist
“Applying for the free Winter residency of Xochi Quetzal was the start of many positive transformations. The silence I found for myself during the residency, allowed me not only to write the best last chapter I can write at this stage of my evolution, it also granted me a most sought-after introspection moment during which I read my dreams and studied ancient Eastern writings. The serenity of the lake and presence of other artists inspired me to get mentally ready and organized for my future as a novelist. I am particularly fond of spending the holidays abroad with ‘strangers’. It always infuses me with these wild insights and whims. Our group was just lovely, the artists one by one very interesting. Cobra and Christian are warm and graceful hosts who made life easy. All in all, Xochi Quetzal was a weighty meditation, a poetic experience that carried me through the rest of Mexico in newness and will resonate long after.”
Heidi Souffriau, Writer
“I was partly inspired to apply for the Xochi Quetzal residency by The Retro Cocktail Hour — a popular Saturday night radio show on Kansas Public Radio 91.5 that features exotica music (a form of tropical jazz).  My hope was for the palm trees,  lakeside sunrises, and culture of Chapala & Mexico at large to inform my creative process.  These elements did precisely that, and the generous hospitality of Cobra & her partner Christian provided me with a cozy composing environment.”
Note from Staff: Listen to the music created during Andrew’s residency -Winter 2016
Andrew Morgan, Composer, Musician

Chapala is a safe, spiritually charged, beautiful place. Wild horses run through town.  It’s a place where you greet strangers on the street.

I walked along the lake in meditation a great deal. I hiked the looming cerro overlooking town. I biked all over the countryside. I wrote, documented, created composed soundscapes utilizing field recordings, and built small maquette light sculptures based on my experiences. I attended traditional temazcals, and sat alone in cathedrals.

It was pivotal for me in a spiritual sense more than a career advancing experience. I’m very grateful for it, and Deborah Kruger is a wonderful advocate to keep in contact with. I truly recommend the residency.

Justin R. Lytle, Sound Artist & Sculptor

My residency at 360 Xochi Quetzal in summer 2015 was both restorative and productive.  I was inspired by the beautiful studio and the surrounding Chapala  / Jalisco region.  The setting worked well for me in terms of inspiring and completing new work, and learning the history and customs of the area.  The flexible residency requirements allowed an easy engagement with other residents, and encouraged me to participate in Chapala and Guadalajara communities.  There are many contemporary art venues in Guadalajara, which are an easy bus ride from Chapala.

Michael Pribich, Sculptor

“Not only was this residency situated in one of the most beautifully mystical, culturally resonant, and stimulating settings imaginable, it also managed to be both peaceful and galvanizing: the perfect combination for immersing oneself in a creative project without hesitation or distraction. Deborah and Christian’s home was an oasis. One of my fellow residents remarked to me that “this place has amazing energy for getting work done,” and I wholeheartedly agree: the atmosphere seemed to hum with a low-key, generative productivity, one that helped me get closer than I’d been in many months to actually fully realizing and finishing a long story. I wish I was still there among the bougainvillea, the jade vines, the dogs and the pelicans.”

Suzanne K. Rivecca, Author

Chapala has become my home away from home. The Xochi Quetztal residency is run efficiently. Cobra and her team are friendly, accessible, and professional. My stay in Chapala is enhanced by the personal relationships I have developed with several of the team members. The casita I stay in is very well maintained and fully equipped. The studio area is large and ready for me to engage in art as soon as I arrive.  The weather is always fantastic. The lake, the town(s), the life, the restaurants, the view, the very friendly local people all call me back again and again. I love it!

Zahava Sherez, Sculptor

“This was the most work I’ve ever done in a single month in my life. I will never forget what an incredible experience this was and I thank you for honoring me with a residency at 360 Xochi Quetzal. The reference material I gathered throughout the trip to Chapala, Mexico is going to fuel my work for years to come. Thank you for everything! You run an incredible residency program!!!”

Santiago Galeas, Painter