Chapala altars

Many of you may not know where in Mexico I live.  Apparently most people in the US don’t realize how big Mexico is.   This has been proven to me repeatedly when I get e-mails from friends saying “Oh, I have a friend in Baja.  Have you met him?” or “OMG, I just read that they are shooting at people in Acapulco.  Please, please, be careful when you go out!!”.  So here, for your edification, is a map of the area in which I live in Mexico.  If you want more information, search for a Mexican map on which Guadalajara is shown.  You can see from this map that I live a bit south of Guad. 


Since I came down here, I’ve been living on the western end of Lake Chapala, the largest natural lake in Mexico.  (And, no, I’m not sure which lake is the largest man-made lake in Mexico.  That’s another post for another, very distant, post.)  I currently live in Jocotepec.  See it over there on the left side of the map?

The pueblo about which I am writing today is Chapala.  See it over there on the north side of the lake, in the middle of the photo?  Okay, let’s go. 

I told you all recently about the festivities in the cemeteries hereabouts on dia de los muertos (day of the dead).  Today we’ll look at some of the altars on Calle Cinco de Mayo in Chapala.  In addition to all the flowers and coronas (those big wreath-like things in my previous post) set up in the cemeteries, some people erect an altar in front of their homes honoring their loved ones who have passed over. 

As we approached this altar, a big band rendition of “That Old Black Magic” wafted out.  Struck by the appropriateness (or perhaps the inappropriateness) of the song, I was just standing there tapping my foot to the beat and enjoying the music and all the colors.  The man who had erected the altar came over to talk to me, explaining that there’s a belief in Mexico that if you put out some of the departed one’s favorite things and mark the area with marigolds, they’ll return to visit, if only to see what you set out for them.  He said his dad loved Glenn Miller therefore the CD was playing.  It was just a happy coincidence that this particular song was playing when I arrived.

Here are some additional pictures of the street altars in Chapala.  Let’s assume you were a musician.  Mightn’t the one below draw you back?

Or perhaps a chess aficionado might enjoy just one more game with her grandson:

Maybe, like Karen, you wish some of the critters who are now extinct would come back, at least for a visit, so you could try and explain what happened:

If you’re trying to call one specific person home for a brief visit, put out some of their things, along with some of the things they enjoyed:

I mean, really, how dapper a man was this?

Since I’ve not been here long enough to much about these folks (the ones erecting the altars or the ones whom they honor), and because I’m a gringo who is impressed with fame, I have to ashamedly admit that the one below was one of my favorites….the wrestler (called, ahem, “El Santo”) who apparently loved a cocktail or two.  These are the kind of things I’d like to see on my altar when I return (well, not so much the wrestling outfit, but certainly that picture of me in the lower left-hand corner taking the photo).

But altar or no altar, here’s what I’d like to look like when I return:

So, men, just in case, I suggest that you be thinking about what offerings you’ll be setting out for me.

About Barbara

in april of 2008, i moved from the united states to mexico. during my working days, i held lots and lots of jobs....almost all chosen because they were fun or interesting instead of how much they paid. when i started thinking about retirement (in my 40s), i realized that i would never be able to retire to a country where english was the native language. and although i had traveled to every state in the US -- and lived in lots of them -- i had never been outside the country with the exception of canada and mexico. and since you now know that i could never afford to retire in canada (even to the french-speaking area), mexico won by default.
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8 Responses to Chapala altars

  1. Gigi says:

    Wow, the Chapala altars get better each year!!! We’ve only seen them once, though, a couple of years ago. They are so contemporary in their themes!

    • Barbara says:

      actually, gig, those photos ARE from a couple of years ago. so you might have been there the same time i was there. (it was before i knew you.)

  2. Karen says:

    What a great – and colorful – way to honor and remember passed loved ones!!

  3. Joe says:

    Ola darlin’. Your as great a read now as you were to talk with 45 yrs ago. Never followed a blog till now. love it Can’t wait for the next episode jaj

    • Barbara says:

      joe, the only difference between my stories from 45 years ago and my stories now is that the ones from now are actually true.

  4. linda baumgartner says:

    incredible i did not understand the whole concept but you have shown so much love your idea of your memory i thought you were way more in land i think a poison dart gun is the answer to those afraid of coming to visit

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