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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 4th decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

How Chapala, Mexico Has Changed

Over the Years

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

Billy and I first visited Chapala, Mexico in October of 1993.

We came for two months and stayed four years.

It’s true that Chapala stole our hearts and as residents, we’re considered to be “Old Timers”. Often we are asked – “How has Chapala changed since you first began living here?”

WOW!

In some ways Chapala has not changed at all.

The people are still friendly and family-oriented, and the lake is gorgeous. The weather is perfect, and this smallish city continues to feel like it’s stuck in a time warp like a Norman Rockwell painting, with wholesome values, friendly store owners who know your name, affordable and ubiquitous public transport, and a neighborly police force.

But in other aspects, it’s not the same town from almost 3 decades ago.

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Cable TV, cell phone coverage, internet, Wi-Fi, Netflix

When we first arrived in this amicable town, no one had cable TV.

One household in ten had a landline telephone and the waiting list to get one was a year long. Your phone number - if you had one - was only four digits long. We had a phone that came with the rented house but did not have anyone to call locally as none of our friends had one!

A call to family in the USA was three dollars a minute. Of course, there was no internet or Wi-Fi anywhere, so there was no Skype, cell phone coverage or streaming movies or news.

If anyone wanted to know what was going on, or what the news was, we all went to the American Legion in town. We added to and took from the “Taco Telegraph” which told us all the happenings around town and what we needed to know about friends, neighbors, and the city itself.

Since almost no one had a TV, we’d watch all the professional ball games at the Legion, and we were given color coded pom-poms according to the team we supported. Hot food and cold beer were available.

American Legion mail service

American Legion mail service - old style

Events were scheduled to help out the needy, like the school for the blind and the deaf. Mail pick up and drop off to the States - a coveted service -  was offered to Legion members, and someone would drive a van twice monthly to Guadalajara to go to Costco and Sams for needed supplies. You could jump into the back of the van with your cooler and load it up, and the driver would take you back to the Legion. People purchased "Big City" supplies and brought them home.

One could renew their passports here at the Legion too. Once a month a member of the Consulate would come, take your passport, and  return a month later. Easy-peasy!

Today, we all have cell phones and calls are free and unlimited to the USA and Canada. Personal internet and Wi-Fi connections are standard everywhere - hotels, restaurants, house rentals -  and we can stream Netflix to our heart’s desire.

 

 

 

 

Upscale and international restaurants, coffee shops, delicatessens

Chapala was more like a simple home town, and Ajijic was the sophisticated sister.

The coffee served here was “del orno” or basically, Nescafe and hot water. We had local Mexican restaurants and street foods, we cooked our own meals or we visited the lone pizza joint. There were no “international sections” for Asian delights in our little tiendas, and we couldn’t find real butter for the life of us. Baking chocolate to make cookies or cakes was worth its weight in gold.

If we wanted a steak lunch with a baked potato, we had to hop on the bus, travel to Ajijic and go to Bruno’s.

Which we did.

Today, we have cafes serving cappuccinos and mochas to rival the best of them, and a selection of international restaurants from Thai,  Italian, fresh grilled seafood, fusion offerings, baguette sandwiches and wine by the glass.

Salmon with orange sauce, restaurant Letra CH, Chapala, Mexico

Salmon with orange sauce, Restaurant Letra CH

We can purchase imported cheeses, meats from the US or Sonoma, Mexico, boutique chocolate candy bars, and fancy mustards.

We haven’t needed to go to Brunos for years!

Big Box stores like Wal*Mart and Soriana

Back in those days, there was one “grocery store” called Arturo’s - owned by Arturo, of course.

If you wanted something that the little neighborhood tiendas didn’t sell, Arturo’s was the place to go.

All of Chapala closed down on Thursday afternoons. It was the “Dia del descansar” – or Day of rest.

If you wanted milk for the weekend, you had better go to Arturo’s before Thursday afternoon. He sold one brand of milk – Sello Rojo entera – meaning Red Seal whole milk. There was no guarantee that he’d get a supply in on Friday or Saturday…

Shopping was really easy. They either had milk or they didn’t. There was no such thing as two percent, or buttermilk, or kefir, fer cryin’ out loud. It was whole milk when he had it, or none at all.

These days with Wal*Mart, Soriana, and other large grocery super stores, you can pretty much get anything. Sun dried tomatoes or green olives? Check. Haagen Dazs Ice cream, baking chocolate, real butter? Check. Vitamins, sunblock, fancy hair products? Check. Kitchen ware, clothing, imported wines, or sheets for your bed? Check.

No one closes on Thursday afternoons anymore. In fact, you can find all kinds of things open even on Christmas, Easter, and Mexican Independence Day.

Mail is more reliable, deliveries now available with Amazon, Mercado Libre, FedEx and DHL

It used to be that we could not receive anything from the States larger than a manila envelope. Packages would be confiscated at the border and never to be found again.

These days we have anything we want delivered from Amazon US, Amazon Mexico, Mercado Libre or by FedEx and DHL.

Whether it’s a wine opener, weather-station clock, art supplies or vitamins, Chapala has opened up to the world.

 

 

 

 

Medical care is even more available

Chapala has always had decent medical care available. Even getting to Guadalajara for a specialist or for a needed operation was simple and easy.

Now, in addition to our many clinics, we have several new hospitals. Many medical services can be taken care of right here at lakeside.

Tooth implants (dental surgeons), cardiologists, dermatologists, orthopedic surgeons, and more are now living in the area.

Due to the increasing Gringo population, several new assisted living facilities have been built to service this growing health field.

Wider roads, bicycle lanes, Uber, the malecon

Most Gringos like having their own vehicles, but for those who don’t want to bother with the expense and hassle, there is lots of public transport. Taking a cab or hiring a private driver is very affordable, Uber is available, and we have wider roads and both pedestrian and bicycle lanes.

Chapala, Mexico before the malecon was built

Chapala, Mexico before the malecon was built

Over the years a walking street running along Chapala Lake has been constructed both in Chapala as well as Ajijic. On weekends, families walk along this malecon enjoying the home made ice cream, the live music, lakeside restaurants and the beautiful view. During the week, faithful power-walkers and those who stroll with their pets can be seen. These malecons are a huge feature for both towns.

Nice even walkways on malecon with lush tropical plants, Chapala, Mexico

The malecon today

In "the olden days" we hitchhiked or waved for a bus anywhere on the road to stop for us. Billy never had to wait more than 5 minutes to catch a ride from another Gringo in their car, whether we knew them or not. Local Mexicans would stop for us too. It was standard procedure - one road between towns. You were either going to Ajijic or coming from Ajijic to Chapala. Anyone, anywhere would pick you up.

Today, cars speed by with the driver's eyes glued to the road ahead of them and no one stops now. No one. We don't know any of these people, and they don't know us!

There used to be one traffic light in Chapala that often did not work. Billy said if the city government ever put up more lights or got this one to work regularly, we'd leave town and live elsewhere. When the city did just that - we have several traffic lights at Lakeeside now - we moved to Panajachel, Guatemala.

These days there is more traffic. But when traffic gets bad on the Carretera (the main road that ties the towns around the lake together) then there is the Libramiento which avoids this traffic and puts you out by Laguna Central and Wal*Mart. Laguna Central is a new shopping center area with restaurants, cafes, art stores, bakeries and sports clothing.

Chapala Living Guide is based on our first hand eperience of living in Chapala, Mexico

Many more Gringo communities, more tennis courts, more theaters, clubs, culture

Ajijic has been a Gringo enclave since the1970s but today, there are many gated communities and upscale homes to choose from in other towns dotted along the Libramiento and into the hills.

When once there were only four run-down City tennis counts in Cristiania Park, now  there are six, four of them with lighting. Years ago, there were a few singular courts way out of town, but now these gated communities offer many of their own quality facilities - tennis courts, pickleball courts, and swimming pools.

Back in the day, there was one theater and an auditorium. Now there are several venues for performing artists, and restaurants around town offer live music on weekend nights and Sunday mornings. We can even order Eggs Benedict! Today we have more movie theaters to choose from and even a casino!

There are bridge clubs, animal rescue groups. hiking clubs, garden clubs, yoga lessons, even bird watching associations.

Summary

Moving into the future cannot be stopped. Some changes are great, and others cause a bit of havoc. We love having the variety of  organizations and the talent and experience of all the Expats here. Many services including medical are open 24/7 which is a great convenience.

In general, Chapala is safer these days also. Our friendly police force is ubiquitous, and the Red Cross has new ambulances to assist in emergencies.

But traffic has multiplied, and in some towns around the lake the local Mexican culture has been diluted by the influx of Gringos. Prices have gone up due to this international migration, and unfortunately, those who have left their home countries due to political chaos have chosen to bring that same discord here.

Chapala, Mexico is still freer from governmental regulation than the countries North of the Border and that is appealing to many who move here. Cost of living is affordable and having the international airport in Guadalajara provides access to quick getaways.

All in all, even with the significant changes over these decades, living in this small city environment has proven to be very satisfying. 

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About the Authors

 
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on Amazon.com.

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