Foreign Footprints in Ajijic: decades of change in a Mexican village

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Mar 062022

We are delighted to announce the publication of Foreign Footprints in Ajijic: Decades of Change in a Mexican Village.

In the 1940s, Ajijic, on the shores of Lake Chapala, was a small, remote, parochial village of farmers and fishermen. Today, Ajijic is a vibrant community, home to one of the largest US retirement communities outside the US, and is one of the most cosmopolitan villages in the world.

Sombrero Books is reader-supported. Purchases made via links on our site may, at no cost to you, earn us an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Foreign Footprints in Ajijic looks at why, how and when this astonishing transformation happened, and who and what were the driving forces involved.

Based on more than a decade of original research, this is the extraordinary, previously untold history of how early waves of foreigners settling in the village led to ripples that spread across the entire community. From artists, writers, entrepreneurs and philanthropists to land-grabbers, paradise-seekers, hippies and eccentrics —all brought their own ideas and aspirations, inevitably inspiring an astonishing transformation of their host community.

Author Tony Burton guides readers through the decades, offering examples of both the positive achievements of foreigners and the negative tensions they created; these offer some valuable lessons as Ajijic seeks to plan its future.

Whether you are a long-time resident of Ajijic, a relative newbie, or are still looking into options for your retirement years, this book offers some eye-opening insights into the community’s past.

This fully referenced book with cover artwork by Peter Shandera, has 290 pages of text, 2 original maps, 30 pages of notes, bibliography and index.

It was released in March 2022 and is now available via Amazon as a regular softcover print book. The Kindle edition will follow shortly.

By 20 March 2022, copies will be on sale in the Lake Chapala area, at the Hotel La Nueva Posada; at Diane Pearl Gallery, Arts & Activities Center, Sta Margarita 23, Riberas del Pilar; and at Hotel Villa QQ, Zaragoza 307, Chapala.

 Posted by at 10:30 am

Chapter Titles of Foreign Footprints in Ajijic

 Foreign Footprints in Ajijic  Comments Off on Chapter Titles of Foreign Footprints in Ajijic
Dec 272021

The 49 chapters of Foreign Footprints in Ajijic: Decades of Change in a Mexican Village are arranged in five parts:

Part A. Pre-1940: Adventurers

  1. Ajijic before 1940
  2. German land-grabber
  3. Ajijic gold rush
  4. Zara “La Rusa”
  5. Zara’s gold mine
  6. Austrian lakefront orchard

Part B. 1940s: Trailblazers

  1. Ajijic in the 1940s
  2. Rustic German inn
  3. English squire’s famous garden
  4. Posada Ajijic
  5. Dane Chandos books
  6. Violinist and the Pepsi House
  7. Neill James the writer
  8. Neill James builds dream home
  9. Art community begins

Part C. 1950s: Trendsetters

  1. International tourists
  2. Hotel health spa
  3. Advertising and marketing
  4. Radio, TV and silver screen
  5. Ajijic Hand Looms
  6. Neill James the businesswoman
  7. Save the Lake
  8. Violent crime
  9. Lake Chapala Society
  10. Educational initiatives
  11. Children’s libraries and art
  12. Foreign artists
  13. Creative Beats

Part D. 1960s: Free spirits

  1. Bohemians, hippies and drugs
  2. Village photographer
  3. Posada Ajijic: parade of managers
  4. Other Ajijic hotels and Chula Vista
  5. Zara meets flamboyant Iona
  6. Neill James the capitalist
  7. Art community consolidates
  8. Lakeside Little Theatre
  9. El Charro Negro
  10. Music since 1960

Part E. 1970s on: Modernizers

  1. Neill James the philanthropist
  2. Canadians revive Posada Ajijic
  3. Art in the 1970s
  4. Medical and health services
  5. The performing arts
  6. Zara’s final years
  7. Ajijic expands east
  8. Ajijic expands west
  9. Traditions and festivals
  10. Art and creative writing since 1980
  11. Press and academic articles
Sombrero Books is reader-supported. Purchases made via links on our site may, at no cost to you, earn us an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Revisions and additions: Foreign Footprints in Ajijic: Decades of Change in a Mexican Village (2022)

 Foreign Footprints in Ajijic  Comments Off on Revisions and additions: Foreign Footprints in Ajijic: Decades of Change in a Mexican Village (2022)
Apr 082015

These revisions and additions (April 2024) apply primarily to books purchased in Mexico. Books purchased more recently via Amazon are the latest printing at the time of purchase (check for any later revisions), and Kindle editions should automatically update whenever minor revisions are made.

page 87, para 3 : Sylvia Fein (1919-2024) . . . fell in love with Mexico.

page 87, para 4: … also took part, as did Chapala resident Frieda Hauswirth Das.

page 88, para 4:
Add new para: “Edythe Wallach (later Kidd) lived and painted for most of 1944 in Chapala and Ajijic. Paintings from her solo exhibit at the Villa Montecarlo in Chapala were later exhibited in New York.”

page 210, para 1:  should read … Don’t Drink the Water, directed by Mickey Church. [not Rocky Karns]

page 220, para 3: should read . . . Festival de Febrero (formerly Northern Lights Music Festival)… Estación Cultural Chapala has been renamed as “Centro para la Cultura y las Artes de la Ribera.”

pages  243, 250 : Estación Cultural Chapala has been renamed as “Centro para la Cultura y las Artes de la Ribera.”

page 277, para 1: “The Ajijic Society of the Arts, which was dissolved in 2023, supported the Children’s Art Program and the Ajijic Balloon Festival (Festival de Globos). It also organized an annual Art Camp for about 150 lucky young artists.”

page 284, para 2: “written by the Summerses …”

page 287, para 3: delete “recent”

page 316, Footnote 36.1  : add “Bob Bassing, personal communication, 2023.”

page 333, add index entry for Wrenn – page 88

Previous revisions  (November 2023) :

page 21, para 1: should read “bare red hillside scar shaped like an eagle on Cerro Colorado (aka Cerro del Aguila) near Rancho del Oro”

page 53, para 3: should read “He left school (Harrow) at 16, helped lay a telegraph cable up the Amazon at 18, and became an electrical engineer.”

page 54, para 2: should read  “The Sudden View

page 61, para 2: replace “their home’ by “the Posada”

page 63: (a) should read “The younger Millett, educated at Rugby School, studied …”
(b) should read “in several languages. In 1929, his debut avant-garde novel …”

page 67, last para: Should read “… in Mexico. The two men had been fellow students at Stowe School in England. This timing …”

page 68, first para: should read “… 1950, later becoming professor of art history…”

page 88, between paras 3 and 4: add “Retired illustrator Charles L Wrenn visited Ajijic and Chapala in about 1943. His known paintings of the area include what is believed to be the earliest plein air watercolor of historic Mezcala Island, the largest island in the lake.”

page 102, penultimate para: should read “The spa at Quinta Mi Retiro closed in about 1960; it may well be the “fountain of youth clinic” which ceased activity that year, according to the El Paso Herald-Post, for operating without a proper license. Not to be deterred, later that year Lytton-Bernard opened the Rio Caliente…”

page 113: para 2: should read “In 1950, Eileen and Bob Bassing left their Hollywood careers and moved to Ajijic with her two sons (then aged 11 and 14 respectively) to focus on their writing. The family lived in a $5 a month home in Ajijic, and supplemented their income by selling home-made fudge and operating a small lending library, “Simple Pleasures”, of English-language books they had shipped from California. Eileen later recalled …”

page 134, after para 3: add “Also in 1956, Donald Lewis, a writer, was held for questioning on suspicion of homicide after his wife’s death from an apparent overdose of sleeping pills at their home in Ajijic. According to police, Lewis refused medical aid for her and asked that she be left alone because she was “just sleeping.”

page 137, para 2: should read “… after killing his wife. His story inspired several books, including Love, Lies, and Murder (2007). In 2010…”

page 145, para 1 : should read “Preciado, and the wife of US vice-president Lyndon B Johnson.”

page 157, para 7: should read “Benjamin Shute, a co-founder of the Atlanta College of Art, and his wife, Nell, painted in Ajijic …”

page 188, para 5: should read “lifestyle”

page 205, after para 2: add “Zoë Mozert, reputedly the highest paid calendar artist of all time for her sensuous illustrations for pin-up calendars, painted at Lake Chapala in the mid-1960s.”

page 208, para 1: should read “… You Can’t Take It With You, staged in the open patio of a small inn in Chapala in 1953, produced and directed by Bob Bassing, and staged in August 1953 in the open patio of “La Playita,” a small inn in Chapala. The play, in which John Upton took the lead role, ended with spectacular pyrotechnics …”

page 219, after first para: add “Completing a trio of close friends with Goodridge and Sendis was a young Californian guitarist, Jim Byers, whose subsequent musical career included performing internationally as a classical guitarist.”

page 240, after para 5: add “Renowned Hollywood portraitist Richard Kitchin—a school friend of Peter Lilley and Anthony Stansfeld, the Dane Chandos duo—lived and painted in San Antonio Tlayacapan in the 1970s. He bequeathed many of his later works to the Instituto Cultural Cabañas in Guadalajara.”

page 259: should read “three blocks in each direction”

page 270, para 2: should read “Carnival (Carnaval) celebrations in the village are said to date back at least to 1880, pre-date those in …”

page 290: acknowledgments, add “Bob Bassing, James Catmur”

page 298, ch 9, ftnt 2: add: “James Catmur. 2023. “Tracing an ancestor down the Amazon!”

page 308, ch 25, ftnt 10: add “San Angelo Standard-Times, 30 July 1963, 18.”

page 323, ch 47, ftnt 1: add “Sofía Medeles. 2022. “El recibimiento y el desfile, los pilares del Carnaval de Ajijic.” Laguna, 28 February 2022.”


 Posted by at 11:36 am