Ajijic is a popular destination for American and Canadian retirees. The
climate is as near perfect as can be found, and the local population goes out of
their way to accomodate the northern visitors.
The cost of living is higher than most other towns around Lake Chapala, but
still well below what most of the expatriates were accustomed to in their former
homes. Many visitors are seasonal, Canadians and those from northern states come
down for the winter, while a smaller, but still substantial number from southern
states come down during the summer, when the climate here is more comfortable than
that of Florida or Texas.
Historically, the name Ajijic is a modernization of the older Nahuatl Axixique
or Axixic, which was said to mean Place Where the Water Springs Forth. It was
settled in prehistoric times.
In the 1910s Chapala began to be the holiday destination for wealthy Mexicans and foreign
nationals. A few foreigners even settled in the town, and began to promote local
tourism. By the 1940s a few of these foreign visitors began to discover the charm of
nearby Ajijic, a quite village that then had none of the amenities of Chapala, but
offered a more authentic Mexican experience.
By the 1960s Ajijic began to attract artists and writers, as well as the occasional
retiree -- mostly those with experience of foreign travel and a compentance in dealing
with unfamiliar cultures.
Then the National Geographic published an article describing the Lake Chapala area
as the best weather in the world. The peso was low against the American dollar, and
adventurous Americans began to flood in. Many left in disgust when they found that
the culture was not like 'back home' -- but others adapted and stayed, building a
major expatriate community.
The local community, in turn, adapted to the influx of foreign settlers. Restaurants,
galleries and real-estate boomed. Expensive imported food was provided by local
supermarkets. Prices rose to fill demand. The expatriates not only fuel the local
economy, but contribute substanially to charitable causes.
The vast majority of expatriates have only fleeting contact with the local Mexican
community -- mostly through commercial enterprises. The maids and gardeners who work
for these 'gringos ricos' act as the translators of Mexican culture and experience, and
because their English is often limited much gets lost in the translation.