Tag Archives: San Juan Cosala

San Juan Cosala Kids Art Camp

https://issuu.com/lakechapalasociety/docs/conecciones_agosto_2019_digitalI forgot to post photos of some of the kids enjoying the many activities at art camp two weeks ago. I taught earring and bracelet-making and egg-carton flower making. Useful skills in life. Here they are. Better late than never.

Click on any photo to enlarge all.


Go HERE to see an article I wrote about Operation Feed, the volunteer organization that sponsored this camp. The article is on pages 26 and 27, but when you slide the bar to get to the page, it will say it is 28. Miracles of the media.

San Juan Festival, 2019

The patron saint of my little town is St. John the Baptist and his festival has been going on all week with the most fireworks I’ve ever heard.. No pretty colors. Just NOISE–by the thousands.  Here are some photos of the parade.  Click on any photo to enlarge all and read captions.

Click on any photo to enlarge all and read captions.

Agustin on YouTube

This is my friend Agustin whom I have featured in a number of stories on my blog.  A wonderful man.

And here are two more stories about him:



Campamento Estrella, Day 2, 2016

The camp went wonderfully today.  The kids belted out the two camp songs they were a bit shy about yesterday, their masks turned into nearly completed masterpieces, our wonderful camp counselors, one of whom I discovered today is a mere sophomore in high school, were helpful and dedicated and came up with some good ideas of their own.  The dance numbers are coming together and I think you’ll see by the photos below that the kids are having a wonderful time. We even had a few strollers-by, attracted by the music and laughter, come in and force money on us to help with next year’s camp.  One blogger also requested that I tell where donations may be made and although my intention is not to treat my blog as a fundraiser, the friend who is handling the fundraising does have a paypal account established.  Donations from the U.S. may be made via Paypal to jeredepaul@yahoo.com     It is important that you send them in the  friend or family category so we don’t have to pay a fee to Paypal. 

If you click on the first photo and then on the right hand side of each photo that comes up, you can see all of these full-sized and read the captions.

One Word Photo Challenge (Pick Your Own) Avalanche!!!!

AVALANCHE. 1. : a large mass of snow, ice, earth, rock, or other material in swift motion down a mountainside or over a precipice. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

                                                    AFTER THE AVALANCHE

September 14, 2007,at 4:25 a.m., a tremendous long rolling peal of thunder awakens me. I see no lightning, and immediately have visions of two nights ago, when a long stampede of boulders the size of refrigerators and cars had crashed down the mountain I live on from far above, their progress oiled by two water spouts which had picked up water from the lake and then lifted to the mountainside above to release torrents of water over the already rain-soaked mountains.


Gathering momentum, this raging river of water tore through two arroyos that run a block on either side of my house, ripping up trees in their paths, they ground up roots and bark into tangles of fiber which mixed with the mud. They shot through culverts, bursting them like boils, took cobblestones down with them, carved new super riverbeds out of former roads, exposed water pipes, ripped stone walls apart to join the mass of water and stone, left giant walls of piled boulders ten and fifteen feet high in their wake.

Boulders the size of refrigerators and cars and bulldozers broke through the garden wall of a house two houses away from me and pushed a car through the bedroom wall.


A sea of mud and water followed it, shoving all the furniture against the back wall, breaking glass doors and windows to flood out into the backyard. Another boulder took out half of the house and crashed through the neighbor’s wall, then curved to take out two giant metal gates.

A colossal grandmother tree from across the street, uprooted by the force of stone and water, snagged between the broken wall and one remaining support from the gate.


The gate is ultimately found a block away, caught by a boulder wall which replaced gates torn from the Raquet Club.  Behind the tall fence of boulders, a sign ironically proclaims that the Raquet Club is “Closed.” (This is not a spelling mistake.  The Spanish spelling of “racquet” is “raquet” so I really do live in the “Raquet Club.”)

P9120090Below, more boulders are deposited beside either side of the road.. The guard kiosks and gates are swept away. From above, the road as far as I have been able to see it, looks like a river bed piled with boulders, its banks littered with broken houses, uprooted cement electrical poles, half buried cars and bent metal doors, downed street lights and water pipes.


All of this had occurred during a 15 minute period, from 6 to 6:15 a.m. just two mornings before. It was still dark when inhabitants of the Raquet Club had been awakened by the noise. Some described it as a freight train, others as a jet flying low above. To me, it was like fifteen minutes of thunder, on all sides, accompanied by rain but no lightening. At first light, I heard a loud banging on my gate. I opened it to a neighbor. Wet to the skin beneath a black garbage sack he’d ripped neck and arm holes in, he directed me out into the street, in spite of the driving rain. “Judy, don’t faint, but come see. Come see that the Raquet Club will never be the same. Now don’t panic, but come see what has happened.” When we rounded the corner, I looked down a street that was a river of mud, knee-high.


At the other end of the block, high boulders obscured the view, but I could see water shooting above the boulders. The mud was too high to proceed far, but after I’d gone in to get my high rubber boots, I could wade far enough down the block to see that the gates and the little park and tree on the corner to the left were all gone, had been gouged out like the road to form a wide river of churning mud and boulders. I searched for my neighbor’s gates in vain. They were gone, along with half of her rented house.


Later, I was to learn that the 86 year old woman who owned the house had died in Guadalajara two weeks before, struck by a car while crossing the street. For the six years I’d lived here, she had been catching the bus from Guadalajara to come collect the rent, walking the ¾ of a mile up the steep mountainside to collect the rent or to harangue the gardener. I was glad she had been spared the spectacle of her house broken in two. Countless people had tried to buy it, at least before the megalithic house had been built below it, blocking its view. Now it was only her heirs who would regret her decision not to sell.

Later in the day, most roads outside of a square block or two blocked, my neighbors and I trudged around the Raquet Club to see the further devastation. One house was swept away into the arroyo to the west of me. This arroyo had also undermined other houses, whose inhabitants were being evacuated. It had also picked away like a scab a huge retaining wall filled with fill that ran along the western size of the arroyo. The wall, five feet thick and an entire lot long, had luckily not yet been built upon. Wall and fill were now gone–tumbled down the mountainside.

Further below in the pueblo of San Juan Cosala, rivers of mud blanketed the carretera.

Boulders plunged through houses, leaving gaping holes. Two days later, the paved road looked like a dirt road as villagers all arrived with shovels to try to dig out the road. Announcements had been made in Jocotepec and other nearby villages and countless citizens could be seen walking down the road, shovels in hand. Trucks arrived carrying clothes donations and blankets. Roads to Ajijic were closed due to heavy equipment movement, but within 24 hours, graders and bulldozers had been brought in to move the giant boulders blocking the road above the service entrance of the Raquet Club and within 24 hours, it was possible to ford the river that now blocked the road and to drive down the boulder strewn streets out of the back entrance to the Raquet Club.

As we drove in my friend’s pickup, we could see the lake clearly from the careterra. The lake that six years ago was a quarter mile distant from the town now lapped against her skirts. After so many years praying for rain and a full lake, people were now praying for it to cease.

Now, at 6:20 A.M., 48 hours after the deluge, rain again pounds on my roof. Surveillance trucks drive by my house every 15 minutes or so, patrolling the few streets they have access to in search of problems or looters or those in need of aid.

A block away, two cars lie under piles of stone. The inhabitants who owned them exited their house through second story terraces and windows, the entrance to their house sealed like a tomb with giant rocks.


The first day after the avalanche, hard-hatted emergency workers wandered the streets like lost children, clean shovels in hand. As my two female friends and I shoveled mud and water, trying to open a channel to the vast lake of knee-high mud in our street, they stopped to ask us if we were all right. One asked, “Do you speak Spanish?” When I answered, “Si, poquito,'” he exclaimed, “Thank God!” and lapsed into a flood of Spanish. I take it he had been wandering around all day talking to Gringos who didn’t understand what he was saying. I understood about one third of what he was saying to me. When I asked him to help us, he said that machines would come to do that later and he walked on. Hours later, he and his group came by walking in the other direction, their shovels still pristine. That entire day, the only people I saw working to clear anything were my two female neighbors and me, and then the Mexican man house-sitting next door, who came to wield the wheelbarrow that we were using to remove mud and tree roots to an adjoining lot.


The next day was filled with emergency workers and firemen from Guadalajara, Zapopan, Morelia and other towns even more distant. Helicopters circled overhead, examining the dangers of even more rocks and mud balanced above, ready to roll down the same arroyos. Residents were evacuated. Bulldozers gouged a hole into the stone barrier that separated our street from the new river that has replaced our downward sloping street, and the lake of mud started to flow into the river, lowering the mud level to only ankle high. Looky-loos arrived from down below, climbing up the long mile or so of road to our level, where the worst devastation seems to have occurred. Oblivious to people climbing up from below, bulldozer operators opened up channels so streams of mud and water trickled down from above. Although the cars of anyone but residents were being blocked from entering the San Juan Cosala and Raquet Club area, no one seemed to be barring foot traffic from entering the work zones. Then, with no warning, a new stream of mud shot out from a break in a wall that lay below an area being cleared out by bulldozers, I jumped out of the way. At this time, as all other times in Mexico, people were expected to watch out for themselves.

Neighbors adjacent to the arroyo and the street which is now an arroyo have told me of being awakened two mornings ago by a gigantic rumbling and shaking of their house. Standing in the dark on their balcony above the street, they heard and caught images by flashlight of boulders tumbling down and tearing up the street. They heard their neighbor’s house demolished by the boulder which then broke through their own wall and rolled toward the wall of the house below the balcony they were standing on. Luckily, it deflected off another boulder and rolled to the left to crash through their gates instead.

Looking by flashlight across the road, they imagined their neighbors’ houses to be gone, but later discovered by the light of day that they were instead hidden from view by a wall of giant boulders that had replaced their former stone walls.

For me, a block away from the devastation on each side of me, the entire experience of the avalanche was one of sound. A complete silence, then a solid thunderous drumming that I took to be rain on all the rooftops around me, or lightening-free thunder…solid and uninterrupted for 15 minutes.

A friend a few blocks below me talks of hurricane force winds, but above, it was deadly silent except for the rain. I think perhaps she experienced the tornado down below which had siphoned water from the lake before lifting above my house to release the water in the mountains above.

I have been told that a local newspaper reported that there were twin waterspouts. I had heard these tornadoes which sucked up water from the lake were a yearly occurrence up until six years ago, when I moved here. One had caused massive slides in El Limon. Another old-timer tells us that a mud and rock slide of this dimension hadn’t happened above San Juan Cosala in the area where the Raquet Club now exists for two hundred years.

For the two days after the event, occasional clusters of inhabitants walk down the mountainside, picking their way over boulders and through mud, suitcases in hand. Some are being evacuated. Others have decided their vacation homes are no vacation at all without electricity, phones or Internet, not to mention roads.

By 9 o’clock p.m., the second day after the disaster, I am sitting at my neighbor’s table sharing a stone soup comprised of the contents of our cumulative rapidly-thawing freezers. Suddenly, the lights flicker on. We can’t believe it! With half the poles down, they have reinstated the electricity in less than 48 hours! This is efficiency beyond our dreams. I return to my own house to find electricity but no water. The switch on my water pump seems to have burned out, since it probably ran without ceasing while pumping no water.

I again don my waders and slosh through sucking ankle-high mud to close the doors of my absent neighbor’s refrigerator, which I have hours before emptied of its soggy contents, leaving the doors open. Since I have forgotten to unplug it, it now churns cold air out into the kitchen, it’s sad remnants of pickle jars dripping the sweat of water unable to refreeze in this exposed condition.

Now, at exactly 48 hours after the main event, all is calm. No wind, rain or thunder. Within an hour or two, it will begin to get light and I’ll go out to see what all the fuss was about. Was it really thunder or has the threatening wall of mud and stone above finally released? I hope this long climax of waiting is finally over so we can get back to the clearing up. There will be a long year of reconstruction, further assessments to property owners, meetings, arguments, and cooperation between neighbors.

Hopefully, those evacuated will be restored to us. Hopefully, lost houses are fully insured. It would be wonderful if the clubhouse and pool, now filled with mud, were insured, but I doubt it.

Selfishly, I am relieved that my own house, fully insured, is untouched. Down below in the pueblo, the church bells toll. I hope it is calling the people to an early mass instead of announcing a death. There have been various reports of dead and missing: From 2 people to 125 people to no deaths. I hope the latter is true. I hope the village shares my luck in being close to disaster that they have somehow escaped the severest results of.


Happily, although a number of people were washed out of their houses and into the lake in the village down below, there were no deaths and only a few injuries reported.   It is now eight years since this horrendous occurrence and in that time, no other events of this magnitude have occurred. Perhaps the mountain has flushed it’s debris and it will be another hundred years before it again purges itself, but Proteccion Civil—the Mexican civil defense organization—remembering the excesses of the past, issued a warning just a couple of weeks ago, on the day before Hurricane Patricia was to reach us, that residents of three streets, including mine, should evacuate their houses. As difficult as this was in the pouring rain, with three dogs, I did so. Although it proved to be a false call, my memory of the devastation that had occurred in just 15 minutes a few years before made me not question their call.


Heart of a Small Pueblo

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I wrote to this question for an article in “Mexico Insights” (a now defunct magazine)  a few years ago–long before I started blogging; and although I’ve printed the story once before on my blog, I think it warrants a second retelling.  Go HERE to read a story about a remarkable man.  Since I wrote this piece, he has gone on to found a 150 piece children’s orchestra and a children’s chorus that I talked about in another story. His is the restaurant where we staged the week-long Camp Estrella and where I’ll have 160 children decorate sugar skulls for Dia de los Muertos next week.  His restaurant is the hub and heart of our little town.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “FAQ.” Interview someone — a friend, another blogger, your mother, the mailman — and write a post based on their responses.

Which Way?

Which Way?

This way?

IMG_4376Or this way?IMG_4379This Way?

IMG_4374Or this way?IMG_4381This way?IMG_4383Or this way?
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This was the first lesson in the new girl’s dance class for girls age 10-14 in our pueblo.  Cynthy, the instructor, did a great job and as you can see, the girls paid close attention and I think did wonderfully well.  I could hardly stand not dancing along with them.  (To be truthful, there was a big mirror in front of them.  I stood a bit to the side in the very back and did execute a few of the moves, hoping they couldn’t see me.  Then I realized if I could see any of them in the mirror, then they could see me, too.)

I’m very excited about this class and hope the girls remain interested. I’ll sponsor the instruction costs for the first 20 and buy their costumes.  Then I hope after their first performance, other sponsors will step forward.  Next, a boy’s class of break dancing or other moves that might appeal to them.


Step by Step

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Community Service.” Your entire community — however you define that; your hometown, your neighborhood, your family, your colleagues — is guaranteed to read your blog tomorrow. Write the post you’d like them all to see.


I’d like for the residents of my fraccionamiento and the village of San Juan Cosala to see the three blog posts whose links are given below and to perhaps then contribute to a dance program I am setting up in San Juan Cosala–at first mid-eastern dancing for 20 girls, then with more funding, perhaps we’ll branch out to flamenco as well as different dance styles that will be more appealing to boys.

I know that people in my community have huge hearts and they’ve proven that where there is a need, that will fill it.  They’ve set up soccer teams, a free spay and neuter clinic for dogs and cats, a 150+ child orchestra and chorus, English lessons, and a program that feeds and clothes the neediest families in town.

I would simply like to expand this wonderful world that is blossoming in the village of  San Juan Cosala. In Camp Estrella–a week long camp for 30 San Juan children–I saw how the dance lessons taught cooperation and gave a feeling of pride to the children–some of whom do not go to school or do not even have a house to live in but live in tents.

The three blog posts whose links are given below show their wonderful accomplishments during  Camp Estrella.  I’d like to continue that experience throughout the year by providing weekly free dance lessons for the girls.  I’ll pay instruction fees for the first twenty girls and buy their costumes that are necessary for the dance.  We’ll see how it goes and perhaps have a concert later in conjunction with the orchestra and/or chorus to raise funding to expand into break dancing and other dances attractive to the boys.  Let’s see what happens.

If you’d like to see the wonderful things thirty children accomplished in their week of activities that included art, dance and reading, please have a look at the below sites:


In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Lucky Star.” Today is your lucky day. You get three wishes, granted to you by The Daily Post. What are your three wishes and why?

Well damn. I just spent 45 minutes writing a poem and before I could save it, WordPress crashed and opened a new document!! I know, I know I should save as I go along, but I get into the creative process and forget. So, a new vow. After this I create in Word and copy into WordPress. But, that doesn’t bring the old poem back. Hard lessons. Okay, starting over again–totally new poem as I can never remember what I’ve written:


A glitch in WordPress lost my wishes–
wiped them clean as fresh-washed dishes.
As though the wishes were taken away
before they saw the light of day.
So I must take a different tack
to try to get those wishes back.

When you wish upon a star
how does that star know where you are?
You are a dot in outer space.
It does not know your name or face.
So you must make those dreams come true–
what no one else can do for you.

No stars can make you lose that weight.
What works is just an emptier plate.
Discipline and time will do
what no wish can do for you.
And yet much easier to wish
than to avoid that favorite dish.

My other wish was for long life
away from illness, grief and strife–
a harder wish to make come true
without some magic helping you.
Diet and exercise once more
might keep me longer from death’s door–

Both things I have to do myself
to keep my place on this world’s shelf.
My third wish was a sort of pact–
a pledge I vowed that I’d enact
if my books began to sell,
I’d bring the plan you know so well

from earlier posts to light of day
and give the money all away
to make a place for language, art,
dance and music all to start.
A cultural center where kids could go
to learn to paint or sculpt or sew.

A place where they’re encouraged to write
so hidden selves could come to light.
A place where they could have a chance
to express themselves in song or dance.
A place with books and art supplies
to fill their hands and hearts and eyes.

My earlier poem was all a dream.
A bit of fluff—a hopeless scheme.
Wishes, wants and hopes and lies.
Visions seen behind closed eyes.
Yet when that poem was lost to me,
I suddenly began to see

How these wishes could all come true–
simply, what I have to do
piece by piece and bit by bit
to start to make the pieces fit.
It is now clear and I can see
the one to grant these wishes is me!

We will see if I stay true to the sudden insight gained by the sacrifice of a better poem than that above, but one that told less of a truth. As I wrote a second poem, I suddenly realized that we really do already have a cultural center in our town. It is the building next to Agustin’s restaurant where we held Camp Estrella—where kids are already learning English, taught by Agustin, as well as music–an orchestra and chorus of 150 kids. All I need to do is to help to expand the program into dance and writing and to do more art activities than the one or two a year I’ve done in the past. Eureka!!! And I don’t have to have a best-seller to accomplish that. I’m going to start today to see what it would take to establish a dance program and I’m sure it would be within my means to sponsor it. I have no kids to support. Why not adopt a lot of them??? Stay tuned for what happens.

A further insight: Is it just coincidence that Camp Estrella was the experience that helped to spark this sudden insight and that the other factor contributing to it is this prompt entitled “Lucky Star?” (You all know estrella means star, right?) I once wrote about the effect synchronicity has had in my life and it seems it has emerged again.  Lets hope I continue to follow its pull.



(Please click on pictures for a larger view.)

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IMG_2478The final show included the kids from Camp Estrella as well as part of the 153 member kid’s orchestra and chorus from San Juan.  They are the spirited children in white blouses and dark pants. They presented music from Grease, La Bamba and a wonderful spoof where they drew participants from the audience and wound them around the stage area in a long line.  It turns out it was a song about the whole village lining up to buy tortillas in the morning–to buy enough tortillas for 7,000 people from one shop with 7 tortilla machines…The joke is that the people drawn from the audience who took a place were forced to go to the end of the of the line–like newcomers trying to break into the tortilla line.  Much funnier when listening to the lyrics!

The woman doing the scarf dance was Cynthy, one of the counselors.  The woman doing the flamenco was Cindy, the organizer of the camp and the man on the drum and guitar is her husband, David. Other counselors left to right are Audrey to the far left, Juan behind Cynthy, Gloria in polka dots and me! Alicia regrettably left before someone requested we pose for a picture.  She is the exotic Mexican lady standing to the left side of the stage in the picture to the right of the audience shot.

After the show, where all those little girls in bright yellow Camp Estrella T-shirts turned into sophisticated flamenco dancers in exotic dresses and tightly-chignoned hair and all the jostling young boys turned into swelled-breasted young men, every one of them hugged every one of us. Audrey and I vied with each other over who could do the best job of hiding wet eyes and lumps in our throat, and we decided  the 5,000 pesos that the audience gave us to support the camp (the show was free) should be split between the performers. So, we gave each child 100 pesos and gave the rest to the orchestra/chorus.

Counselors were even more richly rewarded by the  memories of working with and getting to know these warm and lovely kids…not to mention the remarkable counselors.  We now count among our friends two new generations of young Mexicans–and feel younger for it and more determined to stay in the flow of life.  Tomorrow we start all over again with another camp in Ajijc, the neighboring town.

Thanks for giving me a platform to share this wonderful Experience.

Now do you know why, if I had a billion dollars, I would spend it to make this sort of experience happen every day for the children of San Juan Cosala?

If you haven’t been following my stories on Camp Estrella, go HERE, HERE or HERE or for more of the story.