In this month of February, what is celebrated in the United States as Valentine’s Day, we at Lake Chapala and throughout Mexico celebrate as Dia del Amor y la Amistad, or the Day of Love and Friendship.
One thing I noticed on our first vacation trip to Mexico in 1991 was the warm hospitality of the Mexican people. The family whose son we hosted as an exchange student from Los Mochis took our daughter Catherine and me into their home and family. Within a 9-day vacation, another family whose son we had also hosted, sent a company car with driver to bring us to their home in Ciudad Obregon.
We were never tourists, but considered family guests. Two years later, the same family in Obregon invited our daughter Frances for a month that summer as a house guest of their children and family. They drove to Tucson, Arizona, to meet her in-coming flight and returned her to Tucson for her flight home. What we experienced then were families who had a deep faith, love and family values, and a basis for a love toward us, to be loved as family.
This summer will be 15 years since we retired at Lake Chapala. Now, having visited 25 of Mexico’s 32 states, we have witnessed this love of neighbor – initially observed in Los Mochis and Ciudad Obregon – across Mexico. What attracted us to reside at Lake Chapala was not limited to climate, claimed to be the second-best in the world, nor the marvelous cost-of-living, but the traditional Mexican values within a fishing village along the north shore of Mexico’s largest inland lake, where warm-welcome hospitality comes as natural as life’s breath.
There is never a shortage of causes to celebrate at Lake Chapala, and Dia del Amor y la Amistad on February 14 exemplifies love of family and friends witnessed every day of the year. Every Sunday, Catherine and I do breakfast/brunch at one of the local restaurants where we witness the care and love for others as we are greeted by first-name. Often the server asks, “the usual?” since most recall us and our preferences.
There are so many times we have felt love and friendship from the Mexican people. For example, it was 2015, a beautiful sunny May midday. I was crossing the carretera in Centro Ajijic with the traffic light. A Texas expat lady in a SUV made a left turn and grazed me, knocking me to the highway pavement. I was not injured, but it jolted me to lose my balance. A young Mexican man came immediately to my assistance. Checked to see if I was OK and then detained the SUV driver suggesting police be notified. Her excuse was just too many cars and people walking and she had the green traffic light. My point, of course, is that this Mexican gentleman showed care and love for an unknown senior expat.
Here is another example: Two months ago, walking from my car to the bakery in Upper Ajijic, a raised cobblestone caught my shoe tip and I fell face/chest flat down in the middle of the street. A Mexican man came out of his home, offered his hand and checked that I was OK. I was just a bit jarred at age 73 and suffered an abrasion on the palms of my hands and had a slightly- bent eyeglass frame that had flown off my face.
Again, a stranger cared enough to rush to my aid. These incidents are not isolated, but reflect everyday care and love of “neighbor” at Lake Chapala. Other expats have shared similar stories and share my view that this type of care and assistance is not common in the United States, and has not been for decades. At Lake Chapala, people don’t just pass you by when you are in trouble, but care for you.
At Lake Chapala, Dia del Amor y la Amistad is more than flowers, a card and a gift for a loved one. Mexico celebrates a Day of Love (Amor) and a Day of Friendship (Amistad) not only on February 14, but by actions daily throughout the year. When family and friends north of the border ask if Catherine and I feel safe living in Mexico, without hesitating I say, “Yes!” We have our version of Valentine’s Day every day of the year.