Did you know that Guadalajara is located at the confluence of five ecosystems in Mexico? John Pint discovered this remarkable land over three decades ago and has been living near the enchanted forest of Guadalajara ever since.
Pint, 77, is a man of many stories and accomplishments. He lives with his wife Susy on the outskirts of Guadalajara’s Bosque de la Primavera, a beautiful pine and oak forest that covers more than 139 square miles. Known as “Guadalajara’s lungs,” it was declared a Protected Area and Wildlife Refuge in 1980 to save it from developers.
“We live in Pinar de la Venta, which was once part of the Primavera Forest,” Pint said. “It was created as a community for people who had weekend homes, but when we came we said wow, this is just the kind of place we want. It’s like living in the woods.”
The journey to his enchanted forest began in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where Pint was born. Later, he graduated from high school in Cincinnati, Ohio before entering the Catholic seminary system and receiving a bachelor’s degree in theology at the Pontifical Seminary of Milan, Italy. Four years later, following a stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in Jamaica, Pint graduated from the Brattleboro School for International Training in Vermont with a master’s degree in teaching English as a second language (TESOL).
His graduate training opened the door to many years of international travel with his wife, Susy, a student he met while teaching English in Querétaro in 1971.
“After we got married, we decided we would like to get to know the world and the best way we could do that would be if we went as teachers of our own languages,” he said. “We spent the next few years in South Korea teaching English and Spanish. Susy had no problem finding students who were interested in learning Spanish. There are a lot of people who are very happy to sit down and have a conversation with a native speaker. Teaching a foreign language is a great formula for people who want to see the world.”
Their next stop was Saudi Arabia, which they found was a lucrative way to earn the money they needed to purchase a home when they returned to Mexico.
“After only four years in Saudi Arabia, we saved up enough money to be able to buy a piece of property just outside of Guadalajara in Pinar de la Venta, which is about eight kilometers west of Guadalajara,” he said. “Our house is about 2,200 sq. ft. with three bedrooms and one bath. It’s at the edge of the Primavera Forest and is all jungly, wild and full of creatures.”
The adjacent forest has about 750 species of plants and at least 225 species of animals, including around 140 kinds of birds. By day, said Pint, you may come across white-tailed deer, ground squirrels, kingfishers, woodpeckers and road runners, while at night the woods come alive with raccoons, grey foxes, possums and more exotic animals like lynxes and even a few pumas.
Before Pint bought the house, he convinced the seller to allow him to spend the night there so he could get a feel for what sleeping there would be like.
“The next morning, I heard a strange creaking sound and I could see the doors were moving,” he said. “When I looked outside even the trees were swaying. That was the famous earthquake of 1985 that destroyed a big part of Mexico City. Luckily, our home had no damage.”
Although Pint and his wife visit Guadalajara, they are people who are most at peace in the countryside, enjoying the area’s ecological riches.
“Guadalajara is very unusual because it is located at the point where five big ecosystems meet in an area called “the magic circle,” he said. “It’s 500 kilometers in diameter with Guadalajara right in the middle. There are few cities where you can go in five directions and end up in a different ecosystem.”
Pint has been explaining and promoting the ecosystem through his website, three books and numerous articles that have appeared in mainly expat newspapers and magazines.
“If you are an outdoor adventurer, this is the place for you,” said Pint. “If you talk to rock climbers, they will tell you to keep it a secret because it’s the most wonderful place to climb you can ever imagine. Whitewater rafters say the same thing. The area is a paradise for rafting. Canyoners, also, come from far away to repel down the waterfalls.”
Pint is currently writing an article for Mexico News Daily about the Jalpa River, which is not far away from him.
“It turns out there are 12 waterfalls along a two kilometer stretch of this river that are absolutely beautiful,” he said. “One is about 20 meters high with a beautiful pool of water at its base.”
Caving is another adventure sport that draws people to the area, including Pint. He said there are hundreds of amazing caves to explore but few people know about them, and like many of the other natural wonders nearby, they are hard to reach.
“Nothing is really easily accessible,” he said. “You need to have a pickup truck or a vehicle with four-wheel drive to see everything. Many of these wonderful places are at the end of a rocky dirt road with 1,000 ft. drops. I have, though, a long list of places that are reachable by ordinary sedan where people can go camping and hiking.”
There are additional benefits to living in the country outside of a large city. Pint told us the cost of living where he lives is much lower than Guadalajara. When he and his wife dine out, their meals rarely cost more than $350 pesos.
But the real secret to happiness in Mexico, Pint said, is the friendliness of the Mexican people.
“It’s extraordinary and might be the number one biggest attraction for being here,” he said. “People are generally interested in having a chat with you, sitting down and relaxing. I think this is rather unusual. We saw so many different kinds of people when we were living in other countries and can tell you that it is the most attractive thing about living in Mexico.”
Pint does not believe that the U.S. media’s portrayal of Mexico as a dangerous place where people are decapitated is a true picture of Mexico.
“The truth is totally opposite,” he said. “The big attraction of being here is the warmth and genuine friendliness of most of the people you meet.”
Living in the nexus of five ecosystems makes a natural nature lover like Pint very happy.
“I love nature, hiking, camping and other outdoor activities,” he said. “The fact that I am out here in nature and have all of this available to me is the second biggest attraction for living in the Guadalajara-area.”
Pint also is very much in step with the relaxed attitudes he has found in his adopted homeland.
“I would say that there is sort of a laissez-faire attitude of not worrying about laws and rules and regulations,” he said. “It has a good and bad side to it, though. In some sense, you’re free of the hassles you might get in other countries where they have rules and regulations for every little thing. Here, you find much less of them.”
But Pint is delighted that local authorities are making laws to control loud noise, a common complaint in Mexico.
“People that have the misfortune of being right next to a cantina that’s blasting out music all night long are now going to have a system by which they can control it. I think that’s good.”