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The Art of Life in Guadalajara

Neoclassical Mexican theatre, Teatro Degollado, in Guadalajara
Credit: Csp | Shutterstock

It took Will Chapman years before he finally decided to follow his passion for the arts. Now he practices the art of life in Guadalajara, the hometown of his spouse, Ricardo.

“We were sitting at dinner one night at our home in Boston and I told Ricardo that I have to do something else because I’m just going to get stale and bored,” Chapman said. “He asked me if I could do anything I wanted in the world, what would that be? He promised not to laugh, so I said I’d like to run an opera company at a ski resort where people could ski during the day and go to the opera at night. Twelve months later, we owned a house in New Hampshire at the bottom of a mountain and I had accepted a job in the marketing department of Boston Lyric Opera.”

Will Chapman, Guadalajara, Mexico
Will Chapman

Chapman, who is north of 60-years-old, was born and raised in the Boston-area, but headed west to San Francisco for a couple of gap years before enrolling at the University of California, Santa Cruz. But his mother became ill, so Chapman went home to attend first Brandeis University and then Brown University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in in the classics, Greek literature and Latin. He also minored in Chinese, which led to a master’s degree in Asian studies from Harvard.

“The classics degree prepared me to be the person I am,” he said, “but didn’t prepare me for any specific job. I was studying Chinese art history, but that wasn’t really a career.”

He was able, though, to turn his education into an internship with Citibank in Hong Kong and an international banking career, including posts in Athens, Greece and Bahrain.

“After Bahrain, I decided to come back home to figure out what I was going to do that wasn’t Chinese art history,” he said. “I met my future husband, Ricardo, in Boston and ended up working for an international music retailer, London-based HMV. It was an interesting transition from finance and got me closer to music and the arts. I did that for about a decade before finally finding my first job in the opera business in 1998.”

“I was the general manager of Opera Lafayette in Washington D.C., my third opera company, when Ricardo decided to move permanently to Guadalajara. When he did, I realized that I had to be there with him. We had been together for over 30 years and I had visited his family in Guadalajara for at least a week every year, so it was an easy move four years ago.”

Chapman traveled extensively throughout Mexico during the last three decades and told me he feels he has a better grasp of Mexican geography than U.S. Guadalajara is now home, though, not just because it was the birthplace of his husband, but because of its rich and vibrant arts community.

Degollado Theatre
Credits: diegogandy | Adobe Stock images

“There is a very good symphony orchestra here and a beautiful opera house,” he said. “We like to go every week.”

The couple lives in Colonia Americana, which is about four blocks from the U.S. consulate, and, importantly, a short walk to the opera house. They live in a two-bedroom apartment just below the penthouse.

“It has a balcony, a patio and two parking spaces. It’s a modern apartment building with five apartments and a penthouse. The location is great, not far from Chapultepec Avenue, which is the axis for night life in Guadalajara, and surrounded by cafes, restaurants, markets and a little pharmacy. If this were Mexico City, I’d say it’s closer to Colonia Roma. In Puerto Vallarta, it would be Zona Romantica.”

Chapman pays just 15,000 pesos a month (about U.S.$800) for their well-located home, which is just a 10-minute Uber trip to his local gym, another priority in his life.

“I’m paying much less here for a nice two-bedroom apartment with amenities than I paid for my studio apartment in Washington D.C.,” he said. “Compared to Washington and other cities I’ve lived in, I would say the cost of living here is maybe a third of what it costs to live in those cities, possibly more.”

The couple opted not to bring their Volkswagen Cabriolet convertible from the U.S. so they would not have to worry about insurance, theft, vandalism and maintenance. Instead, they rely on inexpensive and abundant local transportation options that serve metropolitan Guadalajara.

Credits: jcfotografo | Adobe Stock images

Guadalajara, Chapman said, is not like San Miguel de Allende or Puerto Vallarta, which have large populations of retired expat couples, when it comes to the characteristics of the local expat community.

“The foreign population here – like Mexico City – is dispersed throughout the city. It’s not a place people come for vacation or retirement. You don’t find that many retired couples here. You find single people who have been posted here by Tesla, HP, Google, Apple and other international companies. You also find people who maybe met their Mexican spouse abroad and moved back here, like Ricardo and me. You also find a lot of single retirees and a lot of dual nationalities, Mexican-Americans who fit naturally into Mexican society.”

The city’s year-round temperate climate is one of Chapman’s favorite things he loves about Guadalajara.

“Well, it does have a pretty fantastic climate. Even though the climate seems to be changing, but it’s still very favorable. The winters don’t get too cold and the summers don’t get too hot because we have the rains. There are really only a few weeks in late May and early June when it’s hot and dry before the rains.”

Chapman also loves the easy living he has found in Guadalajara.

View of Guadalajara, Mexico
Credit: Iktotchi | Shutterstock

“So, people joke that Guadalajara is a village of 5 million people. And, if your married to someone who was born and grew up here, you can easily believe that. It’s very easy living, if you like easy living.”

Many expats living in Mexico continue to work and Chapman is no exception. He is the Chairman of the Board of Democrats Abroad Mexico, a volunteer position, and has been very busy making sure Americans living in the country are registered to vote and casting votes in this year’s consequential election.

“Between Democrats Abroad and an art consulting project, I stay busy, although I haven’t done any arts consulting with clients in the States in almost two years.”

Chapman has found a wonderful life in Guadalajara and considers the couple very privileged.

“It is a privilege to have one’s health and to have one’s spouse, and be able to pick and choose the projects one works on. I’m fortunate. We’re fortunate.”