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Pueblo Mágico

Mexico has 132 magical towns. As of this past Tuesday, Ajijic is one of them.

According to the Mexican government website (translated by Google),

A Magical Town is a place with symbols and legends, towns with history that in many cases have been the scene of transcendent events for our country, they are places that show the national identity in each of its corners, with a magic that emanates from its attractions; visiting them is an opportunity to discover the charm of Mexico.

Most of the Pueblos Mágicos are small villages in rural areas. Of course, promoting tourism (and tourism dollars) is a key goal of the program. These towns typically have things such as indigenous crafts, local markets, traditional festivals, great food, and scenic beauty.

I have visited four of the Pueblos Mágicos. Click on the links in the captions to visit the government website and learn about what makes each of these towns unique and culturally significant.

Tepoztlán, Morelos

San Pedro Tlaquepaque, Jalisco

Pátzcuaro, Michoacán

Tequila, Jalisco

Ajijic, being newly added, doesn't yet have a page describing its attributes. But to be honest, I'm hard-pressed to imagine what such a page might say about Ajijic.

Don't get me wrong: I love my town. It is in an attractive setting, with hills to the north and Lake Chapala to the south. We have a pretty malecón, narrow cobbled streets with some delightful murals, excellent restaurants and street food, many art galleries and shops, and a pleasant plaza with a gazebo at the center. I certainly found enough to love about Ajijic to decide to move here after just one short visit. And if I went through my photo albums, I could find many photos I've taken here that rival the ones above for all the qualities I'd look for in a magical place.

But is Ajijic truly magical? To me, the answer is no, at least not in the way the other four Pueblos Mágicos seemed. I'm not sure I can articulate the specific characteristics that make me say that, but it's not that I live here, because I felt the same way on that initial visit in January 2019. It's a nice place to live, but it's just doesn't feel magical.

Maybe this new designation will help. There is supposed to be an infusion of money for various improvements. I'm not sure yet how that money will be spent, but it will be interesting to see. And this could be useful to help the town rebound after the pandemic is behind us.

I asked the two servers at my favorite breakfast restaurant, Scallion (where I'm sitting as I write this) how they feel about it. They both mentioned security as a big concern. Just two days ago, a restaurant owner was shot and killed in his restaurant in front of his family. Last month a number of bodies were discovered buried in a house just outside town. And I previously wrote about the raid by the Guardia Nacional on the house next door to mine, where cartel members were living. Today, more than six weeks later, the house is still empty, trashed, and has started to smell. I contacted a lawyer, and she has been unable to offer any help other than empathy. My neighbor on the other side and I have agreed to pay to have the place cleaned up if we can find someone to do it.

One of the servers said he fears that the influx of tourists and business and money will lead to increased crime. Other than that, the servers both said they think it's a good thing, and most people in Ajijic that they know tend to feel that way as well. They think there could be some good changes coming to the community.

Perhaps the new designation will help Ajijic resolve some of the security issues my servers are concerned about. A friend of mine said that the government tends to rush in when gringos feel threatened. The can't keep tourist dollars coming in from the US and Canada and Europe if tourists are afraid to come here.

I'd also like to see a campaign to clean up the town. There's a general disregard for keeping the streets clean. Trash is everywhere. I think it's part of the culture; people through used bottles out of car windows and leave their candy wrappers on the ground. I hope we can become a cleaner town.

And I'd like to see the building on the pier at the east end of the malecón, which used to be a restaurant, restored and put to some good purpose.

This is what it looked like shortly after it was built around 2010.

And this is how it looks today. It's really an eyesore.

I sincerely hope Ajijic is able to live up to its magical designation. It could be a long process to make the improvements that will get us there. I'm trying to be optimistic about it.

I'm adding a calendar reminder for myself, one year from today, to add a post and see how things have changed in Ajijic. Stay tuned!


  1. Another thing occurred to me this morning about a change I'd like to see in Ajijic. I'd love to see our town become at least somewhat accessible. With the cobblestone streets and uneven, broken, narrow, and often missing sidewalks, there is just no way those with mobility limitations would be able to get around. I doubt this could be completely resolved, but at least along some of the main streets it would be good to make some improvements to sidewalks, adding ramps and parking.

  2. I love the "before" picture of the former restaurant. It really popped!


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