My wife Susy and I recently joined Salvador and Diana Mayorga for a tour of selected historical hotspots in Ajijic and Chapala. Our “Cicerone” for this visit was Jorge Varela, author of “Mr. Lawrence,” a short piece of historical fiction (in Spanish) based on writer D.H. Lawrence’s 1923 stay in Chapala, where he began work on his novel “The Plumed Serpent.”
Varela’s writing cleverly works in references to La Posada in Ajijic and to “La Rusa,” the mysterious horsewoman who rode around dressed all in black while being swindled out of the proceeds of a gold mine just up the hillside above the town. I suppose most people at lakeside know the story inside out, but to us it was all new and quite fascinating.
First we drove into a residential area called Villa Nova which has streets with names such as Calle de la Mina and Calle de los Mineros.
“Those aren’t fanciful names, as in many fraccionamientos,” said Jorge. “The original Rancho de Oro is still here.”
To prove it, he took us to a stone wall on Calle del Manglar where we hoisted ourselves up just high enough to get a good peek at the well preserved and beautiful buildings from which the mining operation was run, with an impressive arched aqueduct in the background.
“Somewhere in the hills just above us lies the gold mine itself,” said Jorge, “but it’s now considered very dangerous to go inside, with rotting timbers, deep drops and mal aire. They say several people who entered that mine ended up dead.”
After having stirred up a bit of gold fever in us, Jorge took us straight to the ruins of the old crushing mill. This is on private property, but there’s no fence, and a family living on the premises unhesitatingly gave us permission to wander both inside and outside the decrepit buildings. Outside there’s a long, sturdy earthen ramp where ore-laden wagons were pulled up to the crusher. I would love to revisit this place with someone knowledgeable about mining!