It was one fine day back in 2003 when a friend and I were on our way to drop someone off at one of the nearby condos beside “The House on Mazatlan.”
As we approached it, with its flaming bougainvillea tree virtually ambushing the front entrance, I was drawn to it with such an intensity that I asked my friend to let me out to take a closer look. As I peeked through the windows, I found myself just as enchanted by its ‘bohemian rhapsody’ interior, and suddenly, I felt a strange compulsion to move in! Even stranger… I wasn’t even looking for a house!
At the time, I was employed by “Canadian Holidays,” and was on a seasonal destination assignment in Guayabitos, living in a lovely all inclusive suite at the ‘Decameron Los Cocos,’ the hotel where our passengers were staying.
There was, of course, that other irrelevant little detail to consider… was that house even available to rent? Regardless, I found myself knocking on the door, errr… quick… what am I going to say? “I’d like to rent your house… ummm… por favor.” There was no response, good sign. I trotted over next door to ‘Posada Leon’ with the fervent hope that they were either the owners, or would be able to direct me to them.
The lady who answered, informed me that she did indeed know the owners. They lived in Guadalajara, and occasionally visited La Peñita. She gave me their phone number, I dialed it, and instantly found myself speaking with the owner. Alcira was extremely gracious, and seemed nearly as surprised by my unsolicited request to rent her house as I was making it! She informed me that she and her husband, Efrain, were planning to be in La Peñita that week-end, and invited me to meet them at the house.
Suddenly, the certainty with which I wanted to rent that house, was now only exceeded by the certainty that I would rent it! I promptly rushed back to the hotel and started packing my belongings. Still, no one was more surprised than I, when I found myself living there a few days later. Alicia, owner of the ‘Posada Leon,’ who had initially put me in contact with Alcira, was now my next door neighbour. She came for tea the same afternoon I moved in, forging the beginning of a great friendship. She, of inordinate mechanical savvy, came to my rescue more times than I can recall. You see, back then, I was not on a first name basis with words like “Bomba, Alhibe, Tinaco.” There was much to learn!
Over the next two years, I left Mexico on various destination assignments, but could not bear to part with the house. I continued to rent it and returned at every opportunity, until the day that Alcira and Efrain finally decided to sell it.
By then, I had opened the hammock shop, and was deliriously happy with my new life in La Peñita. I started looking for a new house. As it happened, I eventually ended up renting a place located within shouting distance from Tom & Bruce, Eddie & Roberto, as well as Barbara Higgins, all of whom, unbeknownst to me at the time, had bizarrely enough, all lived in that same little enchanted House on Mazatlan… errr, at various times.
My move there definitely influenced my decision to settle in La Peñita. While I was living at the ‘Decameron Los Cocos,’ my life was centered in Guayabitos, and venturing into La Peñita was mainly limited to the odd errand, like a quick run to the florists, or a brief stop at the papeleria to make copies. Thursdays were such busy days at the hotel, that I seldom made it to Tianguis, and to be brutally honest, there didn’t seem to be much else there, that motivated me to return.
All that changed after I moved in the House… suddenly I made the time to walk the few steps down to the beach and marvel at the sunsets. I watched the local children playing, and the local adults visiting, and the dogs barking and the roosters crowing and the gaaaaaz truck honking and the pastry and vegetable and milk men shouting. Aaaah life in small town La Peñita seemed a whole wide world away from life in small town Guayabitos, and I liked it, and Don Maximiliano (my beautiful parrot) liked it… a lot. He was no longer confined to living on my shoulder in a busy hotel. Weeee! He now had his very own almond tree in a beautiful backyard!
I, a single foreign woman living alone in that somewhat traditional neighborhood, was cause for various degrees of curiosity. The children were the first to come around asking questions, and my front porch soon became known as the ‘after school gathering place’. I began to schedule English classes, and various activities for them. Eventually, I began to meet their families.
It was around the time I started to comfortably settle in and feel part of the community, that “Canadian Holidays” decided to send me on assignment in Santorini, Greece. By then, I had been working for the company for 15 years. Along the way, I had been posted in many international resort destinations, and was accustomed to reaching for my packed suitcase, checking out of the hotel and flying out on short notice. Now, life was different, I had a hammock swinging on my front porch, a banana tree I had just planted and a hibiscus plant I had just transplanted. And I was included in the nightly ‘Loteria’ games next door. I suddenly came to the realization that I had a life in La Peñita, and it was a good one. Besides, I had accrued so much stuff over the previous two years, that it seemed infinitely easier to keep it, than to try to leave it. I requested a 1 year hiatus.
It has now been 9 years, and I’m still here, and I’m still happy. Oftentimes, when I see the “Santorini” water truck pass by, I am contentedly reminded of those two wildly impulsive, life altering decisions taken all those years ago. I can’t help but wonder, had I not spotted that quirky little house on that fateful day, and decided to live in it, where the fickle finger of fate would have found me today.
Clearly, serendipity played a huge role, otherwise I would probably have gone on to the next destination assignment, and never looked back. I could not possibly have made a conscious decision to settle in La Peñita, because I would not have had the luxury of time to discover and savor its many unsung joys, much less the time to develop now cherished friendships… perhaps, I would have remained too busy to notice that my priorities had shifted, and that simplicity was good, very good… and that La Peñita was home… That realization came slowly, giddily, magically…while living in the House on Mazatlan.
About the Author: Hala Hazzi’s deep passion for Mexico and its people was fostered during extended business travels around the country. She studied Tourism at George Brown College in Toronto, before embarking on an exciting career in the travel industry, spanning over two decades. Her first foray as an entrepreneur began in Mazatlan, where she opened a restaurant “Munchkins,” later bought out by the people of the “No Name Cafe” fame in Vallarta. In Guayabitos, she opened the first beauty salon in town, “Seyla V!” The three girls who worked there went on to open their own salons (one is “Reyna’s” in San Pancho) about the same time that the owners asked for the space back to expand their bungalows. She now spends winters running “Hamaca Maya” her hammock shop in La Peñita, and summers swinging in her own hammock in Montreal.
This story is the fourth in a 6-part series. Click here to read “Enchanting Little House in La Peñita: The Intro” to learn how this story came to fruition, along with other stories in this series.
This story was submitted by one of our readers. If you want to join in the fun and share your stories and photos of Jaltemba Bay, Mexico, please email them to Tosia@JaltembaBayLife.com