Meet Ken Snyder & Mary Alice Ranta, La Peñita

If you enjoy living or vacationing in Jaltemba Bay, it is very likely that you have already met Ken and Mary Alice and know that they are a very dynamic and special couple who are dedicated to making a huge difference in our community.

Ken is co-president of Los Amigos de Jaltemba which he says is almost a full-time job that he thoroughly enjoys. Ken has been a volunteer with Los Amigos since 2005 and has been one of the driving forces in the development of this worthy community association.

Mary Alice volunteers at Los Ayala’s Learning Center providing tutoring to the students. There she works with Elaine Smith and her team of volunteer teachers to prepare them for life’s challenges by furthering their education. She also leads yoga three times a week to a very dedicated following, no doubt because her students wish to follow her lifestyle example… Oh yes, she is very fit and so beautiful. What is not to wish to emulate?

Ken and Mary Alice live here for eight months of the year and proudly call Jaltemba Bay their home. They both adore the sense that they are a vital part of the community and the fact that the Mexican people in our community are so welcoming of the expatriates. Mary Alice says Jaltemba Bay is just the best place to live and blessed with an unsurpassed community spirit. Expats and locals are warm, friendly and community minded. Mary Alice says that the locals here seem genuinely happy to have us. Angye, of Salón de Belleza in La Peñita, told her that the locals here are proud of the fact that so many expats choose to live in their community especially since they know that many of them could live anywhere in the world, and yet they still choose to live in Jaltemba Bay.

During the summer months, they enjoy living on Stuart Island, a small, remote island… the most northwest of the San Juan Islands in Washington State. Just 16 families live on the island, which Mary Alice says embodies a similar lifestyle and community spirit as Jaltemba Bay.

How Ken & Mary Alice and La Peñita de Jaltemba met and lived happily ever after…

Mary Alice was a sales manager at Mexicana Airlines for 13 years. Before that she worked for Argentina Airlines. One of the perks of being an airline employee is flying for free, as an avid traveler she took full advantage of this benefit. While working for the airlines she traveled the world and extensively throughout Mexico.

Mexico was full of charm and so interesting… She always wondered how a country so close to the USA could be so different and so foreign. She found the big smiles, welcoming nature and warm feeling of Mexico completely irresistible. Even before she began her airline career with Argentina Airlines (back in the 70s) she would save her money and as soon as she had enough funds, she would head to Mexico for a vacation. Soon after Mary Alice began working for Mexicana Airlines she started dreaming of living and retiring in Mexico because her friends and coworkers were constantly talking about the dream of Mexico.

Ken was born in San Diego and raised in Los Angeles. He grew up with a strong sense of Mexico and a familiarity with the country because the curriculum at the school he attended included a very thorough accounting of the fact that the State of California was once part of Mexico. Many of his classmates were Mexican, and at the age of 19, thoroughly intrigued with Mexico, he hopped on a bus with a friend for a journey which took him from Tijuana to Mazatlan and Guadalajara. After that first visit, Ken knew that one day he wanted to live on the west coast of Mexico and enjoy life somewhere close the beach and the warm ocean waters.

Mary Alice met Ken when a travel agent friend set them up. She says that she had absolutely no interest in meeting him. However her friend was extremely persuasive and because she wanted to please her, she agreed to that first date, which turned out to be one of the best decisions of her life. At that time, they were both 45 years of age and they discovered that they shared a love of Mexico and many other common interests. They were both avid world travelers and scuba divers who enjoyed vacationing in Cozumel for the superb diving and holidaying in Puerto Vallarta for a romantic break from the sometimes hectic pace of life in La Peñita. They dated for four years before they committed to being married. One day they said to each other, “Let’s be pet gringos” for some people in Mexico. The inference being one day they would somehow manage to be adopted by a Mexican family, and that is exactly what happened.

Ken retired in 1997 and built a house on Stuart Island. Mary Alice retired in 2000 and at that time they started getting serious about planning their place in the sun for their retirement years. Ken was still keen on living somewhere on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, his one stipulation being that it was an authentic Mexican town. They both wanted to live close to Puerto Vallarta because its proximity to the USA would make it easy for friends and family to visit, and for easy access to excellent health care services. So they began their property search in the various towns along the coast north of Puerto Vallarta.

In 2003 while driving along highway 200, they decided to turn into La Peñita and stop for lunch. They enjoyed a fabulous and authentic Mexican meal at El Pollito on the main Avenida and went away totally smitten with La Peñita. They started looking for property in La Peñita and shortly thereafter purchased a lot to build their retirement home. In 2004 they started searching for a house to rent in same area where they purchased their lot so they could be nearby while their home was being built. They found a place referred to as an “artists retreat” available for rent on Tom’s Board. The “artists retreat” is now the home of Eddie and Roberto of Xaltemba Restaurant & Galería with whom they became good friends.

Ken and Mary Alice built their house in three phases over a three year period. During this time, they became the “pet gringos” and eventually very close friends with their builder, Santos Rodriguez, and his family. Santos’ wife Reina is their housekeeper, and Victor her son is their pool boy. Both say that it was especially rewarding watching Victor and his three brothers grow up. At a social gathering this past December, Ken was officially adopted by the Rodriquez family and is now known as Kino Rodriquez.

The Good Life in Jaltemba Bay

Ken enjoys thrice weekly walks from his house in La Peñita to George & Gary’s 3-Flags Coffee in Guayabitos, thrice weekly without fail. He walks there and back, a 5 1/2 mile round trip, which he enjoys because he gets to see the neighborhood. Ken says one of the pleasures of living here is meeting the Mexican people and knowing all of his neighbors. He says that he can’t walk a block without meeting someone he knows.

Mary Alice is an avid book reader, who always looks forward to the meetings of “Writers Who Love Mexico.” She also feels honored to be a member of the Guayabitos Artists’ Collective, generously hosted by Bobbi Attwood. She visits the Tianguis in La Peñita every week, while living in Jaltemba Bay. Ken says it is because she is an avowed shopper, which Mary Alice counters with by advising that she is friends with a lot of the merchants.

Both enjoy dining out frequently and are huge fans of Xaltemba Restaurant & Galería, which they say is their number one spot and proclaimed hang out. However, they will go anywhere there is live music.

Ken says he will eat anything that does not eat him first! They are both partial to seafood, and one of Ken’s favorite things to do on his neighborhood walks is to stop and buy seafood from the fish vendors along the beaches. Their other favorite restaurants in La Penita include Soley’s, Gigio’s, Irma’s La Casita, Las Brisas and El Firu. El Firu is a special little place south of the Los Petalitos flower shop. El Firu is a wonderful restaurant that specializes in seafood. Ken says that they make the best Campechana in Jaltemba Bay. Campechana is a mixed Mexican seafood cocktail, similar to ceviche and made of oysters, baby octopus, mussels, shrimp, squid and scallops.

Making a Difference

During their first two years in Jaltemba Bay, Ken and Mary Alice helped Bob Howell and Vicky Flores with fundraisers, to raise monies to buy supplies to deliver to families in need in the nearby villages.

Later they met Mark O’Neil who was organizing a group in La Peñita whose mission was to improve the infrastructure and provide better public services. Over time, the focus of this group shifted to providing community services. The inspiration for the recycling project came from some folks in Chacala who helped them start the program by sharing the ideas they used in Chacala, which is how Los Amigos de Jaltemba came to be. Thanks Mark and Ken!

Ken has been co-president of Los Amigos de Jaltemba since 2005 and says that volunteering with Los Amigos has been extremely rewarding and that the association is truly unique because many of its expat members can communicate in Spanish. Zobeida Barrera Lozano, a Mexican national and English teacher at Conalep, is the other co-president. The treasurer, Adriana Hildrogo, is a well respected local accountant whose education qualifications are equivalent to a CPA.

Ken met Victor Youcha, a chiropractor, who at the time was a neighbor and wanted Ken to become a member of the new Rotary club in Jaltemba Bay. They worked closely together for a couple of years to bring about the Rotary club. Thanks Ken and Victor!

One day, Ken received a call from Debra Triplett who asked him to meet with some folks to share ideas on how to support education and health issues in the community for a new community organization. These folks included Carole Thacker, Dorothy Bell, Anna Ibarra and Sue Moss among others who worked together to organize what is now known as the Jaltemba Foundation. Thanks Debra and Ken!

Journey’s through Mexico

These days Ken and Mary Alice continue to travel and explore Mexico. For the past 4 years, they have stayed in Guanajuato for a full month, allowing them to see Festival Internacional Cervantino and take advantage of the Spanish immersion programs. As a result, Mary Alice is fluent in Spanish and Ken is highly conversant in the language. Most recently, they have begun taking trips with friends every New Years. Their journeys have taken them to the states of Oaxaca, Chiapas, Yucatan and Baja. This year they plan to visit Merida, a colonial city in the state of Yucatan, and the city of Campeche, a world heritage site situated in the state of Campeche. Yes, indeed they are living the good life!

One of Mary Alice’s favorite places in Mexico is Mexico City. In fact, she says that she is in love with Mexico City. It reminds her of Cairo. It’s civilized and offers a treasure trove of museums, historical sites, fabulous restaurants, and a wonderful mix of modern and old colonial buildings that are perfectly preserved. Some of her favorite places to visit are Mexico’s colonial towns.

However, their favorite place to live in the whole wide world is right here in Jaltemba Bay!

About the Author: Christina Stobbs is a writer and photographer who lives in Los Ayala year round with her husband Robert. As a photographer, she feels fortunate to live in an area so rich in flora and fauna, and abundant in natural beauty. She enjoys landscape and wildlife photography, and has a fondness for pelicans. Most recently, she starting selling her photos with stock companies Dreamstime and Big Stock Photos. As a writer, she states that living in Mexico is perfect because each and every day is full of surprises. To view more of Christina’s work, click here.

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

To read about other interesting folks, click on the “Meet Local Folks” link under categories.

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1 Review on “Meet Ken Snyder & Mary Alice Ranta, La Peñita”

  1. :

    Ken can also make a very nice Pimms #1 see you both soon

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