Chapala is a city in the central Mexican state of Jalisco, located on the north shore of Lake Chapala, Mexico's largest freshwater lake. According to the 1990 census, its population is 15,664.
Chapala is 28 miles (45 km) south-southeast MEXICO of Guadalajara
, on Mexico Highway 44. It is located at 20°20' North, 103°10' West.
Although there are several theories as to the origin of the city's name, the most likely is that it comes from Chapalac, the name of the last chief of the Nahuatl
-speaking indigenous people of the region. Chapala became an official municipality on September 10
, by decree of the Jalisco State Congress.
Since the 1960s, Chapala has been frequented by both Mexican and international tourists. Among the area's cultural attractions is mariachi
music, for which the state of Jalisco
is particularly known. While many fine mariachi bands have been based in Chapala, the most famous groups are based in larger cities nearby. The most famous mariachi in Mexico is Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán
, founded in the late 1800s in the southern Jalisco city of Tecalitlán
, Jalisco, but now based in Mexico City
. Although mariachi music is believed to have originated in the town of Cocula
, the greatest concentration of mariachis can be found in the city of Guadalajara
, located about 30 miles north of Chapala; it is considered the city that most epitomizes the external concept of Mexico propagated by the international mass media (characterized by charros
, and mariachis). A worldwide mariachi festival is held there each fall, mariachis from throughout the world (including Europe and Asia) regularly participate.
Chapala, along with its namesake lake, is well established as a weekend getaway destination primarily for inhabitants of the city of Guadalajara. Most of the area's expatriate population (originating primarily from the United States and Canada) reside not in the city proper but in and around Ajijic, a village of approximately 5,000 inhabitants located approximately 5 miles west of Chapala. Many of these residents, a large proportion of whom are retirees, spend only the winter in the Chapala area, returning north for the warmer months.