Neill James …
She fell off a volcano and almost died.
A volcano fell on her and she almost died.
And, this is who we’ve chosen to be our tour guide over the next few years?
|Ajijic mural by Javier Zaragoza, mentored by Neill James|
Like most newcomers to Ajijic, Bette Brazel and Joyce Wycoff were drawn to the Lake Chapala Society, the local expat support organization, and began to hear stories about Neill James.
Mixed in with the stories of her world travels and generosity were whispers about whether or not she was a spy, was she rich, and did she hang out with the glitterati of the world? Was she a saint or sinner, generosity personified or self-serving adventurer?
Both of us were curious about this wandering soul who did so much for this lakeside community, and also intrigued by the mystery that surrounded her. Not long after Bette volunteered to help organize the Neill James archives for LCS, a curious idea struck her: wouldn’t it be fun to follow in Neill’s footsteps as she explored Mexico in the early 1940s? She sprung the idea on Joyce, who didn’t have sense enough to ask questions before shouting, “Yes!”
|Plaque at LCS on the Neill James tree|
Today, on the anniversary of Neill James’ death twenty-four years ago, we’re launching the Neill James Footsteps project. We will each be blogging about our explorations, as well as about Neill and our experiences of figuring out who she was, and why she stayed in this place that, in the mid-1940s, had no telephones, little electricity, no refrigeration, atrocious roads and only a handful of other immigrants.
We also want to know how she came to be known as the “godmother of Ajijic.” And, of course, there's always that spy thing.
We'd love to have you join us vicariously as we explore Mexico, learn more about this intriguing woman ... and avoid volcanoes!
Pull up a comfy chair ... this tour is free.
Follow us on these pages, por favor:
- Neill James Footsteps (Bette)
- Mexico Stories - Neill James (Joyce)
- Neill James Footsteps Facebook page
About us: Bette and Joyce arrived in Ajijic in May, 2017, within three days of each other, and lived in the same small apartment complex. Running into each other frequently as they came and went, they gradually became friends, discovered a river of common interests, and began traveling together ... one of the ultimate tests of friendship.
Bette Brazel - The fascination with other cultures led me to years of living in England, France, Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Panama, Venezuela, and now Mexico. The street I live on gives me a passing view of parades, weddings, funerals and makes me feel part of the daily life of Mexico. The colors here called me into watercolors.
Image - this image was taken on one of our first trips together to Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, where Bette suffered a minor injury that we hope will be the last of our travel mishaps.