By Vera Sommers

      * The winner of the audience choice award at the Chapala Basin Commission party fundraiser was hometown artist Javier Zaragoza. I sat with him for a bit to mull over some of his thoughts about the lake and then, inevitably, about art itself.
      Javier was born right here in Ajijic. “My father was a fisherman for 25 years and I fished too,” he says. “I understand these people.”
      What does he think of the chances for our beloved Lake Chapala? “It won’t be easy, but we will get our lake back.” He escorts me over to see the painting in the photograph below. “See this man?” I take in the brilliant close-up of a fisherman, a genuine character, down to his hat. “This is a real person, I know him! He’s a fisherman all his life. I call this painting ‘Expecting a Miracle’ and it’s just the way I feel too. When we all approach the situation with a positive mind, we create incredible positive energy… the government will respond to that. We are in a preparation period now; if everybody does just one little thing, well that is a lot.”
      As I looked around, it dawned on me how many of Javier’s paintings actually focus on the lake and the creatures who live close to it… with it. And always, there is hope flooding out through every picture.
      “I went to the U.S. for a real long time,” he says, “but I promised myself I’d return and then I would help the lake, I’d do my part. You cannot imagine how happy it makes me to keep that promise. I get up at 6 a.m. and fall in bed at 11 p.m. and … it’s a great pleasure!”
      On the highway, two doors east of El Sarape, is a studio where Javier and friends meet for life drawing classes Tuesdays and Thursday from 10-1pm. All are invited; the 75 peso fee just pays the rent and the models. “I believe,” he says, “when you draw from a live model you learn about five times faster than any other method exactly how to draw.”
      You can view his paintings and meet this extraordinary individual at his gallery on Constitucion #50. “I dream a lot!” Javier tells me, smiling his smile. I look around his gallery and I believe him.