My best April Fool’s Day prank, ever

This column was originally published in the April edition of El Ojo del Lago.

I created a prank website to bolster it, called “El Cebollo” or “The Onion” hmm. It contained so-called photos of the bridge to nowhere.

Whilst the expatriate community was busy arguing about the shortest and most economical route for a causeway across the Lago de Chapala to connect the north shore to the south, the newly-elected Jalisco government of Aristóteles Sandoval quietly and quickly erected a causeway across the widest part of the lake, using Mezcala Island (also known as Isla del Presidio) as an anchorpoint, ending in Tizapan El Alto on the south shore.

The toll bridge across the largest lake in Mexico immediately became known as the crown jewel in the new government’s fast-track or “botes on the ground” program for shovel-ready projects to help improve the economy. The space-age style bridge was constructed entirely from a Lego-like material, allowing it to be assembled at a factory by Lego experts in China, sailed into port at Manzanillo, driven by double semi-trailers from the port and literally snapped into place after its arrival at the Laguna.

The new government also cited the strategic value of joining Mezcala to land as justification for the bridge, in case there is another revolution. “Now that she is ours, we never want insurgents to use Mezcala as an outpost for a year, as 800 Mexican soldiers did in 1816.” A famous and bloody battle was fought on the island during the Mexican War of Independence from Spain. Only ruins of the buildings remain today.

The new all-blue bridge, in addition to being largely unreported in the foreign press, has proven difficult to see from the more populous western end of the lake, visible mainly in shadow at dusk when smog from Guadalajara seeps over the low mountains at that side of the lake. This has pleased Mexican environmentalists, who had worried about marring the wildlife habitat. Unfortunately, the rare white pelicans that winter every year on the south shore near the bridge are also having a difficult time seeing the bridge, and several avian fatalities have already resulted. The government is considering painting warnings on the top surfaces of the bridge, so the pelicans can distinguish it from the water below.

The tollway will allow travelers to cross the lake in one hour from Ajijic to Tizapan when travel time to and from the bridge is included, the same amount of time that it currently takes to drive around the lake in the westerly direction. However, the government will be able to collect 50 pesos per vehicle via the bridge, whereas currently no money is collected when drivers use the road around the lake.

“If there are no time savings,” asked one astute reporter at the press conference, “what is the point?”

“There are NO topes on the bridge” proudly retorted the director of the project, Jorge Fernandez. “Drivers can drive continuously at highway speeds without tearing out the undercarriage of their vehicles.” Posted speeds on the causeway are 100 KM, although the limit is not yet being enforced.

Simultaneous with the erection of the bridge, the government installed an additional several dozen topes on the road around the lake. (Topes are speed bumps that can appear or disappear overnight, causing undercarriage damage of the unsuspecting, or inexplicable braking, depending on whether they have come or gone.)

Although no foreigners we polled have yet used or even noticed the bridge, most said they had definitely noticed the increased tope-building program. “Yes, we’ve noticed a greatly-expanded tope-building program” said one resident of Jocotepec. “We had attributed it to the increased population at our end of the lake, but now that we understand about the new bridge, it makes perfect sense.”

Free Toll Day: to increase foreign usage of the new toll bridge, Jalisco Governor Sandoval has decreed April 1st a free toll day for all foreigners. Simply show your immigration papers at the tollbooth rather than depositing the 50 peso fee. Happy April Fools’ Day from Mexico to you!