Living: Paradise, Down Mexico Way

Americans who settle near Lake Chapala find the sweet life

Louis Wertheimer remembers the question that flashed through his mind when he first saw the sparkling waters of Lake Chapala and realized how cheaply he could live there. "I asked myself, Why isn't everyone here?" he recalls. Twenty-seven years later the former Buffalo businessman has coped with most of the problems -- slow repairs, distant doctors -- that can confront a foreigner living in Mexico. Still, he wonders why the torpid town of Ajijic that he calls home is not overrun with gringos looking for the good life.

Wertheimer, 75, is one of an estimated 50,000 Americans who live permanently south...