2002 was a life changer for Lorraine Pasini, owner of Estrellita’s B&B in Ajijic. During that year, her husband’s health took a turn for the worse and he ended up dying of cancer.
Shortly after, her dog died and her cat disappeared, along with all the koi fish in her pond. “I had those fish for 10 years,” says Pasini. “I think the universe was trying to tell me something.”
Following those unsettling series of events, Pasini felt rudderless. Then, someone happened to suggest Ajijic, describing it as a charming expat community on a beautiful lake with near perfect weather. She decided to see it for herself, and booked a flight.
Being of retirement age, but hardly retired, cheerful and radiant Pasini has led an extraordinary life. For over ten years, she’s been running Estrellita’s B&B and couldn’t be happier, living what she calls,“the good life in Ajijic.”
The first time she arrived in the village, she knew she wanted to live there. “It felt like a perfect fit. What impressed me during those four days was the bright colors, vibrant energy, and how friendly everyone acted and how easy it was to make friends.”
Pasini became a nun just out of high school, living in convents for 19 years throughout California. Two and a half years later, she switched courses when she met the man of her dreams and became his wife.
She lived in Glen Ellen, California, with her husband, Luis, and her son, Louie, where they ran an award-winning, wine country B&B for four years. When her son left home, she and her husband found themselves alone in a big house.
“Luis was a sub-contractor and he is the reason we sold our B&B,” says Pasini. “He complained that he never saw me.” So, for the next 15 years, she worked as a special education teacher with troubled youth at a residential treatment center for boys, which she thoroughly enjoyed.
In 2005, having sold her California properties, she made her last solo drive to Ajijic. There, she bought a house and settled into village life.
A few years later, itching for a new project, Pasini learned that the owner of a B&B wanted to sell it. Aware that it needed much work, she bought it anyway. “(Situated) next to Lake Chapala Society, I liked its footprint and the location, and I knew that I could do a good job with it.”
Since there was nothing “Mexican” about the place, Pasini got to work transforming the inn into a colorful Mexican-style B&B. She removed the African wildlife paintings and adorned each room with lively Mexican folk art, potted plants and brightly painted walls. The outside she had painted a vibrant periwinkle blue with equally vibrant signage.
Hanging prominently in her entryway is an oversized, 100-year-old framed print of Estrellita, which she had bought years ago from a Glen Ellen pub owner as a surprise gift for her husband’s 50th birthday.
Says Pasini: “Estrellita was born into a vaudevillian family from Ohio in late 1800s. Her name means ‘little star’ in Spanish. Being a flamingo dancer, she danced for kings and queens in Europe. She was also a good friend to novelist, Jack London, who lived in Glen Ellen. The poster had such an impact on me, I chose the name ‘Estrellita’ for my B&B.”
For all the years that Pasini has been running her B&B, she has no regrets having jumped feet first into her business endeavor instead of settling into a life of idle retirement. “I would have been bored silly without my business.”
And business has been good for Pasini. What’s more, her B&B was mentioned in a USA Today article published last month, all about Ajijic.
Pasini says, “I’ve met some amazing people who have been my guests, many who’ve lived and traveled all over the world. I get to live vicariously through them.”
Since her B&B is in walking distance to practically everything, Pasini sold her car six years ago. “I love that I can live in the heart of the village and walk wherever I need to go. When I don’t feel like walking, I hop on a bus or hail a taxi.”
Although Pasini can’t think of many challenges being a B&B owner, the one that comes to mind is the noise level in the village during fiesta time.
“Two sisters were guests at the end of November, during Ajijic’s big fiesta,” she says. “I was worried that the village noise would be disruptive for them. It turned out the noise didn’t bother them at all. They were at the plaza every night, riding on the Ferris wheel, laughing and having a great time. If I can move guests to a quieter room, I will do that. Generally, my guests understand about the noise. After all, this is Mexico!”
Estrellita’s B&B: estrellitasinnajijic.com.