Talented Kids Doing Great Things: UTE Conference

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In June it will be six years since we started this blog, and this past week we were afforded an excellent opportunity to reflect on our experience with it. You see, Greg and I were invited to present at a tourism conference at the Universidad Tecnológica de Escuinapa. It was a wonderful experience—the students were amazing, we met some incredible people, and I also really enjoyed how it motivated me to reflect on where we’ve been and what we’ve learned.

We started VidaMaz.com in order to stay in touch with family and friends after our move. We wanted to be able to share a bit of our new lives with them. What we quickly learned, however, was that the most avid readers of our blog were people who loved Mazatlán, who fantasized about living here, or who already enjoyed living here. We started without any sort of a plan; we were just going to publish posts about our experiences, our daily lives.

And we did.

Then came the swine flu. It had such a huge impact on our daily lives. Movie theaters closed. Concerts were cancelled. Everyone wore masks over their mouths, and used antibacterial gel everywhere. In researching it, the flu seemed to originate on a pig farm in Wisconsin, of all places. But the way Mexico reacted to it caused all sorts of fallout, huge decreases in tourism, and a horrible economic ding on our adopted home.

Next the narco violence rose to the forefront of international media reporting. Wherever I travelled for work, from Istanbul to Bogotá, people looked at me horrified when I told them where I lived. “Why in the world would you choose to live somewhere so unsafe?” So our little blog took on a new passion for us. It was our small way to let people know that we were living peaceful, enjoyable, healthy lives, despite what the media might portray. That Mazatlán was beautiful, was populated by a whole lot of cool and caring people, and that life here was sweet. It was our way to combat the anger we felt that international media insisted on selling only one very negative story of my beloved and wonder-filled adopted country.

A few of the hotels started using our posts, as did some of the realtors and condo associations. They seemed to take our stories about “normal life” as proof to the outside world that living here was, indeed, great. That was fine with us; we just asked for credit. Then we were asked to be interviewed for a few videos, about how it was to live here in Mazatlán as a family, to raise a son here. It wasn’t too long before we were honored to receive an award from the Hotel Association and the State Secretary of Tourism, commending us for our work in tourism. We sure had never planned to be a tourist blog, but such, it seemed, was how we were perceived.

So, six years later, when Dr. Arturo Santamaría Gómez asked us to present at a university conference on using blogs in tourism, we were eager to share our experience and learning. I didn’t realize it would cause me to reflect back, but indeed it did. What had we learned? Where had we journeyed? What stood out most for me was how many incredible people we have had the true pleasure of meeting over the past six years. Even without the blog, we would have met many of them—we are curious, outgoing, we love to learn. But, because of the blog, we’ve met so many more, and have interviewed people in more depth, than we would have normally. This was the true gift of starting a blog—the community it created. The people who are now friends who began as readers, who perhaps wrote us with a question, and now teach us.

So, that very long introduction is to tell you that this past Thursday and Friday we had the distinct honor of presenting at the Congreso Internacional de Creadores de Imagen Turistica, alongside a very interesting Brazilian engineer (Dr. Thiago Duarte Pimental), a Los Angeles Times columnist I’ve long admired (Sam Quiñones), the very talented head chef of Pueblo Bonito (Marino Maganda Pacheco), a charming gentleman from the Nayarit Secretary of Tourism (Raúl Rodrigo Pérez Hernández), and a very talented woman who has changed the face of our fair city in several major ways (Janet Blaser).

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Students attended the conference from several universities in Mazatlán, from throughout southern Sinaloa and northern Nayarit. And were they enthusiastic! I told them their clapping and hollering made me feel like I was an Olympic star! In addition to the main talk, Greg and I gave a 2 1/2 hour workshop on blogs and videos. We were blown away by the students’ commitment to encouraging tourism in a sustainable way—environmentally, socially, and in a way that builds an equitable, respectful relationship between the visitor and host. It was such a joy to be able to work with them!

In addition to the students, we of course met some awesome faculty, tour providers, city tourism professionals, and regional business people. We honestly do live in a place where people rock! We met one young lady who wrote her master’s thesis on a mango tour in Escuinapa. Rather than keep it to herself and make money off it, she has given it to the people, where it belongs, and they are launching it as a public project. Stay tuned and don’t miss out on this cool glimpse into a local farming tradition!

We are truly blessed to have found such a beautiful home and community here. We are very grateful to have been welcomed to a place within it. It is not often we get to teach young people, so this experience was truly splendid.

Please, take a moment to let us know the kind of stories that you most enjoy here on VidaMaz.com. We’d love to hear from you.

 

El Konti—Teaching Values and Building Community

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Some of the Judíos en route to Mochicahui, with yours truly in the center.

I am passionate about culture. My friends, family and professional colleagues know that. I hate to see a language or a cultural tradition die out. I feel sure in my bones that when we lose such a treasure, we lose some of the answer—some of the solution—to living together in a sustainable and harmonious way on our planet.

That being said, this weekend we witnessed one of the most wonderful rescues of cultural tradition that I have seen in a looooong time—the return of EL KONTI to the corrida of Las Higueras in the small Yoreme town of Mochicahui!

Traditionally, every Friday during Lent, in each of the Yoreme communities along the Rio Fuerte, the Stations of the Cross are performed by men dressed as Judíos or Fariseos. They dance in honor of God and their families. They dance as a promise to their fathers or their wives—to bring God’s blessings to their families and communities. They dance from nine in the morning till seven in the evening, from house to house, dancing in circles around the cross at each station, covering long distances, with all routes or corridas leading to the central church.

The trouble is, two leaders of the Las Higueras route have died, and many of the 30 or so remaining Judíos have gotten older and are no longer up to the physically taxing role of dancing all day long. Over the past fifteen years the KONTI tradition died out here. Community members were disappointed—they missed their Fariseos, they wanted their homes blessed, they wanted to participate, but there was no clear leader, no one to make it happen for them. The younger people didn’t know the details or subtleties of the tradition. This year a few community leaders got together and made the effort to revive the tradition along the Las Higueras corrida.

We were fortunate enough to meet Omar Castro, a 27-year old leader of EL KONTI in Mochicahui. He is a handsome and well-spoken young man, newly married with his first child on the way. We accompanied him and his group, led by the local Mandón or Chicotero, Toño Mocho, on the Las Higueras route.

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Dianne, Omar and Greg, in the church as we were cleaning it up

Omar told us that on the first Friday of Lent this year, it was only him, his brother, and a young boy dressed as Judíos. They felt so alone and overwhelmed at the challenge facing them: to revive this centuries-old custom on the Higueras corrida. The three of them danced the entire five kilometers, visiting every house with an official cross in the yard, dancing around the cross and blessing the families inside and nearby. As is tradition, most every family shares food or drink as well as limosna (a donation to support the Easter Week festivities) with the Fariseos when they visit. The trouble is, the Judíos must eat or carry with them all the food and drink they are given; it’s a sign of respect and gratitude. But, how could two men and a boy eat and drink, or carry, all that was offered to them at 80 houses? Omar tells us he was so over-full, had such a stomachache, that he had to call his wife and ask her to bring him stomach medicine en route!

Fast-forward from the first to the fourth Friday of Lent, March 28th, when we joined the KONTI celebrations, and Omar’s group of three Judíos had grown considerably! He and the community were obviously up to the challenge! Just take a look:

Omar has taught the new young Judíos on his route, instructing them while doing, leading by example. Greg and I felt that his was one of the best-behaved of the five routes we witnessed gathering in the plaza. And, it is now the newest!

 

SO WHAT IS EL KONTI?

KONTI is the traditional procession and dancing of the Stations of the Cross that occurs on Fridays during Lent in the Yoreme communities. We knew that the men of the village dress up as Judíos (Jews), Fariseos (Pharisees) or yuris, “white people,” representing those who crucified Jesus. What we did not expect was the huge number of people in the procession, the amazing crescendo to which it builds, the remarkable diversity of the masks, the sacredness and intensity of this celebration amidst all the merriment, and, most especially, that so many children participate, from as young as two years of age! (Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.)

The Yoreme pueblos in Sinaloa where EL KONTI is practiced include: Choix, San Javier, Baymena, Baca, Tehueca, Sibirijoa, Charay, Mochicahui, San Miguel Zapotitlán, and La Florida. EL KONTI in each of the pueblos is supposedly remarkably the same, and also, of course, slightly different. Bernardo, the Yoreme elder and maestro we got to know this weekend, told us that when he travels up to Sonora, to Tucson with the Yaqui, and even as far as the Hopi lands east of Flagstaff, EL KONTI is very much the same. He says the Mayo language (Yoreme) communicates with the Rarámuri (Tarahumara), Yaqui, and Hopi. Mayo is a Uto-Aztecan language, one of Mexico’s 63 national languages.

In Mochicahui pueblo, there are five routes or corridas. Here is Omar explaining to us what they are, how the limosnas work, and other details of the EL KONTI procession:

So how does it all work? The mandón receives requests from Yoreme families who want to place a cross on their patio. If a family wants to be on the KONTI route, they must have the mandón’s approval. The mandón’s job is then to guide the Judíos from house to house, cross to cross. At each station, the Fariseos dance in circles around the cross. In one place they entered a small chapel to dance as well. After the dance, they receive any food, drink or limosna the local families have to offer, and then they run to the next station.

This was our favorite part of EL KONTI. The houses in Cruz Pinta where we joined the route were very basic, the yards and patios were dusty—bare dirt—and the people were reverent and happy to see the procession. Most of the families were sitting outside near the crosses in chairs or on benches, ready for the procession to arrive. Most of them had made food to share with the Judíos. Most of them also donated some money, into a can, to support the Holy Week festivities. There was a solemn joy at each station. At each house, more Judíos and other participants joined in the procession, so that by the time we approached the town, we were quite a large group. (Mouse over a photo to view a caption; click to enlarge or view a slideshow.)

Over the course of the afternoon, more and more corridas or routes make their way into town, entering the plaza and then the church. The procession gets increasingly crowded, chaotic and festive. We were amazed how many people turned out from this small town of 5000 people, either to participate in EL KONTI or to watch the festivities.

The Fariseos are supposed to complete their route and arrive at the church in Mochicahui by about 4:00 in the afternoon. Once there they first enter the church. Pews have been moved to form two rows lining the walls, and they are filled to capacity. In front of the altar, facing the congregation, a large statue of Jesus is on display. Jesus is attended to by a group of young girls, the Marías, looking pure in white lace dresses. The Marías care for Jesus during his time of trial, wiping his brow, caressing his cheek, kissing his hands and feet. The Judíos dance around the statue, and then retreat from the church to await the arrival of their colleagues from the other routes.

While they wait, crosses are set up around the perimeter of the church. As more corridas arrive, the plaza, and the church, become increasingly crowded. While they wait for all the corridas to arrive, the Judíos play music and dance around.

Once the Judíos from all the routes have arrived in the plaza, they process into the very crowded church, and the statue of Jesus is raised and carried outside. Once outside the church, four men hold a cloth roof, reminiscent to me of a chuppah or Jewish wedding canopy, over the statue of Jesus as it is processed. The procession leaves the church, turns to the left, and proceeds around the church, stopping at each cross or station.

The procession is lead by a maestro, in this case Bernardo, who played flute, as well as by a local man who leads the prayers at each of the Stations of the Cross. This gentleman would kneel down with Bernardo in front of the cross, exhibiting incredible focus despite the chaos going on around him. He and a small group of church members would recite the prayer for that Station after walking around the cross and the statue several times. The Marías follow and surround the Jesus statue, accompanied by some key members of the parish with their prayer books, people holding flags representing major church events such as Guadalupe Day, and church elders carrying other holy relics. The Marías remove the thorned crown on Jesus’ head, wipe his brow, and replace it. Other Marías throw flower petals (representing divinity and life) at the statue at each station, while the main María cleans the petals off. The by now hundreds of dancing Judíos surround all of this, dancing and creating mayhem on the perimeter. This is all in turn surrounded by hundreds of spectators, sitting or standing along the church walls and the KONTI route.

As a climax, the procession re-enters the church. By now there is a cacophony of sound: drums, tambourines, maracas, percussive skirts and leg-ware. Christ is carried into the church, to resume his previous position in front of the altar. The Marías clean him up. The Judíos dance around him, filling and over-filling the small church. The pews are filled, and have been filled, for a couple of hours, and those spectators watch the proceedings. Most come up to kiss the Jesus statue, and to genuflect before him.

After everyone takes their turn and things calm down inside the church, Omar and his two fellow leaders, along with a few others and Greg and myself, clean up the church a bit and return the pews to their normal position. They also count the money that they have taken in for Holy Week festivities—money that will pay for food and fireworks, among other things.

In hindsight, it’s interesting to us that it was all percussive music for KONTI; there were no violins, or harps, and only the one main flute. There were a few toy horns, but our guess is these were items brought by those who don’t know the tradition, who embrace it more as a party.

As we left the church about 7:30 pm, there was a huge party happening in the central plaza. Kids were spraying shaving cream, people were drinking beer, food stalls were set up, balloons and toys were being sold, and the gigantic inflatable bouncy house was going gangbusters. A couple of cars had music blaring.

Omar and his extended family most generously invited us to accompany them home for cena. There, Maestro Bernardo played the 16th century harp, and Omar played the fiddle, holding it to his chest despite the chin rest on the instrument. We very much enjoyed the company and the explanations of what we had witnessed during this terrific afternoon and evening. On this fourth Friday of Lent, we ate escabeche de marlin, bean burritos, two kinds of rice, and capirotada for dessert. We drank water or Nescafe, and sat under the stars on their patio, enjoying the evening. With so many children surrounding us, and aunts, uncles, parents and grandparents who are stewarding their community and their families, it was truly a night to remember and treasure.

 

HOW THE TRADITION WAS REVIVED

The Yoreme know that it is key to instill a sense of community in their children, including a strong set of values and responsibility. They know that if the children learn these things while they are young, and if they can have fun learning and living this way, they will do so—building strong, responsible, and joyous families and communities.

The Yoreme live near us, in Mexico, a country that has sadly become infamous for violence and drug trafficking. We are located just south of the world’s biggest drug consumers, who have the money to pay for them, and who happen to also have loads of guns for sale. We live in territory that is suited for harvesting marijuana, and we are on the route through which the South American cocaine passes heading north. Amidst this reality, the Yoreme are even more motivated to instill ethics and morals in their children and build strong communities.

The KONTI festival has three leaders, who each serve three-year terms. For Mochicahui, the Pilato Mayor (head Pilate, as in Pontius Pilate) is Jesus Castro Valdéz, who carried a long colorful spear. The Segundo Pilato is Miguel Castro, and the Tercer Pilato is Omar. This is their first year serving in these positions. They were elected to serve because they are young, they know the tradition, and they were willing to take time away from work and their families to coordinate EL KONTI. Omar, for example, has danced in KONTI since he was four years old. He has studied the traditions, plays traditional Yoreme music, and is enthused to currently be one of the leaders. This year they decided to charge Omar with reviving the Las Higueras corrida. He enlisted the help of Toño Mocho, an elderly, one-armed resident of the route, as mandón.

That first Friday this year, on the Las Higueras route, when there were only three Judíos, the able-bodied men, the young people, and the children, watched them dance. They saw them sweat. They witnessed them overeat. They saw their passion. They could also see the tears in their grandmothers’ eyes—how happy they were that the Judíos were once again, after such a long lapse, visiting their homes. They saw their mothers’ pride—that they were able to make tamales, burritos or quesadillas and share them with the Judíos. They thought the dancing looked fun, that the costumes were cool. Perhaps they wanted to share in the food. But, as is most definitely evidenced by the number of Judíos dancing the route by the fourth Friday of Lent, they wanted to participate! They’d ask Omar, or the mandón, if they could join in, and they were told how to do so. The first thing they were told is that they’d need the proper costume.

 

COSTUMES

  • Máscara or mask: Traditional Judío masks tend to have exaggeratedly large noses—the way the Spanish probably appeared back in the day to the native Mexicans. The typical mask in Mochicahui is a white, Spanish lady—a yuri. To me it almost looks like a Japanese Noh mask. Masks are usually hand-carved from wood (usually cottonwood or elephant wood/torote), and often covered with animal skin. The masks maintain the anonymity of the Judío. We asked several people how they got their masks. There are people in the community who carve them. Some carve their own, others buy one,someare handed down in the family. There were a huge variety of masks, and some were very modern, including Smurfs and movie characters.
  • White manta shorts and shirt
  • Carrilleras, a “skirt,” commonly made of bamboo pieces or reeds which click together like wind chimes as the Judío dances. The carrilleras are often embroidered, and are worn around the waist, over the shorts. I fell in love with the carrilleras; the sound they make is magical, and they look wonderful while people are dancing. We bought a small child’s carrillera for 300 pesos from a gentleman selling them.
  • Huaraches, typical and traditional, very simple cowhide sandals. These sandals were mostly white, of the typical variety we see here in Sinaloa.
  • Tenabaris, long strings of butterfly cocoons, dried by cooking them on hot rocks. Into each cocoon a small stone has been placed to make a sound when the cocoon is shaken. Each tenabari is about four meters long, and is wrapped around the Judío’s calves, usually on top of a cloth wrapping so that it doesn’t chafe the skin. We saw a few more modern versions, some made from recycled aluminum cans, and others from sewn or stapled thin pieces of rubber. Obviously these latter versions make a different sound. I have been in love with the tenabaris since I first saw them a few years ago. What a beautiful idea: butterfly cocoons wrapped around one’s leg that produce music! I was too cheap to buy a pair, however, at 1200 pesos. Next time maybe I’ll ask if they have a shorter, child-size strand.
  • A capa or white cape, usually embroidered with an image of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, or another religious symbol. Sometimes the capas are handpainted instead of embroidered. In Mochicahui these capastendedto be very colorful, some with glitter or sparkles. They were gorgeous.
  • Many of the Judíos beat drums or tambores, made of leather and usually adorned with religious symbols. They may also shake rectangular wooden tambourines and maracas or gourds.
  • A lanza or spear, a long stick carried by many of the Judíos. Some also carry wooden swords or daggers. Spears, swords and daggers are often hand painted in bright colors.
  • A bag, usually woven from straw or twine, like a flexible basket, though also often made from animal fur. The bag is usually decorated or adorned in some way. It’s function is to hold the food and limosna that the JudíosreceivefromtheYoreme families they visit.

Here is a video of a few of the teenagers teaching me the names of the costume parts:

 

RULES

Next, the new Judíos were instructed that they would need to participate in EL KONTI for good reasons: to honor God or their families. They were told that KONTI is not Carnavál, but rather a celebration commemorating the crucifixion of Lord Jesus and his stations of the cross en route to Calvary. KONTI leads up to the big Easter Week ceremonies.

Judíos should not smoke or drink alcohol. You can see in some of the photos and video that we took that this rule is not followed by all who participate. Judíos should not talk; only pantomime. They are supposed to walk, run and dance to town; they should not ride in a car or truck while performing the ceremony. Some of them are scary, as were the soldiers who arrested Jesus and accompanied him to his death. Some of the Judíos are funny, giving members of the crowd a hard time, joking with them, much as the soldiers did to Jesus and his followers. We had Judíos blow horns in our ears, poke us in the ribs with their drum sticks, and share their long hair with my handsomely balding hubby.

 

WHAT WE ESPECIALLY ENJOYED

  1. We loved walking and driving around the area, seeing people getting dressed for KONTI, watching them walk, dance and run on their routes to town. It was truly a family-friendly, community-wide festival. We were very fortunate to have Omar leading the way for us and showing us the ropes. There is a ceremonial center on the edge of Mochicahui, on the way to Cruz Pinta. If you travel here during one of the Fridays of Lent, that would be an excellent place to photograph people getting ready, as there were dozens of Judíos gathering there before making their way into town.
  2. We were fascinated by the incredible mix of pre-Colombian, indigenous ritual (the masks, costumes, method of dancing—KONTI originated in Tasaria, a pre-Hispanic spring ritual), Spanish and Jesuit Catholicism (the Stations of the Cross, prayers, relics), with a bit of modernity thrown in for good measure (masks included Smurfs, movie characters, Japanese tengu and devils) were a joy to behold. I’d suggest you arrive just after noon and plan to start outside of Mochicahuí, on one of the five corridas or routes. To us, seeing people’s homes, witnessing how important KONTI was to the local families, was the best part of the day.
  3. We were rather blown away by the crescendo of KONTI in the plaza during the actual procession—it was organized chaos of a whole lot of people. The sound, the cacophony, was unreal. If you enjoy indigenous cultures and traditional events, KONTI is most definitely one to add to your list.
  4. Finally, the children! I was infatuated with the young children, dressed up, standing amongst the men—toddlers who already knew the dance steps: they knew to bend over, crouch down, stomp their feet so that the tenabaris on their legs and the carrilleras at their waist would rattle. They seemed thrilled to be part of the community. The older children and teenagers were also great to observe, hanging out in groups, yet led by their Pilato. They would drift off on their own, and then their Pilato would herd them back, coach them into how they should behave. It was a beautiful mix of community, discipline, joy and sacredness. Just what more of our communities today would seem to need.

YOU ARE INVITED FOR HOLY WEEK

There are still two more Fridays of Lent this year, prior to Holy Week, if you’d like to drive up and enjoy EL KONTI. Mochicahui also hosts a major celebration during Holy Week, from the night of Holy Thursday through Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Here is one of the ladies from Pinta Cruz, inviting all of you:

 

DIRECTIONS AND DETAILS

DSC_0005Mochicahui

Mochicahui is a town of 5144 people, located just north of Los Mochis on the way to El Fuerte. It is located about 12 km north of Los Mochis—five hours north of Mazatlán on Highway 15. Just past Los Mochis, take a right on Highway 32 towards El Fuerte. The entrance to Mochicahui will be on your left.

The Rio Fuerte winds along the city, at about 500 meters from the central plaza. Mochicahui has been a Yoreme ceremonial center since prehispanic, even pre-Colombian times. It was officially founded in 1606 by the Jesuit missionary Andrés Pérez de Rivas, who arrived with the Spanish conquistadors. “Mochicahui” means “turtle hill”: “cahui” means cerro or “hill,“ and “mochi” means “turtle.” Indeed, the hills near the town church look like turtles.

During the festivities it is very dusty; I recommend taking closed-toed shoes and wearing socks. Many of the dancers wore a bandanna around their nose and mouth, so they wouldn’t inhale all the dust. It’s also hot and sunny, so take your hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. You can buy water and soft drinks in the plaza, but public toilets were a rare commodity. The ladies of the church were selling food and drink, trying to raise money to build some.

We spent the night at a hotel in Los Mochis, which was very comfortable, clean and convenient: El Doux. We paid about 500 pesos for the night.

We met several locals in Mochicahui who spoke fluent English, having lived much of their lives north of the border. We would recommend, however, that if you attend KONTI you speak Spanish or go with Spanish-speaking friends. If you happen to speak Mayo, you may of course be ok. A connection with a local family or business would also be very worthwhile. We were the only foreigners we saw over the two days. While there were hundreds of spectators, everyone we met was from the immediate area; there were not a lot of tourists.

Of the pueblos listed above that celebrate KONTI, those closest to Los Mochis (and therefore closest to Mazatlán, other than Mochicahui which is both close and perhaps the most traditional) are:

  • La Florida (15 km from Mochis on the way to El Colorado),
  • San Miguel Zapotitlán (16 km north on Highway 15), and
  • Charay (22 km towards El Fuerte).

Many, many thanks to both Luís Hernández Ayala (ITOM YOLEM JIAWI page on Facebook) and Silverio Zambrano López, for helping us learn enough about EL KONTI so that we were willing to make the five-hour drive from Mazatlán. It was Luís who introduced us to Omar. Most especially a big thanks to Omar Castro and his family for their excellent hospitality and teaching. Also our appreciation to Maestro Bernardo, who seems to be an endless source of oral tradition, knowledge and wisdom. We first met him two years ago during the Spring Equinox at Las Labradas.

A group of Yoreme Mayo youth, seeking to preserve their culture and heritage, made this terrific short video about El KONTI:

MZT: Center of Run for Fun

In the many years we’ve loved Mazatlán, a whole lot has changed. In the six years that we have lived here full time, one hugely noticeable difference is the focus on sports. It perhaps started with the Triathlon del Pacífico, now a hugely successful annual event.

We live on the malecón, right in front of the baseball stadium, and every weekend it seems there is at least one sporting event: a marathon, fun run, swim, bike, or mini-triathlon. Yesterday there was a big run in the Bosque/City Park. All weekend is the 4-wheeler/off-road race, Ruta PataSalada. This morning is another run in the Bosque, and, wonderfully for us, a 2 km obstacle course race on the beach in front of our house.

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Participants, as you can see in the slideshow above, had to crawl, military style, under yellow tape. In another challenge they had to climb over huge sandbags and a pile of tires. The greatest part, however, was the finish. A fun-loving group of school kids dressed as Lucha Libre wrestlers jumped on and attempted to tackle the competitors as each of them reached the finish line. Can you imagine running in the sand, navigating obstacles and when the finish line is finally in sight, a line of would be luchadores is waiting for you?  It was a total hoot as you can see in the video below:

Mexico surpassed the USA in 2013 to become the country with the highest rate of obesity in the world—33% of Mexicans are overweight. Mexico still ranks second behind the US in rates of diabetes—one in six people here have the disease, and 70,000 Mexicans a year die from it. This change in the culture of our city, to get people out and moving, and most importantly, enjoying themselves while doing it, is an enormously welcome culture change!

One frustration is that it is often hard to get good facts about events like today’s. They are advertised on the radio, in some of the fitness centers around town and sometimes mentioned in the paper. Luckily, we have two very good sources here in Mazatlan. The Mazatlan Running Group page on Facebook is a great source of information on various runs in the area. There is also an awesome blog called Carreras atléticas en Mazatlán. I do not know the writer of this blog, Xavier Padilla, but he takes a lot of time to find all of the information about running events as it becomes available here in Mazatlan. Gracias Xavier.

Greg sat out today as he is training for the 5 and 10K next weekend at the army base. We have always wanted to go to the base as it has truly unique views of Mazatlan. Greg practices running hills each week, so whatever the Mexican army has in store for him should not be too much of an issue. There is also another larger obstacle type race on April 12, the beginning of Semana Santa. This race will be in the Golden Zone at or near the paintball facility. It’s called La Carrera de la Bestia or The Run of the Beast. You can read about it on the blog in the paragraph above, but here is a picture of the course—get your reading glasses ready:

This the course for the Run of the Beast on April 12, 2014

This the course for the Run of the Beast on April 12, 2014

As you can see, it has  a pool of mud, a labyrinth, walls, a pool of ice and many more challenges. If we were not leaving town, Greg would be in this for sure. Hopefully some of you will sign up and report back—guest blog posts are welcome.

Stretch before and after, hydrate and train—see you outside!

Municipal Treasures

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You’ve walked by it dozens of times, as you leave the Plazuela and head down towards Topolo or the Mercado Pino Suarez—El Archivo Municipal. It’s a beautiful and colorful old building, but have you ever peeked in?

Yesterday Greg and I got a terrific tour by a long-lost acquaintance of ours, Chon (Concepción), who was our waiter back in the day at the Hotel Camino Real, where we were married. We were thrilled to see it all! Our city, Mazatlán, has (literally) tons of written archives dating back to the early 1800s. It is a treasure trove of history and heritage!!! Rooms and rooms full of city historical records, piled floor to ceiling, many dating from the early 1800s! We saw some of the earliest maps of Mazatlán, Angela Peralta’s wedding certificate, construction permits for some of our most historic buildings, etchings of the French invasion of our port, and editions of every newspaper ever published in our fair city. Click on any photo to view it larger or see a slideshow.

While in Europe, Canada or the US such an archive might be something we take for granted or at least expect, the fact that we here in Mazatlán have such an incredible resource is truly remarkable! Culiacán’s archive burned down, so they lost most of their historical records. But, throughout the centuries and despite decades of minimal funding, our Archivo Municipal is a sight to behold! Historians, researchers, university and school-aged students are able to come in here to look up what they need to know, thanks to the foresight and perseverance of our forebears.

We met, or re-met, Chon, who speaks beautiful English. We met the lovely Lorena Ferral, who is so excited to see interest in the archives. They are very passionate about the work they do. They love the treasures they guard and catalog to the best of their abilities—and the limited resources allocated to them. The head of the Municipal Archive is Aristeo—Sergio Aristeo Herrera y Cairo Yarahuan—though he was not present during our tour yesterday.

Staff members bind some of the documents by hand, using serviceable yet antique, artesanal equipment. I thought you might like to see.

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How did we come to be at the Municipal Archive? For several years we’ve been loving the photos of Viejo Mazatlán that the Amigos Viejo Mazatlán group has been sharing on Facebook. A year or so ago, we met Fernando Higuera when we went to the Plazuela to buy a CD of the photos from him. Monies received were earmarked to fund a museum of the photos of old Mazatlán. Since then, the Amigos Viejo Mazatlán has held several exhibitions, historical talks, and fundraising events. I wrote about one of those events here.

We’ve stayed involved with the group, and we keep hoping and working to create space for a photo museum here in town. The good news for our small yet significant project is that we might be given a room at the Municipal Archive in which to display historic photos of our fair city. What is especially exciting to me is the perfect dovetail this would be! Amigos Viejo Mazatlán could display historic photos alongside documents from the city archive. The Municipal Archive could be reinvigorated by public talks and events, by locals and tourists coming in to view photos, thus raising awareness of the treasures it guards within.

The Municipal Archive needs time and attention! Many of the documents are fading, crumbling; they need expert care. If you have archivist or restoration skills, please let Lorena Ferral at the Archive (981-00-48) or Fernando Higuera of Amigos Viejo Mazatlán know! Join with us to help preserve and make public Mazatlán’s rich history!

The archive has a small display of books on Mazatlán’s history, along with a price sheet. If you read Spanish, you may be interested in a volume or three.

This is yet one more piece of bright news for our city’s heritage! Right now, several new museums are in various stages of planning: one of Sinaloan music, another on Carnavál history, and the new Neto Coppel city museum that was front page news earlier this week. To us that is all good news. Mazatlán has so much to be proud of! Locals, national and international tourists need to know about our claims to fame! And a city that is proud of its heritage builds on its strengths. I’d like to wish godspeed to all these worthwhile projects.

Foreign Resident Meeting with Sinaloa Attorney General

Tomorrow, Friday March 14 at 11:00 AM
Salon El Dorado at the Hotel Playa Mazatlán

Meeting with Sub-Procuraduría de Justicia Zona Sur
(Attorney General of Sinaloa) Lic. Marco Antonio Higuera

The Attorney General would like to meet with the foreign community in Mazatlán to discuss the topic of extortion in Sinaloa.  The Attorney General and other state prosecutors have expressed concern over extortions and wish to brief the foreign community on extortions and how to avoid them.

In February I wrote you all a blog post about scams and extortions. While I believe such scams are no more common here than in many other places,  the approaches here are a bit culturally distinct from scam approaches in other parts of the world. We all are wise to know how to respond in locally appropriate ways. I believe it is wonderful that Lic. Higuera is taking his time and attention to share his advice and guidance with us! Please spread the word! See you there!