The Kitchen is In!

You all are absolutely the BEST! Thank you for your generosity in making it possible for us to build a Home for Juan Manuel!

In our last post to you we showed you the newly painted outside of the house with its doors and windows in place, including several videos. Today I am happy to report that we have a working kitchen installed, using donated wooden cabinet doors and a steel sink and building a base around them for kitchen storage and a counter to cook on. Woot woot! We also have water and electricity functioning in the house! Zata has built a very basic back patio using extra block and gravel, where a hose bib and donated washboard will be installed so Juan Manuel and Don Rodolfo can wash their clothes and the water will run off or soak in rather than make mud. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

A good friend of mine has offered to donate a brand new refrigerator. Fingers crossed! So, all we seem to be missing are:

  •  A small boiler for hot water—might you know someone who has one???
  • And two single beds (a trundle bed would be ideal) or at least single mattresses, as anything larger will not fit in this very small home.

Please help if you can. Ways to donate to support this project are listed at the bottom of the very first post in the series.

Once the above projects are finished, we still need to paint the interior. Some work remains on the septic tank as well.

My hope is that next time I write to you it will be to invite you to the masked and socially distanced celebration at which we hand over the keys to the home’s new owners! Bless you all!!!

Fresh New Images of Mazatlán Landmarks

Karly B, or Karla Susana Becerra Salazar’s eye-catching designs of the monuments of Mazatlán originally caught my eye on Instagram. She  came to our home for an interview—we met with masks and safe social distancing—and I’m happy to say I am the proud purchaser of several sets of eight stickers with images of the Landmarks of Mazatlán, ready for my gifting pleasure.

The stickers are her very first product and cost only 50 pesos a pack. They are colorful, thin and light—easy to mail to friends and relatives out of town or keep in a purse for easy gifting. Karly made a second series of Valentine’s designs that I also love, and is working on a whole bunch of designs that she animatedly explains to me, “are filling my head and demanding to get out!” Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Karly is a 32 year old mother of two young sons, seven years and seven months old. Mazatlecan-born, she graduated from Instituto Anglo Moderno so speaks English well, then studied graphic design at the University of Guadalajara. There she worked for international and domestic clients at One Simple Idea, a creative agency. She missed home greatly, and the family returned here late last year due to the pandemic. Her husband is also a graphic designer, from La Paz, who currently works in video game design.

KarlyB Illustration is out to upgrade the caliber of tourist souvenirs in our fair city. She wants to put her designs on stickers, wall papers, mugs and t-shirts as well as framed prints. She is currently working for private clients as well, including our friend Ocean Rodriguez, who has commissioned her to do a series of his Carnaval floats from last year. “The only thing holding  me back is time. I need more of it!” she jokes.

For the past six years Karly has been envisioning a set of lotería (Mexican bingo) cards specific to Mazatlán, but she didn’t follow through and the Mazatleco has now beat her to that idea. He actually contacted her about a pulmonía image she designed back in 2012. She felt she had learned so much in the years since that original design that she took the opportunity to create what she feels is a much-improved version this year, with smoother lines and better design.

She described to me how she works in Illustrator or PhotoShop on a large tablet with a stylus. She creates everything from start to finish digitally, from composition and draft sketches to drawing line art, coloring, adding detail and exporting. She tells me she does quite a bit of research, particularly reviewing photos, prior to beginning her designs. “I have to exaggerate to get perspective. I made our little heart plaza look more like a heart. The malecón is so long that I shrink it in my designs, and the angle of the Hotel Hacienda isn’t the best from the street so I change it up,” she explains.

“Mazatlecos love Mazatlán; we love our city perhaps more than any other people I can think of,” Karly says. I shared my hope that her designs might leverage the pride residents feel for our city and teach them the value of preserving our history, heritage, values and environment—preserving landmarks such as Valentino’s rather than razing it, caring for our waterways rather than littering them, and showing more community responsibility.

I am often saddened that our local souvenir offerings are so stale and repetitive. It’s great to see a vibrant series of modern designs based on iconic images of our beloved Mazatlán. Karly’s work is perfect for tourists and visitors as well as local residents. And I love to support a woman entrepreneur! You can purchase prints, stickers or any of her upcoming work by contacting Karly via WhatsApp: 669-289-3375 or email.

The Duality of the Cosmos: Water and its Landscapes

Interview of Guadalupe Aguilar by Ernestina Yépiz, translation by Dianne Hofner Saphiere

This article first appeared in Spanish in the online magazine Fogones: La poética del paladarI share this translation here because Guadalupe is a terrific local artist whose work I much admire. I encourage VidaMaz readers to get to know her work. Guadalupe also makes and sells kombucha here in town.

The installation in Culiacán Photos by the artist

The work of Guadalupe Aguilar, together with and in each of the creations that compose it—which in each one is complete also—establish a dialogue, almost an intimate conversation, with the landscape, poetry, writing, the creative process and creation itself. In this context her artistic vision is to permit yourself to be touched by the subtle, experiment the sublime and get a hold of the ungraspable: that which is so fleeting that we can only feel it and make it our own at the instant or sum of moments of the aesthetic experience.

Guadalupe Aguilar holds a PhD in Fine Arts from the Polytechnic University of Valencia and a Master’s in Art History from the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters of UNAM. Her creative production has been exhibited nationally and internationally. In her work as a contemporary artist she explore the relationship between art and nature; she does the same with philosophy and poetry. In her work she uses forms of expression and manifestation including installations, video, weaving, writing, drawing and sculpture.

Several exhibitions stand out in her artistic career: Über das gluck or The way of the possible, at the Cultural Institute of Mexico in Austria in 2005; The water in a thread in the Kunsthalle Krems, Austria in 2006; Words in flight, in La sala Naranja in Valencia, Spain in 2007; in 2008 Agudeza or Acuity at the Huuto Gallery in Helsinski, Finland; Inverted shipwreck in Culiacán, in 2011; Filiform Suns in the Contemporary Gallery at the University of the Cloister of Sor Juana in Mexico City in 2012; Armonía or Harmony in the Gaals, in Culiacán, Sinaloa in 2016; Rangoli-Solitaire in Mysore, India in 2016.

Currently, in one of the galleries of the Museum of Art of Sinaloa, Guadalupe Aguilar is exhibiting Azul profundo or Deep Blue, a sculptural piece in which she dialogues with the marine watercolors and drawings of Maestro Edgardo Coghlan. That very intimate conversation is the theme of this interview. Click any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

What sparked the idea of creating Deep Blue?
It all started with my reflections and readings on our inner consciousness of time, precepts taken from the philosophy of Edmund Hüsserl, primarily. The idea initially was to make a cut in the surface of the sea, with the aim of detaining the incessant coming and going of the sea’s dermis, but not it an image but rather in an object, and that is how the piece came to be. I now live so close to the ocean that these past two years I have reflected on the infinity of its surface and all it holds.

The environment and the landscape always influence.
Yes, although if I go a bit further back, I believe this idea began to germinate in my mind in 2006 or 2007, when I lived in front of a mighty river. The movement of the current got me to thinking about the fleetingness of nature and its ephemeral forms. So, I captured these thoughts in a video and sculpture. The project was titled, El agua en un hiloThe water in a thread, and it was comprised of two reticular cuts in the flow of the current, where the common thread between the two pieces, the video and the sculpture, is the Danube, in a cube and in pixels.

Certainly, contemplating the water in a thread leads us to the abstraction of thinking about the flow of time.
Yes, both pieces pose an exercise around the idea of time and invite us to think about the present, the result equates the internal weight of the past and the future. The here and now.

Why did you choose the Masin (Museum of Art of Sinaloa) for the Deep Blue exhibition?
In 2011 I exhibited the Otra forma or Other Form there, a piece measuring two square meters and consisting of a grid of pins as a support for geometric parts of the plant world. There I saw for the first time the marinas that Master Edgardo Coghlan made, which tour part of the Sinaloan landscape and geography. Since then, I have dialogued with his work and Deep Blue is the result of that conversation. I consider, moreover, that it is important to explore the Sinaloan landscape, which during this long confinement has been denied to us. It is a good moment to revalue our environment and promote its care.

Does Deep Blue mark a distance from your previous work? I ask not in a conceptual or thematic way, but rather for the type of materials you utilized: paraffin, crystal, metal, steels cables and LED lamps.
Distance in the sense of moving away from, no. I actually think that I always repeat myself, including with the type of materials. In addition to the piece described in question one, that corresponds to an installation exhibited in Kunsthalle de Krems, Austria in 2006, I’ve also made drops of resin and clung to the idea of stopping the path of the water drops. Once I made rain with needles and other times sculptures of resin or paraffin. The drops of resin were never exhibited, but the persistent rain of needles was part of the Soles filiformes exhibition which took place in the Contemporary Gallery of the Cloister of Sor Juana.

I had the opportunity to see your poetic-conceptual, visual and auditory proposal. I remember you used paraffin. A lot of time has passed since then.
Yes, quite a bit, I believe; it was in 2012.

What was the last exhibition you had prior to Deep Blue?
I believe Deep Blue is an obvious continuation of the exhibition mounted just a few months ago in Bauprés Gallery in Mazatlán, which included objects that detain the fugitive forms of the landscape surrounding my Mazatlecan habitat. That exhibit was entitled The Permanence of the Ephemeral.

What artistic projects are you currently working on?
A huge imprint of the tormented sea and on stopping the mind.

A House That Looks Like a House

Following is an update on the House for Juan Manuel. To read the first article and learn more about this exciting project, click here.

As the final days of work on the house are upon us, things are moving quickly.

All of the contracted work is completed and paid for. We have also completed and paid for a few things we did not anticipate, including a very expensive connection to electrical service. But life is what it is. All that is left now are some housekeeping issues and the kitchen completion.

To give you some context, we have uploaded some videos to YouTube. Apologies that my voice is muffled due to my mask, and the video from the roof has a lot of wind noise.

The interior video gives you an idea of what a four by six meter house looks like. We are finalizing how to approach the kitchen in the most economical way possible to ensure that there is a flat surface to place a stove top, a place for a microwave, flat surface for prep work and storage for food and kitchen wares. The interior walls have been sealed and await a coat of paint next week.

The exterior video highlights a wonderful paint job by Yolanda and two volunteers, Marie-Anne and Martin Glaude. Second coat to follow next week. You can also see the area where we are going to make a crude laundry wash station from some leftover concrete blocks, leftover gravel and a donated wash basin. We are also, fingers crossed, going to get some fill dirt that will compress nicely to clean up the entrance to the home.

Here are some photos of the painting team in action:

The video from the roof puts in perspective the location of the home relation to the parts of Mazatlan most of us know well and provides an idea of the surrounding area.

In watching the videos, there are some things I would like to point out that show just how many different ways we benefited from the larger Mazatlan community. You will see:

  • A tinaco on the roof which was donated
  • All of the windows were donated (we paid for the iron bars that protect them)
  • The front door was donated and we paid to have it resized. There we also got the ceiling fan, light switches and outlets.
  • The iron door in back was donated and modified to fit.
  • The kitchen sink was donated.
  • The bathroom sink, toilet and shower head were donated

This in addition to all the pesos we received to cover construction and materials costs. We are so grateful, as are Don Rudolfo and Juan Manuel.

We are currently using all our networks to source two twin mattresses and with a miracle amount of luck, a trundle bed to allow for storage during the day. If the miracle does not occur, we will try to source two basic bed frames. We are hoping to receive a refrigerator as well. We have plumbed for hot water, but have not been able to provide a boiler. Boilers are not common as the logical location, outside, makes them prone to theft and premature aging. We considered an on-demand boiler placed inside but the pressure there is virtually non-existent. So that would mean a pump. We have one donated, but they are not allowed in these neighborhoods as that would allow one house to take all the water for the street as they are all on a shared water line. We will hold the pump for a future project. So, with funds about exhausted, and out of ideas, we opted to simply provide the plumbing and make hot water a standalone project for us or somebody else down the road.

We have been asked about a move in date, and we don’t yet know. The house truly looks like a house and we feel all of your excitement along with our own, that of our team and even of the neighbors in the invasion. We have learned a lot about building in an invasion and how teamwork and communication across cultures is the key to success.

When the kitchen is done and the painting is finalized, we will update you again. Until then, thank you, thank you, thank you for making this happen. While we are the ones on-site, it was your generosity that made this all possible. It is our hope to be able to invite you all—masked and social distanced—to the gifting of the house. More on that soon.

Street Art Tour in Concordia

Happy Valentine’s Day, dear readers, Feliz Día del Amor y la Amistad. Thank you for being here. Thank you for being part of this community, for helping do good work here in Mazatlán, for enjoying the beauty and the people of our adopted city, for encouraging my photography and my writing.

Today I am joined in wishing you happiness by Chema—José Manuel Velarde Chávez, of Concordia; his wife Claudia Belén; and their son Angel Adán. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Chema is a graphic designer. By day he works in Mesillas on CAD programs on a computer, designing furniture and sizing parts so that the carpenters can do their magic. In the early mornings and evenings, however, Chema loves to draw and paint. He wakes up before dawn, turns on some music, and paints in his patio while the rest of the family slumbers.

A couple of years ago he decided he wanted to spruce up the street where he lives. His wife’s family owns most of the two block street, so he asked his in-laws for permission to paint murals on the alley walls.

The first mural he painted was on a door that no one uses anymore. He painted a charro or Mexican cowboy kissing a pretty lady in 2018. “Aw, you painted it for your wife,” I asked. Chuckling, he quickly caught on and said, “yes, yes, that’s right!”

In 2019 Chema added a catrina for Day of the Dead: she happily dances with the all-too-true caption, “In Mexico death is living culture.” This is a link to him painting the catrina.

After those two wall murals, Chema painted a window with some flower pots, then the wings that every town now seems to have to have for Instagram photo ops, his version of Frida (faceless, as he reminds me “her eyebrows are her distinctive trait”), and my personal favorite, a gorgeously colorful xolo or xoloitzcuintli dog, the intelligent, hairless pets of the Aztecs.

The family lives on the now very picturesque Callejón Nana Chon— Encarnación Valdéz Avenue, in this beautiful historic mining town called Concordia.

Chema tells me that he and Claudia have been pleasantly surprised at the response to his artwork, and the fact that it appears to be contagious. Residents of another nearby street have now painted and installed benches, and he’s thinking they are planning to paint murals as well. He hopes that the street art might provide another attraction for the busloads of tourists who visit here to tour the church and enjoy a raspado (shaved ice) in the plaza.

The couple and their family decorated the callejón or alleyway at Christmastime. Chema tells me that neighbors and townspeople came over to donate decorations they had to add to the display, so it became a real community effort. When we visited last week the alley was all decked out in Valentine’s finery. They even light it up at night for lovers to enjoy—evidently the callejón is known as lover’s lane! Soon they will be putting up superheroes in preparation for Día del Niño or Children’s Day.

The most challenging aspect of his voluntary beautification project? Finding the time to paint. He works 8-6 every day, till 1 on Saturdays. When he comes home he’s tired. In the winter the sun sets early, and he can’t paint in the dark. But he loves painting the murals in any spare time he can find, and Angel Adán loves watching him do it.

When we visited Chema had a Quetzalcoatl plumed serpent (which he’d drawn to resemble a dragon) ready to begin painting on Sunday. After that he hopes to paint a totem of the busts of three Aztec warriors: a jaguar, an eagle and a woman. I know I can’t wait to see either of these newest paintings! He is also planning a homage to Concordian musicians, including Greg’s favorite, Roberto Junior (“El Coco No”).

On Sundays Chema and his family open a “bazaar” or art market in the alleyway, where they sell handicrafts including painted roof tiles. He has painted since he was 15 years old; he loves it. As a young child he drew. He remembers his father loved to draw, and when he entered elementary school, his Dad bought him a set of colored pencils. It was his favorite gift ever.

I met Chema because my ahijado, Carlos, shared with me photos of Chema’s very colorful Mexican-themed street art, and I then got in touch with him in hopes of watching him paint. I invited Greg to join me for a ride to the mountains for the afternoon, and we found our spirits soaring from meeting a lovely young family so committed to spreading good cheer in Concordia and beyond. I trust you might join us in heading up to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Nana Chon
Who is the alley named after? Quite an incredible woman, actually. You can see a statue of her in front of the town hall on the plaza. Incarnación (“Chon” for short) Valdez was the town midwife, a strong, wise woman who singlehandedly stood up to the French army. You see, the French had their eyes on the gold that came out of the mines in Concordia and Copala. The men and older boys of both towns banded together in an effort to defeat French colonization of this area. The women and children remained in town, unprotected. When the French army arrived, they herded the local population into the homes along this street and threatened to harm the women and children unless they told the army where the men and boys were. Nana Chon stood up to them, encouraging everyone to remain silent. Her bravado gave them hope. Fortunately, I am told, the women and children were not killed or harmed, the location where the men lay in wait for the army was kept secret, and the Sinaloans were able to defeat the French.

Concordia is an excellent day trip from Mazatlán, just one hour southeast. The church and plaza are gorgeous, El Granero restaurant is delicious and was very careful about observing sanitary protocols during the pandemic, and you’ll enjoy walking around the quaint streets and visiting with the friendly residents. Chema paints portraits and would welcome work for hire; you can contact him through his Facebook page.