Our Beloved Malecón de Mazatlán

We all love the malecón, Mazatlán’s oceanside promenade. While our fair city loves Guinness Book records and brags about the “best” or “second best” of so many things, I rarely see anyone claiming that our gorgeous malecón is the world’s largest. Do you know of any other that’s longer? No, it’s not the 21km that Tourism sometimes says it is; that would have to include the Zona Dorada as well, which is clearly not malecón. But from Valentino’s to Pedro Infante is 8-1/2 km. If we add in Paseo del Centenario and the real, original malecón in Olas Altas, our annual Carnavál party zone, it’s a few kilometers longer yet. I’ve gratefully traveled much of the world, and I can’t recall a longer oceanside promenade, and few are as pretty.

Here in Mazatlán you can ride a bike, rollerblade, jog or walk amidst incredible views. When the tide is high you can even get refreshingly splashed. In the fall months you can often witness sea turtles coming into the beach to lay their eggs. You can watch parades, marathons, protests, and incredible fireworks along the malecón of Mazatlán.

Most of us realize how much our malecón has changed over the years: lengthening it, widening it, various concrete designs and paint jobs, different types and colors of benches, planters, lighting, and, most recently, the palmeras. Remember when we had to avoid dog excrement all the time? Fortunately that custom has mostly died out, and by and large pet owners are fairly responsible when using the malecón to walk their pets.

I’ve written previously about how the culture of the malecón has changed. Most significantly to me is how in the past ten years it’s become the world’s largest gymnasium, at the same time that Mazatlán has become a pulsating center of athleticism. Ocean-fed pools are a rarity worldwide, and our own malecón is home to the beautiful Carpa Olivera that’s both historic and refurbished, as well as the Swimming Club. In addition to the athletes, the mesmerizing views, and sunsets unlike no other, our malecón also houses a grand collection of statues and monuments.

malecon-usersOne of the newest efforts on the malecón are the signs to have walkers and runners use the side of the malecón closest to the ocean, and bicyclists, skateboarders and roller blades use the side closest to the traffic. With 14,000 people using the malecón on a daily basis, according to city figures, this can’t always happen, but already I’ve noticed it’s made a significant difference.

All you snowbirds, welcome back! Those who have survived the heat and humidity, rain and wind of this summer, we’re almost ready for cooler weather! I look forward to seeing you on the malecón! Sunrise, sunset, daytime and night views there are gorgeous. What better place to enjoy people watching and the beauty of our city, and get some exercise?

New Eats to Check Out!


Chef Jaime Llanos at his new food truck stand, Casita María

My mouth’s been watering since May of this year, when I discovered the incredibly appetizing photos that Jaime Llanos has been posting on Facebook. He is a Mazatleco-born, Los Angeles-trained chef who was working out of his grandmother María’s home in La Juarez. Trouble was I was traveling so much, I couldn’t check him out. But, oh! The food! It looked soooooooo good! So completely different than anything we normally see here in Mazatlán and yet, at the same time, so typically Mazatleco. (Photos in the set below are all Jaime’s. Click on any pic to view larger or watch a slideshow.)

Then, in late August, he started titillating us. “Coming soon!” “Próximamente!” “Cada día estamos más cerca!” What? What was coming soon? What was I waiting for?

I could tell from the pictures that he was making wine—his own label, artisanal wine. As if great food weren’t enough?

Despite the fact that he never said, “We’re open!”/”Ya abrimos,” I got Greg to head up towards Marina El Cid with me today to check out Jaime’s Casita María in the new food truck area, La Trockería. Luckily for us, Jaime was there, getting set up for his soft opening this evening.

He was embarrassed to have me take his photo, as he wasn’t dressed for work; we caught him setting things up. Even though his kitchen wasn’t ready, Jaime greeted us, explained his menu, and gave us a tasting of his white and red wines. They are both sweet but so refreshing; the red is a mix of Cabernet and Tempranillo, the white a blend of Chenin Blanc and uva de mango. There is nothing “mango” about the white wine, so I assume that is just the name of a grape variety. The wines are made for Jaime by a friend who owns a vineyard in the Guadalupe Valley.

Despite not yet being open, Jaime proceeded to cook us up a cazuela of mushrooms. OMG! They were awesome!


His food truck menu is obviously simpler than the full Casa María menu. He’s aiming for that homemade Mexican taste, with two different cazuelitas or casserole dishes, one with octopus and the other the mushroom dish we ate; and a tuna tostada with Moroccan spices. Jaime gave us a taste of the spiced tuna that goes on the tostada, which he explained was not yet fully marinated. Even half-marinated, it was GOOD! He will change up the menu regularly, and he’s planning to add more of his artisanal wines, as well.


Casita María officially opens at 6:00 this evening, and will be open evenings Wednesday through Sunday (Monday and Tuesday off). We had the honor of being his first customers! It is located in the new food truck area just south of the bowling alley, across from Marina El Cid. The official address is 1802 Marina Mazatlán (Camarón Sábalo).

Also in the Trockería food truck area are 4to Burguer from the Machado, the hot dog van that used to be in front of Gavias on the malecón, a shrimp place, hot wings, and a taco truck. Provecho! And mucho éxito to Jaime and Casita María!





Circo Machado


The unicyclist and a performer on stilts watch the performance in the kiosk.

I was very excited to attend one of my beloved pasacalles, or street parade performances, last night in the Plazuela. It was called “Circo Machado,” and it was the closing event of this year’s International Theater Festival, Escena Mazatlán 2016. Can you believe the festival is finished already?? We all know how crowded the Machado gets on a Saturday night, filled with local families and tourists strolling about, so the event had a great crowd.

There were two performances, the first at 7:00 pm and the second following the theatrical performance in the TAP. That last one, just after 10:00, had fireworks, too. I had a party to attend, so the first one had to do it for me. And it did not disappoint!

I entered the Plazuela just before 7:00 to find it decorated with hanging umbrellas, as is so the fashion worldwide these past few years. The umbrellas were gorgeous amidst our colonial architecture, particularly with the lights of sunset in the sky overhead. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Promptly at seven 25 of the artists from Academia Dance, directed by Agustín Martínez and Aura Patrón, emerged from the Escuela de Artes de Cultura and marched joyously around all four sides of the Plaza Machado. We saw mimes, acrobats, dancers, a unicyclist, performers on stilts, and clowns.

After they made their way around the Plaza, a young woman got up on a small stage just outside the kiosk, and twirled fire for us. I happened to have a front-row view, which was fun, and I even caught Raúl Rico in a few of the shots, looking proud and happy.

Pasacalles are wonderful because the performers mingle with the people. Those on stilts danced with the crowd, particularly engaging the children. This is part of what I so love about Mazatlán: we have incredible talent, in huge variety, and so much of it is free to the public.

After the torch dance the festivities moved to the kiosk. There, we were treated to trapeze moves and aerial acrobatics, as well as dancing.

The Circo Machado ended just before 8:00, with a colorful burst of confetti.


Have You Ever Seen a Real Oasis?!


Poza Azul, Cuatro Ciénegas

Do you drive to or from Mexico via Texas? If so, I hope you have or will soon stop at Cuatro Ciénegas—Four Marshes—located in the state of Coahuila between Monclova and Torreón. Here you’ll find, in the middle of the largest desert in North American, an intricately interconnected series of gorgeous rivers and over 400 springs, ponds and wetlands! These are located within fifteen minutes of pure white sand dunes, exotic rock formations, and salt flats, in a valley surrounded by breathtaking mountains. Nearby are also prehistoric cave paintings; a refreshingly cool, swimmable river; thermal springs; and a marble mine! Plus, you’ll see butterflies galore! How they love this valley!

The clear, fresh water has such gorgeous blue-green colors that you’d swear you were in the Caribbean! You’ll also see ponds that are amber and orange. Due to the fact that the underground river system is closed (no inlet or outlet), Cuatrociénegas Biosphere Reserve rivals the Galapagos in terms of unique plants (800 endemic species) and animals (60 unique species). It is a sister park to White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, USA.

NASA has stated that Cuatro Ciénegas could have strong links to discovering life on Mars; they studied the gypsum dunes of Cuatro Ciénegas because they are similar to Gale Crater on Mars. The New York Times wrote a fascinating article about it. And it’s not just life on Mars that peeks scientists’ interest. This area is a unique treasure trove. According to Wikipedia:

Live stromatolites inhabit Cuatro Ciénegas’ pools. These are cyanobacteria colonies, extinct in most of the world, linked to the origin of an oxygen-rich atmosphere over three billion years ago.

The pools are an oligotrophic environment with little available phosphate, leading one local bacterial species, Bacillus coahuilensis, to acquire the genes necessary to partially replace its membrane phospholipids with sulfolipids through horizontal gene transfer.

The Information Center for the 53,000 square mile the private Poza Azul Reserve is about an hour west of Monclova, just off a paved highway through unbelievably gorgeous mountains. There is a small museum highlighting the geology, flora and fauna of the area. Directly outside is the Poza de la Tortuga, Turtle Pond, an emerald green spring-fed pool filled with fish. The water is so very clear that you feel you are looking into an aquarium, except this one has clouds and mountains reflected in its surface and box turtles swimming amidst the fish. Click on any photo to view it larger or see a slideshow.

Greg and I walked about a kilometer into the Reserve to reach the Poza Azul, or Blue Pond. Many others just drove in. This pond looks as if it has a turquoise eye with a sapphire pupil in the center of it. At its deepest the pond is five meters. It is surrounded by reeds, some beautiful flowers, and contains a few lily pads, as well as fish and turtles. Again, the water is crystal clear.

The ponds are roped off to protect the water, but this of course makes it difficult to get a good photo. There is fortunately a viewing platform rising about 10 feet above ground at Poza Azul, offering a view of the pond and the mountains beyond. At Poza de la Tortuga there is a dock you can walk out on to get a better view.

Beyond the Blue Pond is a marble mine, though we didn’t visit it. On our way back to the Information Center, we walked along a beautiful boardwalk that paralleled a gurgly stream—Sendero el Borbollón—in the middle of the desert!

As we left the Poza Azul area, we paid for a ticket to get us into the Dunas de Yeso, Gypsum Dunes or white sand dunes, which are an incredibly beautiful sight. According to the USA National Park Service:

Gypsum is a common mineral, but it is extremely rare in the form of sand dunes. The conditions must be in just the right order for gypsum sand to form. White Sands and Área de Protección de Flora y Fauna Cuatrociénegas are two of only a handful of places where this unusual sand can be found.

Since both gypsum and basins are so common all over the world, you might wonder why gypsum sand isn’t found in more places. The secret is something rarely found in deserts—water! Like the rest of the Chihuahuan Desert, White Sands and Área de Protección de Flora y Fauna Cuatrociénegas receive less than ten inches of rain per year, but because of their unusual geology, they are both very wet environments. Water helps keep the gypsum sand from blowing away.

The dunes are 12 kilometers down the road from Poza Azul, and you can drive all the way in to both places. No need to walk if you don’t want to, though of course you’ll want to walk around the ponds and the dunes, at least a bit. The sun-glinted white sands were mesmerizing, with their wind-whipped waves, and the natural sculptures were incredible.

To get to the Protected Natural Area we drove through the outskirts of the small town of Cuatro Ciénegas, a Pueblo Mágico. We planned to head back there for a late lunch and to visit at least one of its two wineries. On our way back, however, we again passed the entrance to Balneario Rio Mezquites, which is an area with palapa huts, picnic tables, grills, lifeguard stands, changing rooms, and porta-potties, on the River Mezquites. This area was very tempting, as it’s obviously hot and arid in the desert, and you can’t swim in any of the protected waters. Even here in the river, however, the water was amazingly crystal clear, and despite the holiday (Independence Day) weekend, not very crowded. I hadn’t brought my swimsuit, but I jumped in and enjoyed a swim anyway! They say the snorkeling is great there, and soon they’ll have kayaks to rent.

The town of Cuatro Ciénegas de Carranza—Mexican President Venustiano Carranza was born here—is home to about 12,000 people. As you enter the town from Monclova you’ll see a huge, seven ton monument to Carranza up on the hill. The Pueblo Mágico has a shady plaza surrounded by restaurants and shops, a beautiful church (San José, 1825), a couple of museums, two wineries, and four or five hotels. It is surrounded by the mountain ranges of Sierra de San Marcos and Sierra la Fragua.

Cuatro Ciénegas is the site of quite a bit of cross-border collaboration, as mentioned above with the US National Parks Service, and also with Arizona State University. Read more about that here. The drive in and out is magnificent, as you’re in a valley surrounded by mountains, with a broad variety of desert vegetation.

How to Get There
From Saltillo take highway 57 to Monclova and then continue on highway 30 to Cuatro Cienegas. You can take a bus from Saltillo, Torreon or Monclova. Distance Chart: To Monclova 82 km; To Saltillo 273 km; To Torreon 222 km


Greg had heard about this beautiful place, so I researched it on the Internet. While there were many pages that talked about the area, none of them contained the information needed for an enjoyable visit. So, I’m hoping this will help you:

  • The Reserve is open from 10am – 5pm each day, sadly making photography somewhat of a challenge (we like sunrises and sunsets, blue hours and golden hours…)
  • Entry to the Poza Azul area is 30 pesos, and to the Dunas de Yeso is another 30 pesos.
  • Most sites told us we needed a guide or we would get lost. Untrue! The sites are well marked and easy to get to. Of course, you can hire a guide for a reasonable price and benefit from all the information the guide will share, but you’d be hard-pressed to get lost without one.
  • Most sites told us we’d be doing a lot of walking and would need a 4-wheel-drive vehicle. Again, untrue. You can drive to the ponds near the Information Center, and you can drive out to the white sand dunes as well. The road to the dunes is gravel and has potholes, but nothing worse than the road to Las Labradas.
  • Many sites told us you can swim in the ponds. UNTRUE! It is strictly prohibited from swimming in the protected waters. You can, however, swim in the Rio Mezquites, as I describe above.
  • If you want to go swimming in the river, take your suit and a towel, and bring food to barbecue. There are plenty of grills at the site.
  • I recommend you take plenty of water, wear sunscreen and a hat. You are in the desert, after all!
  • The Poza de la Becerra is mentioned by quite a few websites. It was very much closed during our trip. We could see that the area had been a swimming area—huts with tables, grills, bathrooms. Our guess is they are giving the area time to recuperate or recover from over-use, and then they will reopen it in a more protected and eco-friendly fashion.
  • The wineries in the town of Cuatro Ciénegas were highly touted on the websites I visited. They are just on the outskirts of town, on highway 20 heading towards Ocampo. The closest to town is called Bodegas Ferriño, and a few doors farther down is Vinos Vitali. The wines are mostly sweet and not to our liking, though it’s always fun to taste and to walk around a winery.?

If you visit, please let us hear about it! And send your pics!

3 Dead Turtles On The Malecón

dsc_0074In front of our home today was a gorgeous large sea turtle. I ran down with my camera because I thought she was going to lay her eggs.

Upon approaching, however, she stunk. She was bleeding. And her eyes were very, very dead.

Heartbreak. Click on any photo to enlarge or view a slideshow.

Carlos, from PROFEPA, was there making sure no one touched her. He told me he was not officially authorized to move the turtle, and he was waiting for his boss to give him instruction. But, he said, the turtle I saw was the THIRD one found dead on the malecón this morning! Carlos assured me all three would be examined to determine the cause of death.