Update One Year On: A Home for Juan Manuel

You ROCK! Your generosity has made a tremendous difference in the lives of two wonderful Mazatleco men in need. Thank you very, very much!

Juan Manuel, Don Rodolfo, Dianne and Greg

Last Christmas 85 families contributed to building a small but precious “little blue house” for Juan Manuel and Don Rodolfo. The building and furnishing process took several months and loads of love, but I want to report to you that the two gentlemen are living in their new home happily and healthily! 

Thank you and bless you!!! Your year-end love for others and gifting to those less fortunate has made a huge difference in their lives. Rodolfo and Manuel are incredibly proud to own their own home. Below I share with you a video message from them, thanking the donors from the bottom of their hearts and wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

After we began the house project, Don Rodolfo suffered a cerebral hemorrhage that caused partial paralysis in his face and left arm. He suffers great pain, on and off, in the damaged hand. Juan Manuel, his son, was blind and had lost a leg when we started. Shortly after we gave them the home in March 2021, Manuel had to go on dialysis twice a week for 4-5 hours each time. These were major health setbacks for each of these two gentlemen, yet they continue joyful, grateful and optimistic. The gigantic key we gave them when we handed over the keys to the house, engraved with their names, still proudly hangs on the front door. Inside the home is very much a home: family photographs, books, and daily necessities all have a place in the tiny yet comfortable space.

Just last week Rodolfo used the leftover blue paint to redo the exterior of the “little blue house” (Adolfo’s dream color, a play on Frida Kahlo’s beautiful home in Coyoacán). He added a white line around the perimeter, which is a very charming addition; it really makes the periwinkle jump out. Our son’s girlfriend’s father gifted them a couple of papaya trees and a guava, which have grown strong and born them much fruit. They are now very proud gardeners who were recently gifted a lime tree as well. The trees provide shade to the house and back patio, which Rodolfo has covered with a tarp to provide additional shade. Someone generously donated a used washing machine to them, which they located on the rear patio, but it does not work properly, so Rodolfo washes clothes and bedding by hand on the exterior washboard we installed. With his paralyzed and painful hand that is far from easy. They’ve strung clotheslines on the back patio and have a chair on the front porch. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

You may remember that we received a solid wood trundle bed, which has proven to be absolutely perfect for the space and their lives. Juan Manuel sleeps on top, and Don Rodolfo folds up a plastic chaise lounge and once that is out of the way he pulls out the trundle in order to sleep at night. 

The younger son gifted them a beautiful large wooden armoire that locks; that is where they now keep their clothing and valuables. They received a donated, used television and miraculously have SKY TV! The television is invaluable to Juan Manuel, as he listens to news shows throughout the day. It seems the 350 pesos-every-two-months that they pay for electricity includes the television signal as well. The sad thing to me is that we didn’t install a conduit for the cable, so Rodolfo had to drill a hole through the previously water-tight concrete wall. Live and learn.

While we installed a water heater in the home, deeming it a necessity given Manuel’s health needs, they have been using cold water only. Rodolfo told me they have only the one propane tank, and it currently supplies the cooking stove; the tank doesn’t have a splitter valve. With the cold temperatures having arrived, it would be so nice to get the water heater working. They have not been using the microwave we bought them back when they still lived in their rental home, because the electrical current in the invasion/squatter colony is not strong enough to power the oven. Manuel’s brother is keeping the microwave until they are ready to have it. 

Over the summer Juan Manuel and Rodolfo had to move out of the little blue house to live with the younger son and his family for six weeks or so. It made for extremely crowded and uncomfortable living conditions for everyone involved. Manuel’s doctor said it was imperative that he not sweat, or the dialysis port would become infected. We had installed a ceiling fan and gifted them a floor fan, plus the windows and doors all open, but our efforts weren’t enough to keep the home cool. There is insufficient electrical current to power an air conditioner. This is a problem that will arise again next summer. Though by then the area may have official metered electrical service, making an A/C and microwave possible.

Each time I visit, both men are warm, smiling and welcoming. They struggle to pay for dialysis, which costs 700 pesos each session plus the 200-peso cab fare to get to the General Hospital and back (1800/week total). They are overjoyed when we bring them despensas/food stuffs. This Christmas they are hoping for some new clothes and a few toys for Rodolfo’s two grandchildren/Juan Manuel’s niece and nephew; Rodolfo told us that his younger son, Manuel’s brother, lost his job four months ago and is now working at one that pays only half what he made previously. Brandon Giovani is nine years old and love to play with toy cars and pistols.

Sofia Beatriz is four and enjoys dolls, jigsaw puzzles and coloring books.

My main purpose with this article is to thank you for your generosity. We truly have a wonderful community here in Mazatlán. Thank you! Should you wish to again help Juan Manuel or Rodolfo in some way (donation towards dialysis, help with propane tank splitter or washing machine, toys for the grandkids or clothes, shoes or food for the two men), please let me know (dianne@vidamaz.com, What’sApp 669-122-8962). I can help you get it to them or pick it up and get it to them for you. 

Here’s wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a blessings-filled 2022! Stay healthy and happy.

Tenth Anniversary Gala of the Mazatlán Ballet

Oh, what a night! Saturday evening, November 13 in the Angela Peralta Theater our beloved and incredibly talented professional ballet company celebrated its tenth anniversary with a gala performance. The entrance to the theater was decked out in draped red velvet, there was a gorgeous candelabra stage left, the theater was packed but with social distancing and mandatory masking, and the energy and execution of the evening were terrific!

One of only four professional ballet companies in Mexico (the National Ballet in Mexico City, Monterrey and the more recently founded Youth Ballet of Jalisco), we have been blessedly spoiled by their presence in our city these past ten years. Young professional dancers from here have gone on to dance in Mexico’s National Ballet, in Monterrey, and in renowned professional companies in the USA and Europe. In the finale of the show on Saturday, students from our Municipal School of Classical Ballet joined the pros on stage, in a nod to Mazatlán’s future generations of professional dancers.

The company’s very first production seems to me like yesterday; the comedic ballet La Fille Mal Gardeé or The Wayward Daughter was performed on November 18 and 19, 2011 with costumes from Bellas Artes in Mexico City and scenography by Raúl Font. That was during a golden age of the Municipal Institute of Culture, Tourism and Art, when artists banded together under Raúl Rico González’ leadership with a goal of positioning Mazatlán as home to the highest quality cultural arts in northwest Mexico. After performing The Wayward Daughter here, the company took it to Culiacán and La Paz. 

During the tenth anniversary gala on Saturday night the company’s 14 professional dancers presented eleven movements including nine pas de deux from classical, neoclassical and contemporary choreographies. The scenography was gorgeous, with classical pillars made of curtaining and a constructed bridge that, combined with changing projections on the big screen, leant themselves well to the various settings of the choreographies. Costuming was lovely with a broad variety of styles to appropriately accompany each dance.

The pieces performed were Romeo and JulietLe Corsaire, Thaïs, The Parting, The Flames of ParisAdagio, Penumbra, Andante, Spiegel im Spiegel, A Mí and Venetian Carnival. Two of the pieces were accompanied by live music: violin, piano and cello. Artistic Direction was by company co-founder, Guillermo Carrillo. Sadly, Oscar Treto Hevia injured his leg tendons in rehearsals and was unable to perform; he was to be the principal male dancer in Romeo and Juliet pas de deux. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

This is a young company, with one dancer performing professionally for the very first time, yet all danced with incredible aplomb, strength, grace and beauty given the early stages of their careers. The audience could feel the youthful joy and vigor of the dancers. Venetian Carnaval was the most substantial piece of the evening, with the full company on stage and costuming made for the narrative of the ballet. This is a challenging choreography that had both principal dancers, Sandra Fernández Hernández and Carlo Bravo, leaping repeatedly.

Cultura Mazatlán Director José Angel Tostado Quevedo congratulated the company for their hard work and exceptional contribution to our port. Standing with him was Zoila Fernández, company co-founder and current Artistic Director of Cultura Mazatlán. Also on stage for the rounds of applause and “bravos” were Ballet Director Guillermo Carrillo, and current and past company and ballet school members and staff.

The current repertoire of the Mazatlán Ballet includes:

  • La Fille Mal Gardeé or The Wayward Daughter
  • Don Quijote
  • Giselle
  • The Nutcracker
  • Swan Lake (2nd act)
  • Carmen
  • Romeo and Juliet pas de deux
  • Le Corsaire
  • Sleeping Beauty

I am proud to say I have enjoyed each and every one of these with them, some of them several times. The company has become an integral star of our local arts scene, participating in arts and cultural festivals, operas, the Mazatlán Carnivals and Day of the Dead festivities. 

Maestra Zoila Fernández, Artistic Director of Cultura Mazatlán and founder of the Mazatlán Ballet, told me for this article, “The company now dances in classic and neoclassical styles. My greatest satisfaction these ten years, after so much hard work, is seeing that today the Mazatlán Ballet Company is a focal point in the port, that we enjoy a public that always fills the seats of the theater, and that more than anything, we serve future generations as a source of work and a mirror. It is truly a luxury in Mazatlán to have such a serious and dedicated cultural work.”

The Mazatlán Ballet company has deep roots and connections in the National Ballet of Cuba. Its two founders, Maestra Zoila Fernández and Maestro Guillermo Carrillo, both worked and studied there. Maestra Zoila has worked with the Municipal Ballet School for 23 years, and Maestro Guillermo arrived here in 2010 with the goal of starting the new company. During its first season, 2011-12, Maestra Ramona de Saá Bello, grand dame and maître of ballet in Cuba, cancelled contracts she had in Brazil and Italy to reside here and advise. Two and a half years earlier, her daughter, Margarita Naranjo, a beloved teacher in Mazatlán’s Municipal Ballet School, had died as a victim of domestic violence.

Upon the occasion of the company’s founding, Maestra Zoila was interviewed by none other than Héctor Guardado, our much-esteemed local cultural and arts journalist with the Noroeste. She told him at the time, “This was a dream that we have been forging with much work, over two and a half years. Maestra Margarita Naranjo and I visualized it for many years, together with Maestra Ramona de Saá, one of the most important ballet maitres in Cuba. This year everything came together thanks to the enthusiasm of Raúl Rico and private interests in Mazatlán. There are many people backing this project.”

The Maestra also invites everyone to the gala on November 20, a fundraiser to put a much-needed elevator in the Angela Peralta Theater, to make the theater inclusive and attractive to everyone. I have tickets available, if you would like some, or you can stop by Cultura offices or the theater box office.

Time to Return to the Theater!

This past Saturday evening, November 6, Delfos Contemporary Dance Company put on an outstanding show at 7:30 pm in the Angela Peralta Theater. The performance, directed by Víctor Manuel Ruíz Becerra, was dedicated to co-founder Claudia Lavista’s recently departed father, and what a tribute it was! Entitled “Painting that Moves,” the dances reflected the lives and work of Salvador Dalí, Leonardo Da Vinci, Frida Kahlo, Toulouse Lautrec, Edvard Munch, Jackson Pollock, William Turner, Vincent Van Gogh, Remedios Varo, and Diego Velázquez. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Heavy on the Spanish, particularly Catalán painters, what fascinated me was that this performance was not so obvious. The choreography and scenography did not directly replicate the painters’ work, but most definitely evoked the spirit of the painters’ lives and work. The transitions between pieces were also masterful, weaving together elements of each seamlessly.

Throughout the evening audience members wondered why the stage was wrapped in white paper, much like a gift to the audience. That became clear during the last choreography, when the colorful paint splatters of Jackson Pollack fell from hanging cans all over the performers, to culminate in an exhuberant communal climax.

Nine dancers played multiple roles with quick costume and energy changes: Johnny Millán, Surasí Lavalle, Karla Núñez, Xitlali Piña, Daniel Marín, Diego Alcalá, Jonathan Alavés, Luisa Escobosa, and Rodrigo Agraz, as part of the 2021 Mazatlán Cultural Festival.

This was the first event in the theater I have attended in quite some time, due to the pandemic/endemic. I want to let you all know that I felt very comfortable during the evening. Cultura issued many reminders for those attending to keep on their masks, there was an empty seat between groups, and people were staggered between rows. The main level was fairly full, given the seating restrictions, and I would guess the first balcony was perhaps one-third full based on current capacity. Now that we are vaccinated, it would seem to me to be worth it to get out and about, safely, again. 

You will have another terrific chance next Saturday November 13th when our local ballet company celebrates its tenth anniversary! Can you believe it’s already been ten years? What a gift to Mazatlán these two companies are, the ballet and the contemporary dance. Be sure to get your tickets as no doubt the theater will fill.

A Gala to Remember!

If you believe our beloved Angela Peralta Theater should be fully accessible to those with mobility impairments, I have a very special treat for you!

On Saturday night, November 20th, a group of people passionate about accessibility will gather together to raise funds to help install a freestanding glass elevator in the Angela Peralta Theater in order to make the galleries fully accessible. We will enjoy symphonic music and a four or five-course dinner prepared by our beloved Chef Gilberto del Toro of Gaia fame. If the tasting is any indication, you do not want to miss this! Wine will also flow freely.

The evening will begin at 6:30 pm with a “blue carpet” in honor of those who are differently abled. The performance will begin at 7:30 in the theater, followed by dinner and an art auction at 8:30 pm. Vaccination certificates and proper use of a face mask will be required.

Tickets are 3000 pesos per person; Chef Gilberto is donating his time and expertise. Wines and artwork to be auctioned are also donated. Proceeds from the event will go towards purchasing a freestanding glass elevator to be installed near the bar of the theater, to allow access to the upstairs galleries without affecting the structure of the protected building. Artists who wish to donate pieces to support the cause are welcome to contact me, as are those wishing to make a donation towards the elevator.

Plans for the elevator are not yet finalized, but this is the general type we are looking at.

For me this is a dream come true. You may remember a few years ago when I had a photo exhibition on the second floor of the opera house. It was the best-attended art event in the history of Mazatlán, CULTURA told me. However, friends on crutches or in a wheelchair were not able to join me at the inauguration, nor was anyone with mobility issues able to view the six-week exhibition. It was so unfair! An elevator will help us rectify that and make the opera house of which we are all so proud accessible.

Please contact me via WhatsApp to get you your tickets or more information: +52-669-122-8962. To make a donation to the cause send your money to the Bancomer account on the flyer above, with your name so Cultura can thank you, or send a note via PayPal to dianne@vidamaz.com and I’ll make sure it goes to the elevator account. Thanks!

Mazatlán’s Banda Plaza

Ernesto Rios Rocha and Mazatlán’s mayor Benítez Torres

The mayor, El Químico Benítez, has been planning a Plaza de la Banda for Mazatlán, inspired in Guadalajara’s Plaza del Mariachi and Mexico City’s Plaza Garibaldi. Those plans were put on hold during the COVID pandemic, but activity seems to have resumed in recent weeks.

While nothing is yet firm, locations discussed for the plaza include the empty lot in front of the aquarium, where buses and tourists now park, as well as possibly building an extension of the malecón out into the ocean. 

When I recently saw an incredibly Instagram-friendly projection of a five-meter-tall public artwork intended for the new plaza, El Pedro Infante Besador (Kissing Pedro Infante), I was motivated to interview the artist. He is one of the best muralists in Mexico today, widely exhibited internationally, and a native-born Sinaloense from Mocorito (1968): Ernesto Rios Rocha. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Maestro Rios told me that in 2019 the mayor called to request him to draw up the initial plans for the plaza. He worked on them for four months, and the plans he presented included kinetic sculptures with illumination and music. One of them was the Pedro Infante, and another a sculpture of Don Cruz Lizárraga with a 30 meter tuba!

Ernesto Rios is the artist who spent three years (2008-2011) living in Mazatlán, and with a crew of 28 built the Guinness-record-holding large mural on the outside wall of the convention center. He and his helpers also painted the striking figurative-surrealist murals inside. He has works displayed in the national palace in Mexico City and was commissioned for AMLO’s presidential portrait.

Maestro Ernesto is quite a Renaissance man: he paints, sculpts and composes music. He studied with the Fridos, those well-respected students of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo: Arturo García Bustos, Rina Lazo and Enrique Estrada. He has campaigned for the past five years or so for the opening of a School of Muralism and Monumental Art in Mexico City. Such an endeavor sounds smart to me; Mexico is so well known for its tradition and artists in that vein.

During my interview Rios Rocha made two main points that he’d love for me to share with our readers:

  1. Murals need maintenance every five to seven years. Properly cleaning them will double their lifespan. He urges everyone in Mazatlán and Sinaloa to campaign to have Mazatlán’s convention center mural properly cleaned and restored.
  2. There is a beautiful Byzantine-style mural by the artist Rolando Arjona Amabilis (the same artist who made Mazatlán’s escudo in Olas Altas) in Culiacan’s Parque Constitución, on Obregón Street, that is badly in need of restoration. This is a valuable piece of art and heritage that he strongly urges us to preserve.