Lost Mazatlecan Tradition?

DSC_4630©Mazatlán has a tradition of fishing that dates back probably a thousand years: shrimping with hand nets. The gorgeous way the tarayas spread out and then splash onto the water has always fascinated me; it’s a very tranquil, rhythmic dance. Below are a couple sequences of the net throwing, to give you a better idea.

Riparian shrimp fishermen go out in small pangas in pairs. Reminiscent of the gondoliers of Venice, the non-fisherman sits in the back of the boat and holds a long stick (la palanca, made of mangrove wood) with which he pushes the boat through the shallow lagoon or estuary. The second person stands in the front of the panga and casts the net. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Watching shrimp fishermen work in the estuaries and lagoons of Mazatlán has brought me joy since I first arrived here on La Bala train in 1979. Back then much of the Golden Zone was still covered with waterways (Laguna Gaviotas and Estero El Sábalo), as was the whole of the marina area (Salvador Allende). El Venadillo, Laguna del Camarón and Estero del Yugo were much larger. And there were shrimpers everywhere! We were all in shrimp heaven!

Just as we can hail an oyster diver or a fishermen to buy his catch today, up to a few short years ago we could buy the catch direct from shrimpers easily here in Mazatlán. But now? It’s a gorgeous and delicious tradition awaiting the final nail in its coffin. I posted a couple of photos on Facebook a few days ago of buying shrimp from the shrimpers in Estero de Escopama, and I immediately had about 20 people asking me privately (they don’t want others to know!) the secret to where they could go to buy such shrimp. Now that we’ve cemented over our waterways, we have to travel that much farther to see the beauty of the tarayas.

If Mazatlán were Patzcuaro, we’d be promoting the beauty of our traditional fishing methods as tourist attractions. There, of course, the “butterfly net” fishermen catch tourist tips much more frequently than they catch fish. In Mazatlán, however, we seem to have purposefully worked the past 50 years to kill our centuries-old tradition. At the same time we seek UNESCO certification as a Creative City in Culinary Arts, we lose the tradition for harvesting the shrimp for our famous aguachiles.

I was very fortunate to be welcomed into the last hand net shrimping cooperative in our city, The Veterans of the Mexican Revolution. They most kindly agreed to take me out with them while they fished. The first day I joined them, they caught 135 kg of shrimp that they sold to the owner of a pescadería at the Stone Island Embarcadero. The second day I joined the group they sadly caught far less: maybe 35 kg. They told me that was because it’s the end of the season, and because it was a cloudy day. Cooperative members share equally in their catch. Some may choose to take their daily pay in shrimp, others prefer cash. Either way, it’s equal: you fish, you get paid.

85 year old José Ibarra Rodriguez is the only surviving founder of the cooperative. In the video below he tells me that they started the fishing cooperative in 1967, and their first day of fishing was August 16, 1968. At the time, they purchased a 50 year federal concession to fish. There are currently 24 members in the co-op.

However, due to the government losing documentation, and to the emphasis on tourism and development over the environment, over the years they have lost most of the estuaries that they used to fish, and are currently fighting over the rights to everything between Escopama and Pozole (Dimas).

The estuaries and lagoons of Mazatlán used to be lined with mangroves, filled with shrimp and fish, and home to endemic and migratory birds. Our gorgeous bay, dozens of miles of beaches and the wetlands, with our view of the Sierras to the east, is what attracted the Who’s Who of Hollywood as well as so many renowned writers and artists to our city.

The sad thing to me is that very soon we will have to go even farther to see the beauty of the tarayas. Other fishermen in the group tell me they have lost their concession to fish the Escopamas, and that the Salinitas concession has also expired. Mazatlán’s centuries-long culinary tradition continues to die out at the very time we seek UNESCO accreditation.

I leave you with a few happier shots of the pelicans that gladly clean up the smaller fish that the fishermen fail to throw back in, as well as some cormorants fighting over a fish.

Living and Working with Mexicans

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Many in the VidaMaz community are bilingual and bicultural, and many others aspire to be. Francisco Santana has a new Udemy course entitled, This is Mexico: Living and Working with Mexicans that he has offered to give to VidaMaz readers for free if you click this link in the next 72 hours. Once you register, you can complete the course at your leisure. As payment he requests you to rate the course.

I have just taken the course and believe it is a very worthwhile way to spend an hour or two. It communicates to the learner some of the fundamental concepts of intercultural communication in a simple, clear, affordable and easy way. Francisco covers a lot of territory, summarizing key things to remember concisely. He is careful to say things like, “generally speaking” or “Mexicans have a tendency,” in order to avoid stereotyping and overgeneralizing the huge diversity that is this country.

The course contains some outdated constructs, such as the use of the iceberg as a metaphor for culture—which its creator Bob Kohls himself hated in his later career, and the overly-used and overly-conceptual “dimensions of culture”— which are useful as pieces of knowledge but aren’t especially helpful at improving skill. It’s at this point the course started to feel like a lecture and became quite slow for me.

The “Living with Mexicans” section will be the most helpful to most VidaMaz readers, I believe. There are some very salient points that can go unnoticed if you’re not careful, such as this line, “Mexicans have never been obsessed with planning for the future,” or Francisco’s contention that Mexican friendships tend to be based on mutual need—a very different dynamic than friendship elsewhere in the world. I found it particularly interesting and valuable to look at friendship in a historical context. Francisco’s explanations of Mexican humor, the “mañana” mentality and use of excuses to avoid disappointing people will also be salient and helpful for many; there are many gems in this section, from which we could learn more deeply for hours.

I fully support expats integrating into and participating in the local community as much as we can, and I hope this short course, available to you now for free, might help you. It is well presented and very accurate, in my experience. Here is Francisco’s course description:

By knowing where people’s values and beliefs come from you can learn to expect and predict their behavior, and then, you will be on your way to a successful cultural adjustment. The Mexican culture is rich in customs, traditions and intriguing behavioral patterns; and this one-of-its-kind course offers you the opportunity to dive into the very roots of the Mexican way of life.

The curriculum and practical activities are carefully designed for:

  • Expats (retirees, executives, foreign service employees)
  • Foreign students
  • Foreign investors and import/export professionals
  • Travelers
  • Enthusiasts of the Mexican culture

What you’ll learn

  • The fundamentals of culture
  • Key values and attitudes of the Mexicans
  • The roots of the Mexicans behavioral patterns
  • Mexicans communication patterns
  • Social and business manners in Mexico
  • Management and negotiation style in Mexico

Are there any course requirements or prerequisites?

  • Interest in learning more about Mexico and the Mexicans

Who this course is for:

  • Executives in an international assignment in Mexico
  • Expats retired or considering retiring in Mexico
  • Leisure and business travelers
  • Current or future foreign exchange students
  • Entrepreneurs and business seeking to negotiate with Mexicans
  • Current or future foreign service officers assigned in Mexico

Content is comprised of six sections, each with a video, activity and quiz:

  1. Introduction
  2. Culture and human behavior
  3. Roots of Mexican cultural identity (history of Mexico)
  4. Living with Mexicans: Traditions, values and attitudes (family, friendship, courtesy, helping others, humor, Day of the Dead, concept of mañana, excuses, bribery)
  5. Working with Mexicans: Management and negotiation (leadership and management, perception of time and space, communication patters, negotiation and meetings)
  6. Case analysis (interviews with four young adult expatriates living in Mexico—a Dane, a German, a Finn and a Czech)

Enjoy, and please let me know what you think! Kudos to Francisco for creating this method for helping expats and visitors to better understand and partner with our Mexican hosts!

Custom Hats and Jewelry

IMG_5501 (1)I have fallen in love. Again. Yes, it happens every so often when a gorgeous smile and a beautiful soul cross my path. This time it is with Andrea Salas Pinedo.

Andrea is a sculptor and painter from Durango, 22 years old and the mother of two small children. She is a delight—a talented young lady with a huge warm smile and a soul that radiates joy. She has been painting for ten years, and for the last four months she has been here in Mazatlán with her husband and children selling hats on the beach and in the foreign craft markets.

I love her hats! She charges 300 pesos for each one, and you can choose from those she has on hand, or you can order one special. I just ordered one for a certification event I am hosting this week. It will be one of the prizes during the workshop. I believe it will be very popular. Click on any photo to enlarge or view a slideshow.

Andrea also molds earrings that are so very cute! I bought a few of those for gifts as well. At only 50 pesos they are a bargain. If you’d like to see Andrea’s work, look for her on the beach in the Golden Zone, or at the market at La Catrina restaurant on Wednesdays from 9 am till noon. Easier yet, message her through her Facebook page.

Her Oaxacan family sells embroidered shirts, blouses and dresses, so if you’re looking for those, you can get them through Andrea also. Have a beautiful week!

Behind the Scenes of the 9th Temporada Campbell

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The 9th Temporada Gordon Campbell brings us loads of live music with first-rate global performers. Concerts are generally at noon on Sundays in Mazatlán’s gorgeously restored, historic Angela Peralta Theater.

As usual, Maestro Campbell and his wife, Guianeya Román, joined me to give the VidaMaz.com community a “behind the scenes” peak into each concert this season. You can enjoy their commentaries in the short videos below.

Bach’s Magnificat, Sunday January 12, 2020 at noon in the TAP
This next Sunday in the Angela Peralta Theater you can enjoy Bach’s “Magnificat” as sung by the Culiacán Community Chorus with a solo performed by the marvelous tenor from Mexico City, Leonardo Villeda. We are privileged to have Leonardo perform here. In addition to his voice talent, he is director of the well regarded Ad Hominem Chorus in the capital. He and Gordon are such good friends that his 150 person chorus sang at Gordon and Guia’s 50-person wedding! Hear this behind-the-scenes story in the video below.

The soprano will be Perla Orrantia, and second soprano Jessica Toledo, the nineteen year old who started singing with the chorus as a ten-year-old girl. We are so blessed in Mazatlán to watch terrifically talented singers of international caliber grow up before our eyes and in our ears! Susan Sanga will be the mezzo—first time as a soloist in Mexico. Baritone Alejandro Hernandez, soloist in the cathedral concert recently, will also sing.

Mozart and His Women, Sunday 19 January, 2020 at noon in the TAP
The letters between Mozart, his wife, daughter, sister and friends are harvested to create this highly innovative, heart-touching show that provides the story behind some of the best music he composed. Narrated by Angelica Aragón (daughter of local music and film legend Ferrusquilla) while the Camerata Campbell plays, and featuring soprano Perla Orrantia. Below Gordon and his wife, Guia, share the story.

American Quartet by Dvořák, Sunday 26 January, 2020 at noon in the TAP
Antonín Dvořák wrote this piece in 1893 while he was director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York—while spending the summer in, of all places, Spillville, Iowa. In Spillville, Dvořák found an active Czech immigrant community in which he was able to speak his native language and enjoy the feel of home. He finished the chamber piece in less than a month. According to music critic Betsy Schwarm, the composer set out to capture “the spirit of America music in its melodic flow and harmonic construction.” The Marketo String Quartet returns to Mazatlán to perform the four string movements.

Mozart’s Gran Partita, Sunday 2 February, 2020 at noon and 5 pm in Casa Haas
The Sinfonietta Philomúsica Juventus, a group of young people in Culiacán who have asked Maestro Campbell to direct a youth orchestra in addition to the adult Camerata Campbell. Many of them are children or students of the musicians in the camera. In this program 13 wind players will perform Mozart’s best wind music, Serenade No. 10.

Corky Siegel Sings the Blues, Sunday 9 February, 2020 at noon in the TAP
Mazatlán’s beloved, international acclaimed, Corky Siegel returns, playing harmonica and piano while he sings the blues! What a treat this will be! The maestro promises that Corky is living proof leprechauns exist.

3 Centuries of Chamber Music, Sunday 16 Feb, 2020 at noon and 5 pm in Casa Haas
The talented string musicians of the new Sinfonietta Philamúsica Juventus join us this time for the group’s second performance during this 9th Season Gordon Campbell. They will play more than three centuries of music, starting with Renaissance music through 20th century sounds. Gordon’s introduction of the concert below:

The post-Carnaval portion fo the season will include three performances in March, including the Maestro’s personal favorite: his first time ever performance with his son!

Father & Son: Gordon & Alexander Campbell, Sunday 1 Mar, 2020 at noon in the TAP
It was a huge pleasure to meet Gordon’s long-lost and very talented son, and to see the love and joy between these two men now that they are reconnected. I for one can not wait for this concert!

Please forgive the fuzziness of the video; perhaps my concussion is still playing with my brain. I do think the stories are very worth the listen.

The Romantic Music of America, Sunday March 8 at noon in the TAP
The Rondalla will return to their welcoming Mazatlecan crowd

Looking Out for Number 1, Sunday March 15 at noon in the TAP
For the final concert of the 2020 season we will enjoy the young piano prodigy, Hermann Valdez Fregoso, with both the adult Camerata Campbell and the youth orchestra, playing Beethovens Symphony No. 1 and Piano Concerto No. 1.

Buy your tickets at the Angela Peralta box office, either for individual performances or with terrific discounts on season tickets. The Camerata and the Youth Orchestra (this latter completely volunteer) are labors of love. Your donations to support the musical mission are gratefully accepted and are tax deductible.

Randy Noojin as Pete Seeger Sunday!

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This year’s edition of Gordon Campbell’s Camerata looks to be outstanding! I will write more about the full season in a subsequent post, but I want to get this out to you so hopefully you do not miss the first concert date which is tomorrow, Sunday 5th January at noon in the Angela Peralta.

Randy Noojin, who performed that incredible Woody Guthrie show for us, will be back with an award-winning show on the life and music of Pete Seeger. As Gordon tells us in the video below, we wouldn’t have had Bob Dillon, Joan Baez or many other folk singer activists without Pete Seeger showing the way. Today Maestro Campbell and his wife, Guianeya, stopped by my house to tell us a bit about the show tomorrow.

Buy your tickets at the Angela Peralta Theater. Better yet, purchase the entire season and don’t miss out. Below shows you the season lineup. Every show is at noon, and a couple have  a second performance at 5 pm. Two concerts are in Casa Haas with the majority in the Angela Peralta.

Season calendar