Omara y El Cigala

 

There are a few performers on my personal “bucket list,” and TWO of them performed TOGETHER last night in Mazatlán! Half the city turned out to listen, and not one seat remained empty in the entire Angela Peralta Theater. In fact, most members of the press were allowed only 40 minutes to photograph the event, after which they left as they had no where to sit. The show went on for a full two hours and the performers had the house on their feet, singing and dancing. It was one large karaoke and dance fest.

Diego Ramón Jiménez Salazar, known to the world as “El Cigala,” has that deep,  echoing, passionate flamenco voice that half the world, myself included, are so fond of. He’s perhaps best known for “Lágrimas Negras” with Bebo Valdés. El Cigala is Spanish Romani, “gypsy,” born in El Rastro in Madrid. It would seem Mazatlecas are fond of that bloodline, as there were quite a few proposals and propositions shouted his way during last night’s performance. It was a joy to witness the freedom with which younger and older women alike showered their compliments on Diego while sitting right next to their loving husbands. I heard more than one woman say to another, “he is a widow, you know.” Click any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Omara Portuondo Peláez, in contrast, is Cubana, known for her clear renditions of boleros, jazz and son cubano, singer for the Buena Vista Social Club. She started as a dancer with the Cabaret Tropicana in 1950. At 87 years old Omara is nearly forty years Diego’s senior, but she is full of mischief and sparkle and made sure we knew she could still touch her toes and the floor, and swing her hips to the rhythm.

The two sang two different sets alone, and two different sets of duets; it was so much fun! We were serenaded with “Te quiero, te quiero,” “Amar y vivir,” “Lo que me queda por vivir,” “Si te contara,” “Lágrimas negras,” “Compromiso,” “Obsesión,” “Vete de mí,” “Silencio,” “Noche cubana,” “La última noche,” and “Dos gardenias para ti.” After a lengthy request for an encore, the two came out for one final song, “Bésame mucho,” like you have never, ever heard it sung before.

They were accompanied by a pair of excellent pianists (Jaime Calabuch playing for Cigala, though I preferred Omara’s pianist) , a bassist, drummer and percussionist. Sorry, but no where could I find the names of the musicians. It was truly a night to remember, and no doubt the highlight of the Festival Cultural Mazatlán 2017!

Comic-Con Mazatlán

DSC_2479©Ok, our local “Comic-Con” is a whole lot smaller than San Diego‘s, but it sure is a whole lot of fun and growing every year. The event also shows what one 20 year old young woman can do when she sets her mind to it! These young people know how to put on an event! And how to publicize it! Kudos and more kudos!

Yvonne Tirado, who is now 24, along with her team of six, just finished producing the fourth edition of Mazatlán’s “TomodachiFest,” a conference and “festival multicultural” that attracts young adults from at least three states who are passionate about anime, hip hop music, manga, comics, medieval arts and cosplay. I’ve been wanting to go for the past few years, but life didn’t let me attend until this year. And oh what energy and fun it was!

In my day we would maybe call these kids “geeks,” but here they call them “freaks.” They are largely highly intelligent, fun-loving and very creative young people who love fantasy, invest large amounts of time and talent in handcrafting costumes and memorabilia, and who are in seventh heaven once a year thanks to Yvonne and her team. The event this year took place on Saturday October 14th at the Convention Center from noon till 8pm. It was attended by well over 1100 people, mostly young adults, but also including children and families of “freaks.” Below are the poster and full program for this year’s event, as well as a photo of the t-shirt and main stage. Click on any photo below to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

TomodachiFest (“tomodachi” means “friend” in Japanese, and Japan is, of course, birthplace of anime, manga and cosplay) Mazatlán came to be because Yvonne and her friends were complaining that local conferences offered nothing of interest to young adults. They decided to change that, and despite being full-time students with little to no budget, they birthed the festival. They continue to produce the festival as volunteers.

The high energy event has several things going on at the same time. There are projections of movies and Asian pop music; a karaoke singing contest as well as a dance and cosplay/costume contests; presentations by YouTubers, illustrators and actors who dub films; workshops in drawing, crafts, medieval archery, and ink drawing; and autograph events; and several video game tournaments throughout the day; and a medieval tournament that was held outside in the late afternoon.

The contests have celebrity judges who come from out of town, and the costumes really blew me away. I’m used to seeing incredible cosplay outfits in Japan, but here in Mazatlán, where I know everyone has to make their own costumes and equipment, it truly was impressive.

There is an exhibition hall for the conference, where those attending can buy memorabilia—some of it handmade, comics, and apparel. There were also several computer stations set up for the video game contests.

I had a chance to speak with Alon Ramirez, the internationally known creator and illustrator of “Chico Detergente,” about his work. Born in Culiacán and a former resident of Mazatlán, he now lives in Tepic:

There was a long line for Alon’s autograph, and he took time to sign every one quite memorably:

Congratulations to everyone involved in TomodachiFest Mazatlán! You are shining examples that an individual and a handful of talented souls can, indeed, make a difference!

Manuel and Ignacio

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Last Friday night after the opera, my friend and I were walking around the Machado. We meet a 23 year old Aztecan named Manuel, who told us he moved to Mazatlán two years ago from the interior of the country because he wanted to live on the beach. He said he loves it here, but misses home.

His totem or spirit animal is the jaguar, and he was gifted the skull and pelt of a baby jaguar when he was younger. Apparently that little baby killed a few cows, and the farmer then killed him. Manuel wears the taxidermied piece as a headdress, along with extensive feathers and beadwork that he makes, and often sells, to make a living. He and his friend Ignacio perform on the Plazuela Machado most weekend evenings, Manuel told me. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Nacho, Manuel’s friend, is only 19. Manuel dances and Nacho plays the drum. Manuel tells me that his father taught him to dance the traditional way as soon as he learned to walk, and he’s been dancing ever since. He jumps, spins, and uses fire in a pottery incense burner. He tells me there are dances he can perform in public, and those he can not as they are private to the community. He speaks a bit of Nahuatl, but not as much as he’d like.

Welcome to Mazatlán belatedly, Manuel and Ignacio. Obviously I need to get out more often, lol, as it’s the first time I’ve met you. I very much enjoyed meeting you both, and your performance. Thank you for sharing a bit of your culture. I hope to see you both again soon and learn more.

The Opera Made Me Cry!

DSC_2241I love a good opera. Just as I love a good narrative ballet. And I’ve been blessed to have seen both in some of the world’s oldest and most revered opera houses: Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, the Hungarian State Opera House in Budapest, alla Scala in Milan, among many others. And while our Angela Peralta Theater is smaller, it’s every bit as gorgeous, though I may be biased.

Anyway, this season we are blessed with not just one, not just two, but FOUR fully acted operas! And woe is me, I am going to miss the last two. But I was in the audience for Puccini’s Suor Angelica last night, and oh my God did they do an excellent job! My friend and I both had tears streaming down our faces.

The singing was absolutely magnificent, and the acting outstanding. We are blessed with Maestro Enrique Patrón living here. The orchestra was amazing as well. Costumes and sets were very creatively done. Major kudos to everyone involved! Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

The lead, Angelica—my namesake, Dhyana Arom, has a pure clear voice and terrific acting skills. She was perfectly counterbalanced by her evil aunt, the princess, sung by María Luisa Tamez—who sang and played the role marvelously. We loved hating her. How could she be so cruel, and then turn to the Virgin and make the sign of the cross! What hypocrisy, right?! She made it oh-so-fun to hate on her; stellar job!

Because Suor Angelica is a one-act opera, Maestro Patrón and company did twenty or thirty minutes of songs from other Puccini operas, including Madame Butterfly, Gianni Schicchi, Tosca, Manon and Edgar. What a treat! There was an intermission after this gala and the full opera.

Thank you to all the performers, stage designers, costumers, organizers. I know I say it a lot, but we truly are blessed with our CULTURA Mazatlán folks! The theater was far from full, which baffles me to no end. Why in the world would people miss such an excellent performance? Life should not be too busy to enjoy it a bit. Says me who’s snowed under with work; I think my head exploded at least three times this week, lol.

Don’t forget that now, with your ticket from the event, you can get a 10% discount the night of the show at most restaurants in the Machado as well as a few others. So, don’t make the mistake of going straight home after the show.

Cerro de los Chivos/Goat Hill

P1110859©Who doesn’t love Stone Island? In the 35+ years we’ve been coming to Mazatlán, it’s been one of our favorite hangouts: pescado zarandeado/bbq fish over an open fire, hammocks,  calm ocean for swimming and killer views. Every time we go, we say, “we should climb Goat Hill.” And, every time, for 35+ years, we don’t. The hammock, a horseback ride, swimming, margaritas, a walk on the beach, a massage… these win out over the hike.

Well, today changed all that. Our friend Dallas loves hiking Goat Hill. His wife Rocio runs Restaurant Cerro de los Chivos (great food and service, open Fri-Sun) at the base of the hill. He has told us that the views are spectacular and that there are, indeed, wild goats. Both proved very true; we counted at least 26 feral goats. The top of the hill is like a tropical forest, and the bottom closer to a desert with lots of cacti. The view is 360 degrees and incredible. Click on any photo below to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

No doubt you are smarter than we are, and you’ve made the hike to the top. If you haven’t, be sure you do sometime soon!