Sunrise Hike

dsc_0569I am not a morning person, but with the thought of sunrise over the lagoon at Estero del Yugo in my mind, I got out of bed at 5:15 Saturday morning to make the trek north, so I’d be there and ready by sunrise at 6:00. The guard was ready for me, and I hiked right in and was able to enjoy the pink colors of sunrise over the lagoon.

We are blessed with wildlife in Mazatlán, and this Nature Interpretation Center is another gem for locals, expats and tourists, a non-profit center aimed at conservation through environmental education. It’s a photographer’s dream. Entrance to Estero del Yugo is straight across the street from the Hotel Riu on Avenida Sábalo-Cerritos. The area has a brackish estuary and a fresh water lagoon, an extensive forest, and is great for bird watching: great and snowy egrets, roseate spoonbills, great and little blue herons, black and yellow crowned night herons, bitterns, ibis, wood storks, anhingas, cormorants, crested caracaras, black necked stilts, kingfishers, swallows, ruddy ducks, blue winged teals… Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

My friend John saw a lynx there the other day (his photo below)—the lynx is actually the mascot of Estero del Yugo—and you can sometimes see crocodiles and snakes, as well as iguanas, raccoons and the other usual local suspects. I saw tracks this morning for several other mammals. There are loads of huge termite nests throughout the area; the old, broken-up ones are so very cool!

dsc_0103b

The Estero del Yugo CIAD (Centro de Investigación en Alimentación y Desarrollo, A.C., or Scientific Research Institute on Food and Development) is a non-profit civil association, so if you go PLEASE give generously to help support their efforts. They request US$5 per person to enter without a guide. If you make a reservation, a guide will take you around, help you spot birds and plants, flora and fauna, and know what they are. For a guide the requested donation is US$7 per person. What a bargain! They also have weekly and monthly passes.

This year is their 20th anniversary! The guard is on location 24/7, but  you’ll need to get a pass at the park office, which is open 8am-4pm. You can call them at (669) 989-8700, or email emurua@ciad.mx. Please don’t remove any plant or animal life from the area, and remove any trash you bring in. There is a small gift shop, also.

Estero del Yugo.jpg

I had not been in quite a while, and I was disappointed to see that the walkway out over the closest lagoon, along with the lookout hut, has been disassembled. Eunice assures me, however, that it’s all just under reconstruction. The bird-watching hut on the estuary was padlocked shut, and the boards over the muddy areas on many of the walkways are in disarray. Even the 3-story metal lookout platform has seen better days.

The hike around Estero del Yugo is about 4km; the paths are fairly clear and well-marked. The trail takes you behind MazAgua Water Park, then winds around and back to where you started. On two sides you have busy roads: the street to Cerritos and the road past Emerald Bay out to the highway. Inside the park, however, all is peaceful. People also frequently bicycle through the reserve.

There were loads of birds but I didn’t have the greatest luck capturing them through my camera lens. I love a few of the photos I took of the scenery, and the one above of the tree. Below you’ll see a couple of bird shots, plus the twisted plant they call “the screw.” There weren’t many flowers in bloom this time of year, but the yellow one below was gorgeous.

My muse spoke to me more in non-birding ways on Saturday. As usual, I was mesmerized by the numerous reflections. In some of them, it’s hard to distinguish between what is real and what is reflection!

Textures fascinate me, also. Here are some of my favorite Estero del Yugo textures from the morning’s walk; can you identify what all of them are?

There are so many trees in the forest here, and such a variety, yet somehow on this day it was the cacti that caught my eye. Here are a few pics:

If you go to Estero del Yugo be sure to wear sturdy hiking boots or shoes, take a hat and some water. In the summer when bugs are out and about be prepared!

USA-Mexico Relations and Mazatlán

consular districts mexico.jpgIt is a difficult time for many US Americans who reside in Mexico. Our newly elected President has not ingratiated himself with our southern neighbor, long-time adopted home for many of us. I found it encouraging this morning, then, to read a newsletter that we receive from the USA Consulate General in Hermosillo (serving Sonora and Sinaloa), which included news on a collaborative project to support binational citizens. We get the newsletter because Greg and I are wardens, meaning we have a responsibility to help communicate information that can aid US American citizens in Mazatlán. Often times that is an unsavory role, as we find ourselves not agreeing with many of the legally mandated “warnings” that come out of the State Department.

Wardens are non-governmental volunteers of the American Citizen Services (ACS) Units of Mission Mexico. ACS offers routine and emergency services to U.S. citizens abroad. The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, its nine Consulates General, and its nine consular agencies provide passport, Consular Report of Birth Abroad, and notarial services. American Citizen Services sections also handle visas, IRS, Social Security, and VA benefits; they assist U.S. victims of crime, visit U.S. prisoners, and help with missing U.S. persons and international parental child abductions. They provide assistance to families of deceased U.S. citizens and identify local resources for destitute and ill individuals as well as victims of domestic violence. Our local ACS email is hermoacs@state.gov, should you wish to contact them. Mazatlán’s USA consular agency can be reached at 01-81-8047-3145 or via email to conagencymazatlan@state.gov. After-hours number is  Embassy 01-55-5080-2000. The office is located across the street from the Hotel Playa Mazatlán in the Golden Zone, and it’s open 9am-1pm Monday through Saturday, except US and Mexican holidays.

I will share with you three pieces of today’s newsletter that I believe you may find helpful. Be sure to pass it on to those who might need it.

  1. Soy México Initiative: Information for USA-born students or those seeking legal documentation upon return to or moving to Mexico
  2. Expo Consular/Consular Road Show: Upcoming consular visit to Mazatlán and US American community meeting
  3. Dispelling myths about obtaining a US American visa (video en español/in Spanish)

 

1. Soy México Initiative for Binational Kids

From the USA consular newsletter: “According to the 2010 census by the Mexican National Institute of Statistics and Geography, there are approximately 600,000 children born in the United States that have returned to Mexico. A large number of these children face major challenges in accessing basic services in Mexico, especially education and public health services. The U.S. Mission in Mexico has partnered with the Mexican government at federal, state, and local levels, as well as with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), to assist these children.”

Did you know that Mexican school registration requirements have changed? Children born in the United States are no longer required to present an apostilled birth certificate to enroll in school. Moreover, a CURP is no longer required for school registration. Ask USA Consular Staff if you need more information about school access.

“Children born in the United States to Mexican parents have dual citizenship. They have rights in both countries and the U.S. Embassy wants to ensure they can fully exercise those rights. The U.S. Embassy in Mexico processes more than 20,000 passport applications each year. Two thirds of these passports are for children under 16 years old, the vast majority of whom are binational.”

“In September, U.S. Ambassador Jacobson and Mexican Secretary Osorio Chong announced the Soy México initiative, allowing U.S. born children living in Mexico to verify their U.S. birth electronically (48 U.S. states and the District of Columbia participate) and then register with the Civil Registry in Mexico and receive their Mexican birth certificate. The program nearly eliminates the need for the costly apostille, mak-ing the dual citizenship process much more efficient and cost-effective.”

“Over the past year, U.S. Mission Mexico has conducted extensive outreach to migrant communities in Mexico to encourage families to document their U.S. born children with U.S. passports. American Citizens Services staff from all our consulates traveled directly to these communities and conducted town halls and passport acceptance fairs in order to reach our most vulnerable populations.”

“In addition to direct outreach with the public, we also partnered with state-level government offices to offer “Train the Trainer” events. Through these events, consular officials provide guidance about passport applications and other consular services to state and municipal migrant assistance agencies. The agencies then use the training to help families complete passport applications and gather proper documentation for passport “fairs” that follow several weeks later.”

“Throughout this coming year, American Citizen Services will be traveling throughout our consular district to promote this important program and to document U.S. citizen children. Please let us know if you are familiar with a community that would benefit from these services. When we go on these outreach trips, we look forward to meeting the wardens that live and work in those areas. Please take a look at the outreach schedule below to see when we will be visiting a locale near you. We will likely be reaching out to you when we are in your city.”

Below is a video in Spanish about how to obtain a passport for children born in the USA.

2. Expo Consular/Consular Road Show

The consular office in Hermosillo is planning a coffee and meeting with citizens here in Mazatlán in March. As soon as the date and details are finalized, we will let you know. Below is from the newsletter.

“It’s our Consular road show! We provide wide ranging outreach and information to Consular clients in conjunction with local partners, to create a one-stop shop for accurate consular information. Our Expo Consular team includes officers and local staff from the non-immigrant and immigrant visas, Ameri-can Citizens Services, Social Security, and Customs and Border Protection offices along with Mexican government officials from the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Civil Registry, EducationUSA, Mexican Im-migration, Sonora Secretary of Education and Culture, and the national employment service.”

3. Dispelling myths about obtaining a US American visa

Finally, I think it’s important that non-US citizens know that the visa process is fairly straightforward and they don’t need to hire “coyotes” or outside help to apply for a visa. The staff in the consular agency are bilingual. Below is a video the government has put together to dispel some myths.

 

Miss Universo Carnavál 2017

16729547_1868731800012115_2132236453093537905_n.jpgPlease block this Wednesday evening, February 22, for a wonderful show filled with joy and excitement that will benefit two children in desperate need of surgery. Belleza con Causa—Beauty with a Purpose, holds this annual event, a beauty pageant for the Drag Queen of Carnavál. I am very pleased to be judging for the second year in a row, along with other expat representatives Susie Morgan Lellero, Luis Ramírez, Ginger Borman and Shilo Downie.

The pageant will take place at Castillo de LuLu, Aquiles Serdán 60 (the same street Immigration is on, the salón is just farther down the street, off Carnavál) in Playa Sur, starting after 8pm. The event is BYOB, bring your own drink, though a lady there will be selling soft drinks. Entrance usually costs about 50 pesos, and all proceeds go to support the two children.

There will be loads of singing and dancing, flirting, whooting and hollering. The event usually includes a couple of star performances, and the pageant includes the queen aspirants modeling both cocktail and evening dresses, and answering a question. Three queens will be crowned: Miss Universo, Señorita, and Rostro Carnavál/Face of Carnaval.

Get your party on and come on out! Below are a few pics from last year; click on any photo to enlarge or view a slideshow.

 

Classical Guitar Concert Tonight!

Do you love classical guitar? I know I do. I also love supporting young people with a vision and a passion for our city.

A group of young Mazatlecan men including Jorge Birrueta, son of Turismo Mazatlán’s Julio, has organized a non-profit “Sociedad de la Guitarra Mazatlán,” the Mazatlán Guitar Society. Their goal is to promote classical guitar-playing here in town by holding as many concerts as they are able to.

A concert will be held TONIGHT in María del Mar Church, on the corner of Carnavál and Gemelas in Playa Sur, at 7pm. Carlos Viramontes from Torreón will play selections from Napoleón Coste, Joaquín Rodrigo, Francisco Tárrega, Leo Brouwer, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and Sergio Assad.

A donation of $80 pesos or US$4 is requested at the door. For more information call mobile number 55 4194 9431.

Chocolate Making Demo

dsc_0949

Young shoppers at the Organic Market sample the truffles

Our blessed Saturday Organic Farmer’s Market in Plaza Zaragoza frequently hosts cooking demonstrations, and today’s was about chocolate—Oaxacan organic chocolate, to be precise. I had gotten up before dawn to go bird-watching in Estero del Yugo, but just before 9:00am I dashed south to be able to view the demonstration.

José Itzil López, sous-chef at Raggio Cucina Casual in the Golden Zone, showed us how to effectively melt chocolate, then turn it out to quickly cool—giving it shine and flavor, and then mold it. He also showed us how to add a liquid such as coffee to make truffles. Then came the best part—the sampling. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

We were shown cocoa “nibs”—what’s left when the outer shell of the cocoa bean is removed after roasting and the inner cocoa bean meat is broken into small pieces. The nibs are then ground into “cocoa liquor”—unsweetened chocolate or cocoa mass. The grinding process generates heat, liquefying the high amount of fat contained in the nib and converting it from its dry, granular consistency into a creamy, gooey mess.

Different percentages of cocoa butter are removed or added to the chocolate liquor. Cocoa butter carries the flavor of the chocolate and produces a cooling effect on your tongue that you might notice when eating dark chocolate.

Itzil melted chocolate over a propane-heated double boiler, to show us how it’s done. Key, as I’ve learned the hard way, is not to burn the chocolate. If you burn it, the chocolate changes color and becomes hard and dry. Itzil told me you always want to see steam coming off the chocolate, always use a double boiler, and never stop stirring. He recommends a candy thermometer as well. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can tell the chocolate is sufficiently melted and the molecules fused if it runs from your spatula in a consistent stream (no breaks in the line) and if it swirls/twirls as it runs off the spatula—see photos below. His chocolate most definitely did both. And it smelled heavenly!

Conching develops the flavor of the chocolate liquor, releasing some of the inherent bitterness and giving the resulting chocolate its smooth, melt-in-your-mouth quality. Itzil told us the key to conching is “shocking” the chocolate by rapidly changing its temperature; thus, he spread the melted chocolate out on a cold stone slab. There he used paddles to knead and mix the chocolate, cooling it down and allowing the granules to fuse together, producing a richer flavor. It has cooled sufficiently when you can comfortably touch the chocolate to your lower lip or inside wrist, must as you would test the heat of milk before giving it to a baby.

He molded some of this mix into bars, which got the children attending (ok, the adults, too) very excited. It’s important when molding your chocolate to hit the mold against the counter often enough that you destroy any air bubbles in the chocolate. The air bubbles cause the chocolate to break more easily. Once the molds were filled, he put them on ice so the chocolate would harden.

To the other half of the paddled chocolate he added some hot coffee, and used a whisk to beat it vigorously. He explained that this is how we flavor chocolates for making truffles. Once it cools, you can form it into balls and roll it in the toppings of your choice, or insert a filling. This is the point at which the sampling commenced, and those truffles disappeared awfully quickly! He had truffles flavored with kahlua and mint, and rolled in coconut, nuts and cocoa powder. It was delicious!

Together with his friend from Monterrey, Armando Villarreal, Itzil has started a new enterprise called “Kimoots.” They tell me they don’t yet have a store, but individuals or restaurants can order chocolate from Chiapas or Oaxaca, chocolate bars (plain, with nuts or fruit), truffles (various flavors), organic cocoa butter, and vegan chocolate from chocolate@kimoots.com or tel. 811-530-5011. You can also obtain this delicious chocolate at Raggio’s Italian Restaurant, or at the Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning during the winter, 8am-noon.