Cultural Change on the Malecón: A Case Study

Ok, the title of this post sounds a little too “professional” for our family blog. But it’s about dear friends, Mexican society and our beloved malecón, so I think it belongs here. It is really the story of the power of one.

Our dear friend, Guy, retired from a career as an air traffic controller in Canada and relocated to Mazatlán about five years ago. He loves the “blue:” the ocean, the sky, the outdoors, the views. He is a passionate athlete. He started out running the malecón many times a day, and has evolved to roller blading it. He is a French speaker who also speaks English, and he has actively sought to learn Spanish since living here. Guy is very outgoing, optimistic and friendly. He loves coffee, and makes a great pot of cappuccino every morning, sharing it with those friends lucky enough to be nearby when it’s ready. Guy has become a city icon. Everyone knows the bald guy dressed in black who can be seen skating along the oceanside promenade nearly any time, day or night. To see him is to be reminded to enjoy this beautiful city in which we live—not to get lost in work or daily drudgery, but to take a look around and a deep breath, and to get out and move our bodies before we lose the ability to move them.

We also love walking and biking the malecón every day; it’s one of the best things about Mazatlán. In our opinion it’s the best oceanside promenade in the world, with 4+ miles of paved, gorgeous walkway between Valentino’s and Pedro Infante. We imagine that everyone would enjoy using the malecón. Thus, we have been repeatedly surprised by friends, mostly locals, who tell us they prefer to exercise at home or in a gym. I’ve had girlfriends tell me their husbands won’t “permit” them to use the malecón if they’re not with them. Girlfriends tell me they don’t use it because they don’t want to be out in the sun; it causes wrinkles and spots on their fair skin. Others say the malecón is dangerous; that you’re looking to get robbed.

And, honestly, I know very well that many people don’t use it because it’s beneath them. That is a side of society, any society, that I very much dislike. Beach vendors, people who can’t afford gym memberships, people whose only mode of transport is a bicycle or public bus, even beggars and homeless people, use the malecón. “I have more money than them. I was born higher class than them. I need to maintain my status by not associating with them.” No one in polite society says it directly, but it’s there; it’s palpable. And this is a side of any society that I’d love to change.

There are loads of Canadians and US Americans who come here and desire to make a mark on this gorgeous city, to help make our city better. They often wreak havoc on themselves and others despite their good intentions, because they come on like gangbusters and try to “change” or “fix” something they don’t yet understand, something that is much larger than they are (a culture, a society). I know this well; I’ve seen it worldwide; it’s my profession.

Guy didn’t set out to change anything. By setting out to enjoy himself and stay in shape, he has inspired many people to get out and move: to bike, run, walk, rollerblade… People from all walks of life started coming to Guy, asking him to teach them to rollerblade, to help them get started, to give him advice. They told him they’d pay him for his lessons. “No,” he’d say. “I’ll teach you for free, but you must pay it forward and in turn do something helpful for somebody else.” Thus his “entourage” was born, including a running group and a roller blading group, as well as, now, people who hang out at the coconut stand to share good conversation and homemade ceviche.

Guy has made a wide circle of friends from all different parts of society: government, big and small business, housewives and young singles, wealthy and humble. I am sooooo so so so happy to see the gatherings of people around him. It crosses socio-economic lines. There are people roller blading now who, personally, told me the malecón was no place for them! I have had friends who previously refused to use the malecón for the reasons above ask me if they could walk with us, bicycle with us. It’s because, I believe, they see these other people, “society” people, out there, exercising. Not just with Guy, of course. Kelly and his bicycling tours and groups, other running, roller blading and bike groups…. The culture is shifting. I’ve seen a huge shift towards egalitarianism and inter-mixing of the social classes on the malecón in the four short years I’ve lived here. Bravo!!! Long live culture change! Let’s keep it up! We aren’t there yet, but… Just the other day a friend asked another friend, aghast, “You have the coco guy’s phone number in your cellular?” Well, she did. And proudly so.

One last photo: this one of the malecón during Carnavál. Forbes Magazineranks our Carnavál/Mardi Gras one of the world’s top three. I will just add that it is VERY family-oriented. Come join us!

About Dianne Hofner Saphiere

There are loads of talented people in this gorgeous world of ours. We all have a unique contribution to make, and if we collaborate, I am confident we have all the pieces we need to solve any problem we face. I have been an intercultural organizational effectiveness consultant since 1979, working primarily with for-profit multinational corporations. I lived and worked in Japan in the late 70s through the 80s, and currently live in and work from México, where with a wonderful partner we've raised a bicultural, global-minded son. I have worked with organizations and people from over 100 nations in my career. What's your story?

16 thoughts on “Cultural Change on the Malecón: A Case Study

  1. Dianne – this is beautiful. The paragraph about people coming in and wanting to change something they do not understand is so true . They do not talk time to learn, understand, there is always good. I have seen it often in the Bahmamas – it never ends well. I am happy Guy is still bringing smiles to all who see him enjoying life. He is a wonderful man. Enjoy your walks.Ingrid

  2. Sometimes I run into Guy on Sunday when I'm taking a bike ride. Dianne is at church. Guy reminds me that I am at church too and the spiritual awakening and uplifting one can get while letting go on the malecon can make you feel as good as people leaving church feel. Amen to that Guy!

  3. Hello Greg!! Excellent Article!! I know what you are talking about!! I just love my way of life as a malecon junkie!!! Gracias por valorar tanto a mi mazatlan, son un gran ejemplo, ojala todos tuviéramos la misma visión! Y bueno de Guy que puedo decir…un gran maestro, amigo y ser humano!!

  4. When we lived in Mazatlán my wife and I walked the malecón everyday after dropping our son Luis off at his kinder. I've always walked for fun and exercise but it was hard to get her started – of course she walked all day, six days a week working in the hotel. Now that we live in the states she hasn't given up the habit, I'm happy to say. We look forward to again walking the malecón on our first trip "home" (actual home for her, adopted for me) in 4 years, coming up in just a few weeks. Luis, I'm sure, will want to rollerblade.Thanks so much for writing this blog. It's been a great source of information as I study up on what's new in Mazatlán.

  5. Oh, Brian, it gives me a lot of joy to think of your bicultural family bridging two worlds, and of your son Luis growing up here and there. Our son, also, has the benefit of lots of formative experiences here in Mazatlán during his early years. I am thankful for that. We look forward to having you back down here! Glad to know this blog is useful to you! Sometimes we wonder 😉 Be well!

  6. It's been a wonderful experience for my son and my wife. It was great for me to live 5 years in Mazatlan. In all likelihood we would have continued living there had I been able to make a better living – and as long as we could have traveled during the hot season. But this way works too, maybe a bit better – though on a rainy Seattle day it's hard to imagine how. Sadly this trip is only 2 weeks but we look forward to seeing family, our old favorite haunts, and hopefully some new ones. The Zaragoza organic market, how about that! Nothing like it when we left… We'll keep an eye for you there, and on the malecón… Take care!

  7. Excellent article, thanks for sharing.My family and I are making preparations to move to Mazatlán in a few months, and I have a question. I'm an avid longboarder (long skateboard), and I'd LOVE to know that the malecón is longboard-friendly. (longboarders simply cruise, not shred and destroy)Some friends recently moved, and reported seeing several longboarders on it in one day. I just wanted to get another perspective since you are clearly already observing the malecón culture. Are the longboarders welcome?

  8. Dear Matt,While there are MANY roller bladers, skate boarders and bicyclers on the malecón, there are people who do not believe in that or support it. They only want walkers. So, occasionally, people do insult even careful bicyclers and roller bladders for being on the malecón. And, there are those who are not careful, and endanger the pedestrians.Having said that, yes, there are long boarders on the malecón. Mostly, though, I am told they like the hills–the one beneath the mirador being the most popular.Dear Anmiza, it is our privilege to be able to live here. 😉

  9. Dianne, I saw above that you wonder if your blog is helpful- Matt (above) and I have read almost the entire thing as we are preparing for our move, and so appreciate your posts. Thank you! 🙂 I am super excited about the new organic market.

  10. Dear Dana,You and Matt are very kind. Thank you. It is indeed nice to hear when people read it and find it helpful. If you two have any questions we can help with, we are more than happy to try. If you're down this way give us a shout and we can have lunch or coffee or something and get acquainted. How old are your kids? Will you be working down here? So many retired people down here, which is wonderful also, but when families move down we get excited 😉 The new organic market is WONDERFUL! God BLESS Janet and Verónica for getting it started!

  11. Dianne,Sorry for the slow response. Crazy life around here trying to prepare for moving. We're currently planning on moving in May.To answer your questions:We have a 2 yr old boy and a 6 yr old girl.We are with an organization called Back2Back. Will will be partnering with the 6 children's homes to care for the orphans living there.We'd love to get together once we're there. In the meantime, if you're interested in learning more about Back2Back, this video gives a quick overview:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxZqvMwcZFQ

  12. Matt and Dana, you will be enveloped in a huge and wonderful community while you are here, by the sound of it. Lots of local support and lots of expat involvement, plus doing good in the world! Win-win-win, as your kids will learn such invaluable life skills as well. Bravo for your family!!!

  13. Pingback: Our Beloved Malecón de Mazatlán | ¡VidaMaz!

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