When we move to a new place, it naturally takes us a while to settle into a routine, to discover what is going to stoke our passion, and to get comfortable with our “selves” in the new environment. I think sometimes it takes me longer than others, since I work such long hours and in the privacy of our home; it’s hard to get out and about meeting people as often as I’d like and still “bring home the tortillas,” so to speak. One thing I’ve discovered over the past five years is how much diversity there is here in southern Sinaloa, and how much I enjoy its rich traditions, bio-diversity, and friendly people. I absolutely loved attending the frasca, the harvest of fresh shrimp in Agua Verde. I thank goodness we have marine biologists here in town who can take us up close and personal to whales and dolphins while being respectful and mindful. I love meeting people who are good at what they do, and watching them glow as they tell me about it—whether it’s oyster diving, farming in Los Llanitos, open water swimming, giving food to the hungry, or selling meat.
Well, a few years ago I discovered kindred spirits online in Sandra Luz Moreno and Hector Lizárraga Vencis. While I didn’t know it at the beginning, they are the people behind Mazatlán Interactivo (MI), a portal that, over the years, I have grown to enjoy and depend on more and more. Through their articles I have learned so much about Mazatlán, the histories, celebrations and unique cultural offerings here and in our nearby towns, and they’ve enabled me to connect with some really interesting people. MI is an important part of my day. (It’s all in Spanish, btw.) While it has taken me a while to connect the dots—I first “met” Sandra via the SIFoto conference and later in groups on Facebook, and didn’t realize her connection to MI—she is kind and funny, and has made me feel welcome and valued in our adopted home. Yesterday she and Hector celebrated the 18th anniversary of their terrific Mazatlán Interactivo—18 years of unflaggingly promoting the diversity, authenticity, and sustainability of Sinaloa (particularly southern Sinaloa), with an anniversary party at the Convention Center. The party included the launch of an exciting new venture: Sinaloa Tour.
It was a wonderful event! We were greeted personally at the door by Sandra and Hector, as well as by beautiful, traditionally dressed folkloric dancers. After a welcome speech, there were introductions by several of the municipios in southern Sinaloa. We very much enjoyed the presentation by Marcos Osuna, of El Quelite/El Mesón de los Laureanos fame. You no doubt know him and have enjoyed the terrific experience his restaurant provides. We take most all our visitors up that way for an enjoyable day trip. I know Marcos because he helped Danny with his quest to get to World Scout Jamboree. For decades he has been an incredible leader and visionary for El Quelite, working tirelessly for education, for the welfare of the local people, and to promote tourism to the town. While he spoke a bit long for my taste, he is charming, very, very funny, and incredibly inspirational. He admonished everyone in the room (primarily tour providers, artists and crafters, restaurant and hotel owners, plus government leaders and media) to:
- constantly up their skills and to behave as professionally as possible,
- to learn cross-cultural communication in order to differentiate the needs and desires of a diverse (national and international) customer base, and, interestingly to me,
- to dedicate themselves to providing new experiences for tourists: experiences they can’t get at home, and
- not to compete on price, as people will pay even in down economic times if the experience is unique and memorable,
- to be honest and AUTHENTIC, reaching into local traditions, customs, flora and fauna, being proud of it, and translating it in an accessible way to our visitors.
The representatives from El Rosario showed us two very terrific, creative ways to learn introduce a place. First, the group Sófocles, directed by Fernando Barraza, acted out with much dramatic flair two legends of the town. What a talented group, and what a terrific way to introduce and communicate the soul of a place! They followed that with the presentation of a gorgeous dress, designed by Sergio Antonio García Peinado, that showed representations of the various locations and claims to fame of the municipality. No boring talking heads today!
Cosalá was also very enjoyably represented by Gregorio Corrales , who, wearing a large sombrero and a beautiful leather zarape, sang a few traditional songs and corridos of the region for us, to the accompaniment of folkloric dancers. The music got the best of most everyone in the room, as people in the audience as well as on stage paired off to dance.
We were pleased to be able to meet Maestro Faustino Lopez Osuna, composer of our state anthem, and enjoyed the storytelling of Joaquín López Hernández, who recounted some legendary lies from the book, “El Güilo Mentiras”, written by Escuinapan author Dámaso Murúa.
Sinaloa Tour is something I’ve been looking forward to. Right now it’s only in Spanish with GoogleTranslate in a pull-down menu, but the great thing is that they have put together a bunch of information on the small towns in southern Sinaloa, to make it easier for all of us to explore and get to know them! In addition to the public-service aspect of the site (a partnership with the state), there is a commercial tour side. And again, to me it’s exciting, as they are planning tours that highlight the diversity and rich tradition that Sinaloa has to offer: religious, nature and environmental, cultural, sports, gastronomy, and adventure tourism.
At the time of this writing, the site seems to still have its glitches and typos, as with most any new launch, but I am hopeful that it will become a resource to help all of us enjoy both our gorgeous Mazatlán and the surrounding areas more fully, in the process learning more about what has been here for hundreds of years before we set foot.
Hector and Sandra, and staff, congratulations and thank you!