2019 Camerata Campbell Series

49342979_740819989631643_5173177263516024832_o.jpg

The 2019 Temporada Campbell started off with a bang—a Big Bang. Entitled “The Big Bang Without the Theory,” the outstanding percussion concert did include a bit of theory after all. Click any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Quick! Do you know how many types of percussive instruments there are? Two main categories: membranophones and idiophones. And what differentiates the two?

The Camerata’s Percussion Ensemble has played for us before, and they always astound—especially because they are so young to be so incredibly talented!

Mazatlán, we are in luck, as this was the first concert of this Sunday at Noon series, which continues through the end of February. Do NOT miss getting your tickets and enjoying a Sunday afternoon of pleasurable music followed by a lunch al fresco in historic downtown. February 27th should be of particular interest to our readers. See you in the theater!

City Nature Challenge

43676323_731335040547404_6810896483013885952_oOutdoor enthusiasts, environmentalists and photographers delight in the wealth of flora and fauna to be found in Mazatlán. Now we have a terrific chance to let the world know about the incredible biodiversity of our urban area—we are much more than just sun and beach!

Francisco Farriols Sarabia, local naturalist guru, along with our Faculty of Marine Sciences have registered Mazatlán for the City Nature Challenge 2019, or Reto Mundial de la Naturaleza Urbana. The effort is officially supported by the Secretary of Tourism (SECTUR) and the National Commission on Biodiversity (CONABIO). The goal is to put us firmly on the international ecotourism map. I hope that you, your friends and family will join in as citizen ecologists! If you are a teacher, let’s get the students involved, too! There is a nice online education toolkit. Let’s do this! Let’s put Mazatlán on the map for good reason!

The challenge will take place April 26-29, 2019, and there will be several pre-event warm-ups or “BioBlitzes.” To participate you’ll need your cell phone or a camera and the iNaturalist app—you can install it on your phone and/or register and use via your desktop on a web browser. If you prefer to work in Spanish, the fully synched Mexican equivalent is Naturalista.mx.

City Nature Challenge is an initiative started in 2016 as a friendly competition between Los Angeles and San Francisco during Citizen Science Day. The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the California Academy of Sciences wanted to highlight urban biodiversity in their cities, and asked residents and tourists alike to help them document it. The multi-day effort met with such success that, three years later, over 100 cities worldwide are registered to participate! Their website states that in 2016:

Over 20,000 observations were made by more than 1000 people in a one-week period, cataloging approximately 1600 species in each location, including new records for both areas. During the 2016 CNC, we heard so much excitement and interest from people in other cities that we decided we couldn’t keep to the fun just to ourselves. In 2017 the City Nature Challenge went national, and in 2018, the CNC became an international event!

I first learned about City Nature Challenge back on October 13th, when Paco (Francisco) held a meeting of local photographers up at Estero del Yugo, to help get the effort started. Since then Paco has decided to hold mini-challenges, to help more people become involved and ready for the big effort.

48380454_2035974423369486_863078217911631872_oThe second BioBlitz or mini-challenge will be held at the lighthouse beginning 8-11am on Saturday January 12th. Register with inaturalist.org and bring your cell phone or camera of your choice. Together we’ll have fun, get out, breathe some fresh air and get some exercise, and learn a bit more about our local flora and fauna. It’ll be a great way to get trained and prepared for the main challenge in April!

iNaturalist.org is a really cool platform where normal people like you and me can register photos we take of plants, animals, insects or marine life. We upload a photo we’ve taken, along with the place and the date on which we captured the pic. If you know what the plant or animal is, you label it. If not, somebody who does know will fill it in for you, and you can “accept” their ideas and recommendations, or choose which one is correct. In this way we all learn a bit, and scientists are able to track migration routes and the proliferation of different species. Paco himself has more than 35,000 identifications and 2200 species registered! Me? I have about ten…

I hope you’ll join me, both on the January 12th and in April for the main event! Please help me get the word out by sharing this and inviting your friends and family to join in! Together we can build more ecological awareness and care in our fair city.

Nearly Secret Gem of an Overnight Trip

DSC_5157The December party season is exhausting. After the holiday, wouldn’t it feel wonderful to chill out for a couple of days in the middle of a spectacularly biodiverse rain forest, in a large, clean cabin with killer views, incredible stargazing, a full kitchen and all the modern amenities?

Every year tourists from over 25 countries are drawn to this very spot, home to a world-renowned breeding program for green macaws, aiming to rescue them from extinction. This gorgeous nature preserve has a semi-Olympic pool, tennis court, dozens of kilometers of hiking trails, waterfalls, petroglyphs, a museum, aviary and several climactic zones. You’ll witness breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, and amazing stargazing both with your naked eyes as well as through an astronomical observatory telescope.

How far do you have to travel to get to this magical place? Costa Rica? Malaysia? Chiapas? No, the Reserva Ecológica de Nuestra Señora Mundo Natural is right here in Sinaloa, just three hours by car or bus from Mazatlán—twelve kilometers east of Cosalá. It’s home to the most important macaw rescue program in northwestern Mexico, a two kilometer long zip line that is the second highest in the country (500 meters), and an astronomic observatory that partners with observatories in Russia, Chile and New Mexico to monitor near-Earth asteroids and space junk.

Not only is the nature preserve nearby, it’s affordable—because it’s part of our state university, UAS: Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa. A three-bedroom cabin (for eight people) with loads of natural light, air conditioning and a full kitchen costs 3000 pesos/night; they also have hotel and hostel rooms for 800 pesos/night. You’ll want to be sure and spend the night: the reserve closes to the public at 5 pm and opens at 10 am, so sunrise, sunset, moon and star gazing are not available to day visitors but only to those smart enough to spend some time here. The wild macaws are also best seen at dawn and dusk, yet another reason to spend the night here.

The 60,000 annual visitors to the reserve come for the incredible biodiversity of the area. You may also meet some of the domestic and international scholars conducting research here from Guadalajara, UNAM in Mexico City, Brazil, Chile, Spain and the UK. Fauna you’ll probably see include the green macaws that the area is famous for, plus white-tailed deer, coati, ocelots, lilac-crowned parrots, iguanas, gray hawks, owls, and a few things you may want to avoid: rattlesnakes and tarantulas. Flora-wise there are loads of braziles, amapas, mautos, moras, higueras, apomos, flor de Santiago, sabinos, rosarillas y papelillos and mangos. Should you wish to hold a workshop, large meeting or party here, there is even a conference center with closed circuit TV, a restaurant and space for up to 200 people!

During my visit there were several groups of students visiting from UAS. They conducted research in nature during the day and enjoyed pizza parties at the pool in the afternoon. There was a large family reunion, with family members coming from different states to meet up here, just outside Cosalá. Quite a few area businesses conduct employee-training programs here, and the reserve plays host to religious retreats, as well.

The General Manager of the reserve, José Alfredo Leal Orduño, was kind enough to spend a few hours touring me around the property and facilities. He spends the work week in Culiacán, but is at the reserve on the weekends. Leal told me that when UAS was founded in 1968, Governor Sánchez Celis gave the fully functioning reserve property—including hot water, electricity, a huge freezer and about 85 cabins—the equivalent of 260 hotel rooms—to the university as a source of income. It seems the property owner, a mining company, was delinquent on taxes; their loss was the university’s gain. The university, however, proceeded to nearly completely neglect the facility for the next forty years. By the time Leal took over, looting had destroyed 75 of the original cabins. What remained were the two haciendas on the property, which had been used by the mine superintendents, and the service buildings. The original structures were remodeled to become the cabins, hotel and hostel we see today. The rooms are a pleasant mixture of historic, rustic beauty on the outside and modern convenience and aesthetics on the inside.

DSC_4959

José Alfredo Leal Orduño, General Manager of the Reserva

All cabins have hot and cold running water, air conditioning, private bath, and a full kitchen with refrigerator/freezer, stove, microwave and coffee maker. While you have a kitchen and can cook when you wish, if you let staff know ahead of time they will arrange for a local woman to come in and cook meals for your party. There are large decks as well as lookouts and rest areas where you can read a book or watch the nature around you. The cabins are accessible by car, making this an enjoyable respite for the mobility impaired, and the reserve’s 18 employees stand ready to help.

If you are physically fit you can take an early morning hike with a biologist from the lower Habitas River Valley, with its mines, petroglyphs and waterfalls, all the way up to the top of the Sierras, through several climactic zones. The reserve is on the border between Sinaloa and the state of Durango.

When is the best time to visit? Leal says it’s winter, November to May, the dry season. Anytime between June and October is when the rain forest is in full regalia, the river is at its highest and the waterfalls their most powerful. He showed me videos of a thunderstorm taken from within a cabin and it was absolutely beautiful—the sound of fresh, wet summer air! Macaw courting season is in February and March, which should be quite the experience, though Semana Santa is always sold out months ahead of time.

60% of the reserve’s visitors are from Culiacán, with a very small percentage from Mazatlán. That is strange to me, since the two cities are equidistant from the nature preserve. What a loss that mazatlecos don’t take better advantage of this terrific public resource! I trust you’ll help me change that reality by visiting soon.

The Reserve is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm, though I urge you to spend the night. To make your reservations call (696) 9650306 between 9 am and 1 pm or 4 – 7 pm (English spoken).

Lighthouse Update & Event of the Season!

DSC_4453Readers, many of you share my love of the lighthouse. Every season of the year it has natural wonders to share, breathtaking views, and provides us a good place to exercise and breathe clean air. Do you also love :

  • Historic properties, elegantly restored, surrounded by gardens and furnished with antiques?
  • Great views of our bay and port, with the city at your feet?
  • Creative cocktails served at a modern Victor de Rueda-designed bar by a trained mixologist?
  • Getting into a private, luxurious facility that you can’t normally get into?

On Thursday, December 20th you can experience all of the above while watching a killer mazatlecan sunset with a bunch of other cool and civic-minded people—for the benefit of our beloved lighthouse.

162a8658-402d-499f-b8f3-006ce322f834

Noche de Luz (Night of Light) will take place at the Observatorio Histórico de Mazatlán, atop Cerro del Vigía, overlooking the lighthouse on Cerro del Crestón. Cocktails and canapés will be served from 5 pm, and a concert including classical, Mexican and Christmas music will be performed by baritone José Adán Pérez, mezzosoprano Sarah Holcombe and soprano Rebeca de Rueda, accompanied by Michiyo Morikawa on piano. The performance is scheduled to start at 6 pm, and it’s all to benefit the Patronato Parque Natural Faro de Mazatlán. The promotional video is below.

Tickets are 800 pesos and can be purchased in Centro Histórico (Plaza Machado) at La Tramoya (4-11 pm) or at Deco Designs (Camarón Sábalo 610-5, tel 669-916-5393). Raul Rico’s Vivace Producciones is in charge, so we are sure to enjoy a super show. In order to avoid use of styrofoam and other environmentally unfriendly disposables, logo’d mugs designed by Emilia Igartúa will be available for sale. Do not miss it, or your access to this incredible private property! The event site has very limited parking, so attendees are asked to park at SAT (the old aduana/customs house on Venustiano Carranza and Miguel Alemán) and take a shuttle to and from the observatory. Shuttles will start running at 4:30 pm.

The observatory where the concert will take place was built in the 1800s, according to my friend and local historian, Joaquín Hernandez, designed by Friaco Quijano when our city was still called “Mazatlán de los Mulatos.” It was constructed as a lookout for pirates, at a time when many of the tunnels around downtown were dug—as hiding places for gold and silver from the mines in the Sierras as well as escape routes for the wealthy in case of attack. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

When I first visited the Observatory a couple of decades ago it was in complete ruin, though still beautiful. Some years back Amado Guzmán purchased the property and he has both restored and significantly upgraded it, adding antique nautical furnishings, historical photos, comfortable dining and seating areas and a full bar. The bar is now staffed by a bilingual mixologist during events! My apologies for the fuzzy night shots, but I was out all day and did not have my tripod with me, so we tested my handheld abilities.

The Observatory provides nearly a 360 degree view of Mazatlán, the port and the bay. It is a private party place used only for the elite as well as family and close friends, so those attending Noche de Luz will be quite lucky.

I very much enjoyed interviewing María Esther Juarez, presidenta of the new civil organization “Patronato del Parque Natural Faro de Mazatlán” that takes care of the lighthouse. Since their formation we’ve already seen installation of three new webcams (with a fourth coming soon), funded by Javier Lizarraga Galindo, which provide a 360 degree view of our city 24/7/365. It’s kind of fun to watch the waves crash, the weather change, and the planes take off and land, via the internet. Ten of the key points Esther told me during our interview include:

  1. Public bathrooms, funded by the municipality, are being built at the bottom of the lighthouse at government expense. There is no water at the top, so no bathrooms there yet.
  2. Though Governor Quirino has scheduled the sewage plant at the foot of the lighthouse to be moved out to Stone Island within the next year, planning restaurants and tourist shops designed primarily for cruise ship passengers in its place, the new municipal government has recently vetoed the plan.
  3. Funds from Noche de Luz will be used to (properly repair and) finish the recently redone trails up the hill. The paths will be covered with a natural-looking surface called tucuruguay (you can see it at Parque Ciudades Hermanas/Sister Cities Park), which will be put over the top of the current gravel held on by the geocelda or plastic netting, assuming current tests of the product prove it appropriate.
  4. The zip line is still being planned, with the state coordinating the concession.
  5. The lighthouse keepers will soon be getting uniforms!
  6. The roundabout at the entrance to the lighthouse will be finished very nicely, and a gate installed.
  7. A fence to keep people away from the glass bridge when it is not open is planned.
  8. The patronato is currently looking into ways to make the lighthouse inclusive (accessible to the disabled, elderly, families with strollers), using the ideas and experience of Cuastecomates beach in Jalisco state.
  9. There are plans for drinking water atop the lighthouse.
  10. The patronato would like to make every November “Lighthouse Month,” as the lighthouse was first commissioned in November of 1879 (though a fire burned atop the hill and served as a lighthouse for perhaps a century before that).

The lighthouse itself is owned by API (Integral Administration of the Port), while the lighthouse hill has been thought to be federal land but may actually officially belong to the state or city; that’s part of the clarity those involved are seeking right now. The  patronato thus has to coordinate between FOUR disparate entities—federal, state, local and API—as well as listen to and involve the public. Glad that coordinating role is not mine!

So how did this new civil association come to be? There were a group of regular faro-goers who became concerned about the lack of supervision of the contractor for the lighthouse upgrades. It seems the project supervisor was a state official who only visited the site 2-3 times during the entire construction process. Thus, we have geocelda, the plastic netting on the pathways, that has already disintegrated due to a failure to install it properly. Geocelda is not intended to be used on paths with such a steep incline as we have at the faro. This same group of people was proud of the new crystal bridge and the amphitheater, but well aware how quickly and easily beautiful new installations can be trashed—witness the graffiti-covered Carpa Olivera (ocean-fed swimming pool), Glorieta Sanchez Taboada, or Parque Lineal.

Desiring to prevent neglect and vandalization, the group of civic-minded lighthouse-goers decided to form an association and went to a notario to officially register. They are all volunteer, and just last night successfully joined the much-admired JAP (Junta de asistencia privada), which is a very selective group of patronatos that ensures bookkeeping and decision making are transparent to the public.

Members of the patronato include María Esther; Elsa María López, owner of Deco; Javier Hidalgo, architect, who designed the new lighthouse installations; Alejandra Contreras (a daily visitor to the lighthouse); Balbina Herrera Medrano, who has worked for the lighthouse and API for many years); and Raquel Briseño, a researcher at UNAM. They would seem to be a group with diverse and complementary interests, and they all live locally.

I asked María Esther how our readers can help the faro. She said that soon they will have an online registry to sign up for lighthouse cleaning days (trash pickup and minor gardening). She asked that people stop feeding the feral cats at the lighthouse, as the cats have nearly eradicated the native flora and fauna. The patronato has paid to neuter most of them, but at 800 pesos per cat, they can’t afford to keep it up. Anyone interested is more than welcome to adopt one or more of the resident cats. The great news is that just yesterday the city’s Secretary of the Environment agreed they would find a solution to the problem!

I hope to see you while hiking up the lighthouse, and I also hope to see you on the 20th at the Observatory! Do NOT miss this once-in-a-lifetime event and your chance to support our beloved lighthouse!

Bless You All!

DSC_0107padreehijaOne whole chicken costs about 70 pesos. Today in the silent auction for the Desayuno de los Pollos/Chicken Breakfast YOU all helped us raise 22,500 pesos. That equals 322 chickens that will feed as many families! And that does not include the money raised by the breakfast itself, the bazaar, bake sale, gumball guessing and your donations!!! This year, for the first time ever, we added a LIVE AUCTION.

Many of the people we serve live in homes made of black garbage bags, recycled vinyl banners, or the occasional plywood. We completely make their Christmas holiday by giving them the chicken for a Christmas dinner, foodstuff/despensas for a couple of weeks, and second-hand bedding or kitchen items.

P1120977 pink ladies

There are SOOO many individuals we want to thank for helping us sell tickets and collect auction items. Special thanks this year to Jeanette and Emery Leraand, as always, Denise Thomson, the awe-inspiring Sue Parker, and our four goddaughters, the Hernandez sisters, among MANY more! Hundreds of people enjoyed the morning, with so many smiling, winning faces.

Please join us in thanking those businesses that supported this effort, by patronizing them and letting them know you appreciate their civic-mindedness:

  1. Athina Spa
  2. Aroma Spa
  3. Banda El Recodo
  4. Banda El Limón La Arolladora
  5. Barbie Dolls—Vintage Collectibles—from Helen James and Brenda Millirons
  6. Casa Canobbio
  7. Casa Etnika
  8. Casa Lucila
  9. Diamonds and Gem in the Pacific
  10. F.I.S.H.
  11. Gaia Bistrot
  12. Gregory Webb, art by Viejo Castro
  13. Gwen Tegart, handmade quilt
  14. Johnny Gunshots
  15. Marina Mazatlán Golf
  16. La Mona del Astillero
  17. Mazatlán Comedy Club
  18. Pedro y Lola
  19. Quince Letras Wrought Iron
  20. Sonrisas Calendar and Hand-crocheted Bag from Lynne Hopkins de Hernandez
  21. Sylvia Felix Painting
  22. Thru Di’s Eyes Photography
  23. Tippy Toes
  24. Venados de Mazatlán
  25. Villa Italia
  26. Vittore Restaurant

You can still make a donation by clicking on the “donate” button on the right side of this website, or contacting us. Join us the morning of December 24th to hand out the goodies, or the 10 days prior to pack up foodstuff. See you then!