Tianguis Turístico—My Expo and Behind the Scenes

DSC_0036I am enormously excited and honored to have a photo exhibition at the entrance to the Mazatlán International Center during the Mexican National Tourism Fair. Honestly, beyond words lucky and blessed. With over 30,000 people attending from over 50 countries, and all of them walking through my photos to get to their meetings, workshops and conferences, it is a privilege I never would have dreamed of!

The exhibition is entitled, “Mazatlán: City of Contrasts,” and is comprised of 19 photos plus my biography and the exhibit overview. CULTURA Mazatlán commissioned 10 new outdoor mounts for the exhibition, structures which will now be available for other outdoor art exhibitions. They look great! I hope you’ll agree.

We set up yesterday with Maritza and Don Gus from CULTURA. They worked past midnight last night, and today it all looks beautiful. THANK YOU all so very, very much, from the bottom of my heart I appreciate you! Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

While we were up at the convention center today, we took a tour around. Many of you  have asked if “normal people” can get in. As I explained in a previous post, the event is for tourism and hospitality professionals and is primarily a business event. You can buy a US$150 ticket to attend, though that doesn’t get you entry to the private dinners and shows; those are by invitation only. For the first time in the 21 year history of the Tourism Fair, there are several events open to the public—that is because our local and state officials made that happen. See my previous article for details. Note also that I’ve seen people advertising on Facebook that Credence Clearwater Revisited is at 2:00 pm. The official press release we received says it’s at 8:00 pm, though I’d recommend you get there by 6:00 pm as it’ll be crowded.

Anyway, the convention center is completely transformed from the usual. They have built a huge new building on the back yard, they have built loads of new walls and rooms inside, and many of the huge promotional stands are still being built. There is a food court outside at the entrance, another one upstairs, and they are LOCAL PROVIDERS! Woot woot! Fish Market, Muchacho Alegre, Pedro y Lola, Wing’s Army, Costa Marinera and Carnitas El Bigotes.

Here are some photos of the inside of the fair at the convention center, which they are still setting up. The temporary building they built in the back has a grand entrance opening up to the Sinaloa state stand. That portion contains stands for each state of the Republic.

That new temporary outdoor building has a second section with stands for private enterprise: hotel chains, tour operators, travel agencies, bus lines, airlines, car rentals, beer companies, etc. The lower level indoor room contained more of those private stands, but off to the side of the main thoroughfare.

The upper level ballrooms are equipped for workshops, speeches and meetings, as is the upper mezzanine.

One thing I absolutely LOVED is that upstairs they have a display of footballs—NFL style footballs—decorated by indigenous people from all over Mexico. Excellent exhibition of art, play, creativity and indigenous pride!

I know everyone living downtown is having a hard time as they are taking cars off the streets today and moving them to parking garages/areas, and movement will be restricted during the inauguration tomorrow (Sunday) evening in the theater and Olas Altas. Let’s all remember it’s for a good cause, a chance to show our pride in and love for our fair city and state, and to showcase it on the world stage!

 

Fun and Discovery Just Outside the City!

Map annotated.pngVisitors and residents alike love all that Mazatlán has to offer: beaches, architecture, music, dancing, art, incredible ocean views and sunsets par none. Looking away from the Pacific to the east, however, we are also blessed with the Sierra Madres. And in the Sierras are a whole lot of historic mining towns that offer a tranquil feast for the eyes and heart. Plus, we have gorgeous coastal towns near us to the south and north, as well. If you tire of city life or are just looking for something different to do for a day trip or the weekend, you are in luck!

The Sierras have historic mining towns offering a tranquil feast for the eyes and the heart. We also have gorgeous coastal towns near us to the south and north.

I have put together a map of some of the most scenic and interesting nearby towns. However, on the way to and in between each of the places I’ve marked on the map are loads of other pueblos and farming communities that would welcome your visit. Sinaloans are famously friendly and welcoming; once you’ve reached your destination, be sure to speak with the locals and they’ll show you things you never would have learned about otherwise.

Most every small town has a central plaza, on which you’ll find the church and the municipal building. It’s worth visiting the local bakery and tortillería as well as the cemetery. Most pueblos have cobblestone streets, so wear your walking shoes. The towns I list lie in gorgeous natural surroundings, be it rivers, estuaries, mountains, hills or forests. The drive there (or you can take a bus or charter a tour van) will be scenic, as Sinaloa is the “breadbasket” of Mexico, with loads of farms (vegetables, fruit, seafood). Most of the mining towns in the Sierras were at one time very wealthy, so you will see outstanding architecture and the juxtaposition of former opulence with decay and lack of maintenance, along with tiled roofs and adobe dwellings.

mazatlan-villa-union1204The closest town to us and the one most everyone knows because it’s just past the exit to the airport is Villa Unión. This was actually the first location of Mazatlán when it was established by royal decree in 1596 and called El Presidio de San Juan Bautista. It wasn’t until 1831 that our current name and location were established. A quick 30-minute drive or longer bus ride will get you to Villa Unión, where you can enjoy the historic textile factory, wander around scenic streets where they sell homemade tamales, tortillas and other savories, or visit the famous Cuchupeta’s seafood restaurant.

_DSC7646©Driving up into the hills from Villa Unión you will find Mesillas and Concordia, two woodworking villages popular with locals and tourists. Mesillas is about a 45-minute drive and Concordia is just beyond it. Concordia was founded in 1565 and its San Sebastian church was built in 1785. yYu can eat the renowned raspados or shaved ice, sit in the giant chair in the plaza for a photo op, eat at any of several restaurants, climb to the top of the federal palace, visit several handicrafts galleries, the hot springs, or visit the nearby Mayo (indigenous) town of Jacobo. Take highway 15 south to Villa Unión and switch to the highway 40 free road.

Sinaloans are famously friendly; be sure to speak with locals and they’ll show you things you would never have learned about otherwise.

copalaPast Concordia and about an hour and a half from Mazatlán is Copala, one of my personal favorites. Also founded in 1565 and lying at 2000 feet above sea level, there is not a lot to do here: since the new highway to Durango was built not many tourists stop by, but the combination of old mining riches and modern-day decay are incredibly charming, and the town is really peaceful! I love the church, built in 1748, which is very ornate. The people of the town have gotten together to restore it and the surrounding cobblestone streets. Copala is the home of this region’s famous banana cream pie, which I figure is a Midwestern USA tradition learned by Daniel, the restaurant owner’s, first wife. He is no longer with us, but you can find the pie, or knockoffs, most places. There is a mining museum, the town’s children carve wood to sell to the tourists, there is a restaurant and a couple of places to spend the night, including Casa de Piedra.

Picachos_DSC7441©North of Concordia and north of Mazatlan on a dirt road is the infamous place where so many people were displaced by the flooding from the new dam: Presa (Dam) Picachos. The 25,000-acre lake is at 550 feet above sea level and has quickly become an international bass and fishing haven. But even if you don’t fish it’s well worth the drive, as the water glistens clear blue and with the mountains hovering over the lake the views are gorgeous. It’s about an 80-minute drive from Mazatlán. There are two ways to get there. If you are coming from Concordia, take highway 5-17 which is a little on the rustic side. A more comfortable drive is to take 510 or 512 out of Villa Union. This route has the advantage of bringing you through the lovely farming town of Siqueros with its terrific riverside play area, and the famous El Recodo, for which our internationally famous hometown band is named.

LaNoria DSC_0104©When you’re done at Presa Picachos, take a quick drive to La Noria, founded in 1565 and another of my favorite towns. Here you’ll find leather workshops (great to buy belts and sandals) and fresh cheese makers, the guy who makes the barrels for the tequila distillery, a machete maker and pottery. Nearby is Los Osuna distillery, the Huana Coa zip line, El Habal Ranch, and a fun country-style restaurant with a petting zoo and outdoor play area for kids and adults called La Vaca Lupe. They hold occasional rodeos and the adobe homes are really picturesque. La Noria is about 45 minutes northeast of Mazatlán. To get there directly from Mazatlan, take highway 15 north to El Habal and turn right, following the signs.chara pintaIf you head up to the Concordia area, you might want to visit the Tufted Jay Preserve (Reserva Chara Pinta). It’s about 90 minutes from Mazatlán, and is absolutely gorgeous for bird watching, hiking and star gazing. The reserve has cabins you can rent, though you need to plan for your own meals (groups of ten or more can reserve the cook). Take highway 40 (free road) and exit before El Palmito—best to map this ahead of time.

El Quelite DSC_0557©A bit farther to the north of Mazatlan is everyone’s go-to town, El Quelite, full of colorful, picturesque homes and buildings. Here you’ll see tiled roofs with cacti growing out of them and loads of gorgeous gardens. The Doc’s Mesón de los Laureanos is a favorite restaurant and there are a couple of other good ones as well, plus a cock-fighting farm, a bakery, a famed local ice cream shop, a couple of crafts galleries, a boutique and homemade candies. Once in a while they play the ancient indigenous game of ulama here. El Quelite is about a 40-minute drive; head northwest on highway 15 (free road) and watch for the turnoff.

Rancho Palomas DSC_0095©Just before the turnoff to El Quelite you will pass by the inland part of Meseta de Cacaxtla, a 125,000-acre nature preserve and home to our state’s best ecotourism. Just off highway 15, you can make reservations to visit Rancho Las Palomas. Here they have several blinds for observing wildlife, and the really great thing is they have automatic cameras installed, so the animals are accustomed to flash at night. If you want to take night photos of the animals it’s best to spend the night. Accommodations are rustic but comfortable (bring a sleeping bag; they have cots and running water).

DSC_0107Labradas©Heading out to the coast north of Mazatlán is Las Labradas, the National Cultural Heritage site with over 640 pre-Colombian oceanside petroglyphs on 1200 feet of shoreline, dating back 4500 years! You’ll find a wonderful museum there plus an archeologist from INAH (National Institute of Archeology and History) to answer questions, and the nearby town of Chicayota has some basic services. Las Labradas is about an hour’s drive, and the road out to it is now, thankfully, paved. Take highway 15 (toll road) to highway 20 north, and you’ll see the exit just before Dimas.

Piaxtla DSC_0055©Near Las Labradas on another, unpaved road to the coast is Barras de Piaxtla, a quaint fishing village where you can dine on lobster till your heart’s content, stay at Gail’s gorgeous La Rosa de las Barras cabins, enjoy spectacular views, pristine beaches, cliffs and a natural stone arch.

San IgnacioFinishing out north of Mazatlán, we have the very interesting small town of San Ignacio. It takes about an hour and 10 minutes to get there, was founded in 1633, and has a mission founded in 1748. San Ignacio is famous for its gigantic statue of Jesus. It has two churches, my personal favorite—hot springs, a river for picnicking and playing, and several restaurants including the delightfully rustic Cuata’s on the left as you enter town. There is also the Hotel Anjolin. Head north on highway 15 (free road) and turn off at Coyotitán.

CosaláA bit farther north and up into those Sierras (1200 feet) you’ll find Cosalá, which was Sinaloa state’s first Pueblo Mágico or Magic Town, so designated in 2005. It was also our state capital in the early 1800s and home to the state’s first newspaper. Another mining town, this one founded in 1550 (as Real de las Minas de Nuestra Señora de las Once Mil Virgenes de Cosalá), here you’ll find winding streets, hotels, two churches and two convents, restaurants including the very good El Pueblito, and several nature sanctuaries: a macaw (guacamaya) preserve—Nuestra Señora Mundo Natural—with cabañas and zip line; Vado Hondo park with three waterfalls and natural pools; San José de las Bocas with hot springs; plus caves and fishing in the reservoir. Cosalá has lots of ghost stories, especially about the Casa Hernández Arragón. Nearby in El Rodeo lives a gentleman famous for making papaya jam (conserva). My favorite time to visit Cosalá is during the Fiesta de la Velas or the Candle Festival on Virgin of Guadalupe Day in early December. Cosalá is where Luis Perez Meza was born. It is a bit over a two-hour drive from Mazatlán; there is a hotel and the cabins at the macaw preserve, so making a weekend of it can also be a lot of fun. To get there take highway 15 (free road) north to Cruz de Elota and turn inland following the signs. Along the way, you will pass the famous El Salto Lodge, home to incredible bass fishing on another lake of the same name. I don’t fish, but I understand this is the place to go.

caimaneroHeading south from Villa Unión along the coast you will go through the darling town of Walamo and then hit the gorgeous beaches of Caimanero. There isn’t much to see or do here unless it’s shrimping/frasca season; then you will eat till you burst and be delighted watching the shrimpers with their handheld tarraya nets. We love a day trip to Caimanero, however, because the drive is so beautiful and the pescado zarandeado / barbecued fish that you eat in one of the restaurants on the beach there is to die for. When you walk in, choose the fish you want and the chef will cook it right up. There are also two huge inland lagunas in Caimanero that are home to over 20,000 shore birds! Caimanero is just over an hour from Mazatlán. The beaches are not good for swimming as the surf is so rough, but you will be glad you went! The restaurants serve every type of seafood.

retablo-rosario-tripticoInland from Caimanero is the well-known town of El Rosario, birthplace of ranchera singer Lola Beltrán and home of both the gold-leaf altar (dating to 1750 it is beautifully maintained) and Sinaloa’s favorite soda, Tonicol. El Rosario is one of the easiest day trips from Mazatlán. Both Lola’s house and the church are worth a visit; the town is charming. El Rosario was founded in 1655 and was the most important mining town in Sinaloa for centuries. There is a family here that makes gourd art, and you might want to ask to see the famous “Tigresa,” a Xoloitzcuintle (famous Mexican dog breed) that has achieved near sacred status as she accompanies the dead to be buried. El Rosario is just under an hour from Mazatlán on highway 15 south past Villa Unión.

chametla

This whole area is one of my favorites, because the mangrove swamps and estuaries have not yet been ruined and they are gorgeous! Nearby Rosario is Chametla, beside the river and among the hills. You can hike up the 365 steps to Devil’s Cave and see a spectacular view, and make an educational visit to the archeology museum there. Chametla is actually the most important archeological site in northwestern Mexico; here the Totorames were living when Hernan Cortés arrived. There are at least 22 pre-Hispanic towns near Chametla and the town itself has two pyramids: one on the site of the church, another at the cemetery. Their town festival is in late January.

Most every small town has a central plaza, on which you’ll find the church and the municipal building. It’s worth visiting the local bakery and tortillería as well as the cemetery. Most pueblos have cobblestone streets, so wear your walking shoes.

escuinapa

Just south of Chametla lies Escuinapa, another wonderful day or weekend trip. Here you will find those wonderful barcinas, the straw balls to hold and preserve shrimp that are a typical handicraft of our area. Escuinapa has incredible mango plantations that you can arrange to tour, it’s home to a university and a couple of hotels, and it’s close to the Tepehuan (indigenous) town of El Trébol. It’s about an hour and a half drive from Mazatlán.

teacapan©Another few minutes south is Teacapán, home to the Mexican Pacific’s largest coastal mangrove forest, the Marismas Nacionales. The estuary here continues for over 30 miles and is a pristine habitat for herons, spoonbills, storks and cormorants! The views are gorgeous: you look out to a peninsula beyond the estuary before the ocean. You can take a boat ride through the mangroves and see the historic shell mounds, eat at the botanero, go bird watching or kayaking, or visit the migrant worker village. The beaches are outstanding and dolphins are known to come up the river. It is also the gateway to Jacques Cousteau’s famous Isla Isabel National Park and bird preserve. There are several hotels and restaurants, so it’s another great place for a weekend stay.

Do remember to drive only during daylight hours, and if you have a local friend, ask them to join you! You’ll have a day of delight and discovery, I am sure!

So Proud of Sinaloa!

TTingSinaloa is shaking things up and leading the way for Mexico, people!

Mexico’s National Tourism Fair—the Tianguis Turístico—is a business event. It was designed as such and since its inception has always been a closed event for the elite of the world’s tourism and hospitality industries. The fair’s days are filled with business meetings, conferences, networking and deal making. It is normally all about work, and not much play. Below is from the Tianguis website; excuse the strange English—national tourism could obviously benefit from some fluent English speakers!

Tianguis Turistico is the most important event of the tourism sector in Mexico, where entrepreneurs, hoteliers, travel agents, in-bound operators, tour operators, meeting planners and specialized media of the tourist industry from more than 80 countries in the world, gather to concrete business appointments with all the destinations of the country, being the most representative event for the commercialization of the Mexican tourist offer.

Leave it to my beloved Sinaloa to change all that! April 15-18, 2018, when Mazatlán hosts the event, the Tianguis will still include loads of private business meetings, but it will also include two of the things that Sinaloa is most famous for — COMMUNITY and FUN! Our Sinaloa, making things better than ever!

We’ve all moaned about the construction city-wide that has preceded the Tourism Fair—its been year of noise, dust and inconvenience—and we’re all excited about the fact that our hometown will be showcased as the tourist gem that it is. Now that the event is close, however, I’ve heard quite a few people complain that the Tianguis events are private and not open to the public, after all the suffering we’ve been through.

While business access to the event starts at $200USD if you pay before April , this year there will be some very cool events that are indeed open to the public. Our Governor, Secretary of Tourism and Director of Cultura say they wanted to be more inclusive of the local community.

So, what events can we all get into without a ticket or invitation? They are in bold type in the chronological list of events, below.

Saturday April 14th at 8 pm near the Fisherman’s Monument everyone is invited to a free concert by “Credence Clearwater Revisited.” Don’t expect John Fogerty, but CCR members Doug Clifford on drums and Stu Cook on bass will be there, along with another expected 30,000 people.

Opening night on Sunday April 15th at 6 pm—invitation only—includes a spectacle that will rock the Angela Peralta Theater, including a brief 10-15 minute Cirque du Soleil show and remarks from the President of the Republic, Enrique Peña Nieto.

After the event’s opening 1200 invitation-only “Captains of Industry” will dine al fresco along Paseo de Olas Altas beginning at 8 pm. They will be served dinner from seven different kitchens located between the Escudo and the Deer Monument. Security will be tight, as Mexico’s President EPN will be there. This is the night when there will be a VERY abbreviated 15-float Carnaval parade as well as a VERY short Combate Naval. The latter, I have been told, will last only 10-15 minutes, also. Sunday evening will include entertainment that will begin with opera from around the world, continue with Mexican music, and end with banda and other Sinaloa music. Performances will include:

  • Alexandr Borodín’s “Polovtsian Dances” from the opera, Prince Igor; “Woman is Fickle” from Giuseppe Verde’s opera, Rigoletto; “Love is a Rebellious Bird” or “Habanera” and also “Toreador” from Georges Bizet’s opera, Carmen; “Oh My Dear Daddy” from the opera, Gianni Schicchi by Giacomo Puccini.
  • Songs of Pedro Infante, Lola Beltrán, Juan Gabriel and José Alfredo Jiménez as well as mariachi music.

I am so very pleased to know that our local artistic and performance talent will be front and center, including the orchestra, the camerata, Delfos, the adult and youth choruses, and a banda created just for this event, called Puro Sinaloa! 2018 is also the first Tianguis in history that will showcase the culture and talent of the hosting city and state.

The Tianguis will be based at the Mazatlán Convention Center. I was out there two days ago, and they have built a two-story building in the back yard to house the multitude of meeting rooms that will be required for this huge event. I’m also very pleased to report that photos from my “Yo Soy Fuereña, Nací de Aquí Muy Lejos” exhibit, in Galería Peralta now through 14 April, will be reprinted and mounted at the entrance to the Convention Center, to welcome Tianguis visitors to Mazatlán.

Monday through Wednesday are mostly business meetings, but at 1 pm Monday afternoon Steve Wozniak will speak. Monday evening at 7 pm in Centro Histórico the states of Querétaro, San Luis Potosí, Zacatecas, Guanajuato and Aguascalientes will put on an artisan fair and festival that will be open to the public. Simultaneously there will be an invitation-only reception in the Plazuela Machado. But, the fact that it’s invitation-only doesn’t mean the public can’t enjoy the events from and on the outside of the perimeter!

Tuesday at 8 pm my favorite hometown band, La Falsa Orquesta Cubana, will play dance music in the Plazuela Machado, and public opportunities to enjoy the event will finish up on Wednesday evening from 8 – 10 pm with the music of Suncaí Gitano,  a presentation of the Circo Machado, and the voice of Heidi Herrera.

I know I’m still surrounded by construction on all four sides, with noise and dust 24/7; a short respite will be more than welcome. Enjoy!

Parque Central / Central Park Update

4d55d780179b1adbc4563c98da8f4dc1I announced the new Central Park to you back in 2014, to be built on the site of the current Bosque de la Ciudad in front of the baseball stadium. Plans, naturally, have changed significantly since then, as you can see on its new website. The developers are excellent marketers, the designs are very modern and world-class, and I know this will be a huge boon to tourism and hopefully to schoolchildren and the general community in Mazatlán.

Construction of the Avenida de la Bahía and the park thus far have been a total destruction of the environment, preceded by the burning of the laguna which murdered thousands of turtles, nesting birds, iguanas and badgers, then by filling in nearly two-thirds of it. The one saving grace is that the new avenue will provide much-needed parking for those nearly 1000 spaces lost when they remodeled the malecón, and it will provide access during the sporting events (marathon, triathlon, etc.) that so often close the Avenida del Mar.

We have reported on concrete mixers and painters cleaning out their trucks into the estuary with zero regard for the environment. Our video on that was shared tens of thousands of times, to no avail. The road is nearly done now, and the estuary is nearly completely filled in with reclaimed land. The builders have a lovely video on their site where they show a biologist relocating some of the animals from the current Bosque de la Ciudad to make room for construction.

It looks like the plan is to completely scrape out the existing lagoon and build small islands that will be accessible by paddle boat to visitors. Our current park is a habitat to so many large migrant birds; I do pray they will continue to visit the new man-made, modern lagoon.

29026143_372591056540591_2321390279724105728_o

The new park does look lovely if you don’t think about the flooding that it is most likely to cause. I hope it will be accompanied by civic education around litter and the environment as they’ve said, because otherwise those small islands in the pond are going to become trash heaps. Good news is that designs include water circulation to keep things fresh, and hopefully lots of trash cans and cleaning staff.

I love that the new 5 million liter aquarium, which looks like it will completely replace the old one, will have an exhibit dedicated to Jacques Cousteau, champion of the Sea of Cortés, though no doubt he is turning in his grave to know the environmental destruction leading up to its construction. Greg is excited for the Food Truck Park and the promise it brings.

 

I am excited about the museum as well, designed to look like an oyster, since we are the “Pearl of the Pacific.” It is supposed to contain an IMAX theater and the second floor will have a killer view of the ocean, supposedly, though I think we have so many towers on the malecón that that could be challenging. Best part? The map seems to show it occupying the corner of Insurgentes and Avenida del Mar, where Geronimo’s has stood vacant for how many years. Will be great to get rid of that eyesore!

Plans still include two walkways from the park out to the malecón, which would be hugely welcome to all those who enjoy sports and the outdoors. I’m confident the park will be a huge boon to the city, as long as we can keep it clean and maintained. I remain saddened that “development” has to mean “destruction of nature.”

Festival of Lights 2018

DSC_0726©You know I love fireworks, and my favorites of the year here in Mazatlán tend to be the Festival de la Luz, because TEN THOUSAND fireworks are launched 300 meters into the air from FIFTEEN locations over FOUR KILOMETERS along the malecón, lighting up the city’s boardwalk. These fireworks normally take place during Maratón del Pacífico, but they were delayed this year. This tenth annual event included 2-1/2 TONS of 20 different kinds of fireworks at a cost of 1,300,000 pesos, and lasted a full thirty minutes. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

This year was a challenge photographically. High tide during launch meant the beach was off limits. Brisk wind meant that shooting from the south was out of the question—that is where the smoke headed. So, I set up north of the viewing area, which was less than ideal for a good view.

I was blessed to be joined by a good friend and three visiting Colombian artists, so we enjoyed a good time. I set up both my cameras, though my intervalometer decided not to work, so having two cameras made for a busy viewing. I won’t be repeating that anytime soon.

I trust you were able to enjoy the show. Many, many thanks to José Ramón Manguart Sánchez, Tres Islas Hotel Association, Secretaria de Turismo Sinaloa, and the municipal authorities!