Mazatlán is said to be the world’s third biggest Carnaval, spanning over a week of festivities. Each year we attend at least one of the four coronations. It’s so worth it! The pomp and circumstance, the dancing, the music. The performances involved in a coronation are comprised of hundreds of talented local young people and professionals, from visual artists, sculptors, costumers, stage designers, choreographers, musicians and dancers.
Each coronation of course involves the crowning of royalty, and it also pays homage to the sovereigns celebrating their 25-year (this year Alma Loaiza) and 50-year (Lupita Elorriaga) anniversaries. Plus, of course, there are fireworks. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.
This year’s Queen of the Floral Games is Uma I. She was crowned by the winner of the Poetry Ward, Sandra Lorenzano. In 20 years of coronations I have never seen a queen struggle as Uma did to ascend the steps to her throne. Her gorgeous gown, designed by Sodelva García and embroidered with laurel leaves, must have weighed a ton!
The coronation itself is preceded by entertainment by local dancers and musicians, and followed by a concert. Friday night’s concert theme was “Rock You,” headlined by Gloria Gaynor. At 79 years old she still belts out a tune, thanks, of course, to her back-up singers. She was impressive! The crowd sang along and danced at their seats. Héctor Ortiz and Quintero Britania were the warm-up acts. The audience ate it up, dancing and waving their lit cell phones.
You will need to purchase tickets to the coronations. There are seats on the field of the stadium, and cheaper seats in the stands. People tend to dress nicely, and a coat is recommended if it’s chilly or damp. Binoculars may also be worth taking.
One of the best musical, dance, and theatrical events of the year in Mazatlán occurs the weekend before Carnaval begins—the “Evening of the Arts.” The event makes the sold-out crowd that fills our historic Angela Peralta Theater beam with pride and delight at their good fortune to live here.
Saturday night February 11, 2023, talented Mazatlecos lit the stage of the Angela Peralta Theater on fire. In a program entitled “Pagan Love,” the night was directed by local legend, Maestro Enrique Patrón de Rueda—born, bred, and still residing right here in our port. The Maestro is Artistic Director of the Mexican National Opera Company, of the opera for the Mexico City Philharmonic, and of the Sinaloan Cultural Festival. Maestro Enrique was trained in the Mexican National Conservatory of Music, London Opera Center, the Royal Academy of Music, and Morley College. His conducting style is filled with passion and a heavy expression of emotion, as you can see in the photos below. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.
The Amor Pagano program united Mexico’s National Dance Company, founded in 1963 and the oldest in Mexico; Mazatlán’s Ballet Company, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary; Brújula Dynamic Flamenco from Michoacán; and the Camerata Mazatlán, founded in 2006.
The second Mazatlecan showcased Saturday night was Sarah Holcombe, beautiful and talented mezzosoprano, who sang the first half of the evening’s program: “Amor Brujo” by Manuel de Falla. Born here in our port, Sarah began her opera studies in our local School of Opera under another local legend, Maestra Martha Félix, in 2007. She further developed her skills in the Angela Peralta Chorus and the Gullermo Sarabia Chorus, demonstrating the high caliber of musical education available to local youth.
Director of our Municipal School of Classical Ballet, Maestra Zoila Fernández is Mazatleca by adoption and choice, though she was born and educated in Cuba. Maestra Zoila teaches students as young as seven years old in our local ballet school and sees many through to professional careers with internationally renowned companies throughout the Americas and Europe. She choreographed the program on Saturday night, including the first act’s Amor Brujo and the final act, Carmen by George Bizet. The flamenco portion of the evening’s dance was choreographed by Nashieli Buelna, another Sinaloan talent shining brightly this Evening of the Arts.
The four key dancers from the National Ballet who starred in Carmen were Ana Elisa Mena Chávez as Carmen; Argenis Montalvo as Don José; Roberto Rodríguez as Escamillo; and Martha Mariana Romero Iribe as Destiny. Their performances were breathtaking—incredible strength, flexibility and grace reminded the audience of the unbelievably perfect beauty of a healthy body. The dancers from our Mazatlán Ballet Company and the 43 talented musicians of our Camerata Mazatlán did an outstanding job, making for an incredible night.
The ostensible reason for this incredible night’s entertainment was to celebrate the winner of the Mazatlán Prize for Literature. This year the award went to David Toscana, from Monterey, for his powerful novel entitled, “The Weight of Living on Earth” (El Peso de Vivir en la Tierra).
Many of our resident foreigners and visiting international tourists love Mazatlán for its miles of beaches, her unbelievable sunsets, the warmth and joy of her people, and our wonderful seafood. Yet another reason to love Mazatlán is for the richness and affordability of her cultural arts scene. If you have not availed yourself of CULTURA’s offerings, you are definitely losing out!
Unbelievably, the Angela Peralta theater was nowhere near COVID-capacity Friday night for Delfos Contemporary Dance’s Vientos de Cambio (Winds of Change), which kicked off the 2022 Spring Season for Cultura Mazatlán. If you weren’t there, you lost out on an incredible performance! Each of the four pieces presented from the Delfos repertoire were stellar, sharing with us the emotionality, power, and drama we are privileged to expect from them.
The third dance, with only the women on stage, was what stuck with me. It hit my heart and soul hard. Each woman’s mouth was taped shut with what looked like electrical tape. They all wore ponytails and hauled and pulled one another around by the hair in disgustingly realistic ways. The performance was way too close to home. Any woman of my age has lived through the experiences portrayed in the dance. The piece culminated with the women removing their tops; their body movements and lighting were reminiscent of the best fine art nudes. At its conclusion, the audience was heard to openly gasp for air; it obviously moved most everyone the way it did me. To me the piece illustrated the pull of our patriarchal systems: how we are all victims when power is not shared; how cruel women can be to each other—something we’ve sadly absorbed from an inequitable, unjust system; and the crucial importance of sorority, equity and social justice. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.
I also loved the piece with the origami boats. The light on the white paper made them absolutely glow on the stage; I’m not sure if my photography was able to capture the wonder of the moment that the audience experienced, with dozens of origami pieces lining the stage.
Choreographers of the night’s works were Xitlali Piña and the company’s co-founder and director, Victor Manuel Ruíz. The dancers included Surasi Lavalle, Johnny Millán, Xitlali Piña, Luisa Escobosa, Diego Alcalá and Rodrigo Agraz, plus two special guests, Vanya Saavedra and Katia Rivera.
When I think of Delfos I think emotionality, power, and darkness; their lighting has a theme that, while dramatic, is very challenging to photographers. Friday night’s scenography was an event in itself, as usual; the graphic and powerful lighting, minimalist set and creative costuming were contributing stars of the show.
During the performance and as I write this article, I want to shout out how much I MISS THE PROGRAMS that for years were handed out at every performance in our theaters!!! I know they ostensibly were stopped because of COVID, but then couldn’t we perhaps be told the content by the announcer pre-performance, or read it online? I for one was eager to understand the title of and intention behind each piece, and I love knowing for sure who choreographed and performed what. EDIT: Having published this, Johnny Millán kindly sent me the program that I had been unable to locate; it had been posted on Facebook. Here it is:
The public here in Mazatlán has a lot to look forward to coming November, when Delfos will celebrate their 30th anniversary with a series of performances including Minimal, which debuted last year. The company will also perform at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City with a new piece.
So many of you have written in to ask me about the specifics of this year’s Carnaval. There are a few major changes from tradition, primarily due to COVID. The biggest is that Saturday night’s fireworks will NOT be in Olas Altas but will be launched from a dozen different locations around our bay—from Valentino’s in the north to Casa del Marino in the south. There will be quite a few barges launching fireworks to represent the French side of the battle. CULTURA has confirmed with me the 11 pm time, even though the newspapers and other outlets say 10 pm. Tradition is at 11 to give time for the queen to arrive from her coronation. The map CULTURA MZT gave me of the launch locations is below.
If you are wanting to watch the fireworks or one of the two parades, PLEASE NOTE that there are specific entry points to the malecón/oceanfront promenade. A map of those locations is below. NOTE that the first parade will go north PAST RAFAEL BUELNA (last minute change) to Gaviotas this year! Please also note that CULTURA is telling us that vaccination certificates will be required for entry. I can’t imagine that in practice with such huge crowds, but such is the official notice and you will be wise to take it along in case.
Secondly, the coronation of the King this year has moved to the baseball stadium; all the coronation events and concerts will be there. Remember that for the coronations you do need to purchase a ticket at CULTURA offices on Aleman street or at the Angela Peralta Theater ticket office.
Thirdly, the “fair” or carnival rides that normally are in the vacant lot by Sam’s Club have moved to Avenida de la Bahía, now officially called Avenida Quirino Ordaz Coppel, one block off the malecón in front of Parque Central.
Fourth, CULTURA tells me the Burning of Bad Humor will take place before Saturday’s fireworks, but they have not yet decided where exactly or what time. Thus, it is not included in my calendar.
Many of you have been complaining that this year it has been very hard to find locations and start times of events. Thus, I have confirmed and reconfirmed with CULTURA and made you a the calendar to print out, whether you want to be sure to enjoy the events or you want to stay as far away from the crowds as possible.
I’ve also received questions about the theme: “LANAO: The journey continues.” “Lanao,” to my knowledge, is a made-up word, a place of fantasy and magic. The theme thus far seems to be heavily reliant on steam punk, and involves inward journeys as well as those to fantastical places and outer space. It’s the most gorgeous and fun theme we’ve seen in a long time, so even if you’re staying away from crowds, get out and enjoy it! One way to do that is to walk or bicycle down the malecón and view the monigotes or giant statues. You can view a few photos I’ve taken of those statues by clicking here. Some of them are lit at night; so be sure to see them during daylight as well as at night.
Finally, I am offering a special edition Carnaval fantasy print for sale, “Stargazing Carnavalesco.” You can purchase it beautifully printed and mounted on marcocel (fiber board), 24 x 16 inches, for just 1000 pesos! Easy to pack in luggage as it has a hard coating and won’t mark easily. Alternatively, it can be giclée printed on archival paper, 18 x 12 inches, for 1800 pesos. Proceeds help me keep you as informed as I can and help me keep creating photographs. I appreciate your support if possible. WhatsApp +52-669-122-8962 for payment information and delivery.
UPDATE 24 February: CULTURA has said that the Burning of Bad Humor will be at 10:30 pm on Saturday, just prior to the fireworks. They have not specified a location but if you are interested, it’ll be on the malecón and you can follow the bottle rockets. Also they have scheduled a free street concert on Monday night with El Coyote. I’ve added this latter concert to the calendar.
Finally, I’m happy to say that the Mazatlán Tourism Board has called mine the “official” calendar, see email below.
Enjoy Carnaval, everyone and please, stay safe! And remember to purchase your special Carnaval print at a special price today! It helps me to continue sharing updates with you and taking the photos that gratefully so many of you love. Just WhatsApp me at 669-122-8962.
Oh, what a night! Saturday evening, November 13 in the Angela Peralta Theater our beloved and incredibly talented professional ballet company celebrated its tenth anniversary with a gala performance. The entrance to the theater was decked out in draped red velvet, there was a gorgeous candelabra stage left, the theater was packed but with social distancing and mandatory masking, and the energy and execution of the evening were terrific!
One of only four professional ballet companies in Mexico (the National Ballet in Mexico City, Monterrey and the more recently founded Youth Ballet of Jalisco), we have been blessedly spoiled by their presence in our city these past ten years. Young professional dancers from here have gone on to dance in Mexico’s National Ballet, in Monterrey, and in renowned professional companies in the USA and Europe. In the finale of the show on Saturday, students from our Municipal School of Classical Ballet joined the pros on stage, in a nod to Mazatlán’s future generations of professional dancers.
The company’s very first production seems to me like yesterday; the comedic ballet La Fille Mal Gardeé or TheWayward Daughter was performed on November 18 and 19, 2011 with costumes from Bellas Artes in Mexico City and scenography by Raúl Font. That was during a golden age of the Municipal Institute of Culture, Tourism and Art, when artists banded together under Raúl Rico González’ leadership with a goal of positioning Mazatlán as home to the highest quality cultural arts in northwest Mexico. After performing The Wayward Daughter here, the company took it to Culiacán and La Paz.
During the tenth anniversary gala on Saturday night the company’s 14 professional dancers presented eleven movements including nine pas de deux from classical, neoclassical and contemporary choreographies. The scenography was gorgeous, with classical pillars made of curtaining and a constructed bridge that, combined with changing projections on the big screen, leant themselves well to the various settings of the choreographies. Costuming was lovely with a broad variety of styles to appropriately accompany each dance.
The pieces performed were Romeo and Juliet, Le Corsaire, Thaïs, The Parting, The Flames of Paris, Adagio, Penumbra, Andante, Spiegel im Spiegel, A Mí and Venetian Carnival. Two of the pieces were accompanied by live music: violin, piano and cello. Artistic Direction was by company co-founder, Guillermo Carrillo. Sadly, Oscar Treto Hevia injured his leg tendons in rehearsals and was unable to perform; he was to be the principal male dancer in Romeo and Juliet pas de deux. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.
This is a young company, with one dancer performing professionally for the very first time, yet all danced with incredible aplomb, strength, grace and beauty given the early stages of their careers. The audience could feel the youthful joy and vigor of the dancers. Venetian Carnaval was the most substantial piece of the evening, with the full company on stage and costuming made for the narrative of the ballet. This is a challenging choreography that had both principal dancers, Sandra Fernández Hernández and Carlo Bravo, leaping repeatedly.
Cultura Mazatlán Director José Angel Tostado Quevedo congratulated the company for their hard work and exceptional contribution to our port. Standing with him was Zoila Fernández, company co-founder and current Artistic Director of Cultura Mazatlán. Also on stage for the rounds of applause and “bravos” were Ballet Director Guillermo Carrillo, and current and past company and ballet school members and staff.
The current repertoire of the Mazatlán Ballet includes:
La Fille Mal Gardeé or TheWayward Daughter
Swan Lake (2nd act)
Romeo and Juliet pas de deux
I am proud to say I have enjoyed each and every one of these with them, some of them several times. The company has become an integral star of our local arts scene, participating in arts and cultural festivals, operas, the Mazatlán Carnivals and Day of the Dead festivities.
Maestra Zoila Fernández, Artistic Director of Cultura Mazatlán and founder of the Mazatlán Ballet, told me for this article, “The company now dances in classic and neoclassical styles. My greatest satisfaction these ten years, after so much hard work, is seeing that today the Mazatlán Ballet Company is a focal point in the port, that we enjoy a public that always fills the seats of the theater, and that more than anything, we serve future generations as a source of work and a mirror. It is truly a luxury in Mazatlán to have such a serious and dedicated cultural work.”
The Mazatlán Ballet company has deep roots and connections in the National Ballet of Cuba. Its two founders, Maestra Zoila Fernández and Maestro Guillermo Carrillo, both worked and studied there. Maestra Zoila has worked with the Municipal Ballet School for 23 years, and Maestro Guillermo arrived here in 2010 with the goal of starting the new company. During its first season, 2011-12, Maestra Ramona de Saá Bello, grand dame and maître of ballet in Cuba, cancelled contracts she had in Brazil and Italy to reside here and advise. Two and a half years earlier, her daughter, Margarita Naranjo, a beloved teacher in Mazatlán’s Municipal Ballet School, had died as a victim of domestic violence.
Upon the occasion of the company’s founding, Maestra Zoila was interviewed by none other than Héctor Guardado, our much-esteemed local cultural and arts journalist with the Noroeste. She told him at the time, “This was a dream that we have been forging with much work, over two and a half years. Maestra Margarita Naranjo and I visualized it for many years, together with Maestra Ramona de Saá, one of the most important ballet maitres in Cuba. This year everything came together thanks to the enthusiasm of Raúl Rico and private interests in Mazatlán. There are many people backing this project.”
The Maestra also invites everyone to the gala on November 20, a fundraiser to put a much-needed elevator in the Angela Peralta Theater, to make the theater inclusive and attractive to everyone. I have tickets available, if you would like some, or you can stop by Cultura offices or the theater box office.