La Reserva Chara Pinta

An easy day trip, as it’s 90 minutes from Mazatlán, I highly recommend that you spend a couple of nights in the very comfortable yet simple cabins/cabañas at the Tufted Jay Preserve on the other side of Concordia. There you can hike, listen to bird song, breathe fresh mountain air, and just generally relax. It’s a great place to go when it’s hot here in Mazatlán, as it’s high in the Sierras.

Most people go to Chara Pinta for the birdwatching. I love birds, but I sure don’t know their names, nor do I have the lens to capture them in the wild. Some day! If nay of you have an 800 mm Nikon lens sitting around that you’d like to sell me cheap, let me know 😉 Below are a few of the warblers and beauties I was able to catch with my 200 mm lens. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

We saw some tufted jays or charas pintas, the birds for which the reserve is famous, but I’m afraid I was unable to capture them with my camera to share with you. Sorry! They are gorgeous!

We hiked pretty much all day on Saturday when we arrived, and then all Sunday morning as well. I honestly saw the most birds, however, when we stood still. On Sunday I sat in a chair and took most of the photos you see above. Three women talking and giggling (I went with two local friends) while they walk seems not to be the most conducive way to birdwatch!

The views up at the Tufted Jay Preserve are spectacular! There are mountains and valleys, cliffs, a rock outcropping called “The Pyramid,” a clear view to Presa Picachos/Picachos Dam, and views of Mazatlán by day and by night.

Needless to say, sunset and sunrise are gorgeous times of day and not to be missed, nor are the stars! Whoever thinks that stars are white has to rethink things if you visit la Reserva Chara Pinta. The blue, red and white stars blanketed the entire sky; it was amazing! Oh my how we enjoyed our visit! Be sure to enlarge these by clicking on them if you love starry skies!

I have been wanting to go to the Chara Pinta Reserve for a couple of years. My girlfriend Jeanett very much wanted to go, so off we went. We were told we were the first all-female group the ejido has hosted!

We hired Don Santos Vasquez as our guide; he is the President of the Reserve and a member of the local ejido that stewards the land. He took us on hikes up to the mirador/lookout, down in the canyons, and up to the Pyramid. He is a gentle and wise man who really knows this area, its flora and fauna. Santos does not speak English; he charges 100 pesos/hour for his guide services.

The cabins have solar panels so there is light and hot water for showers. There is gas for the stoves, so you can cook. You’ll need to take your own food and a cooler; if you are a group of ten or more you can request a cook who will serve you and your guests in the dining hall. Cabins are of wood, they are gorgeous, beds are comfortable, bathrooms are tiled, and there are barbecue and fire pits outside. The Reserve is a recipe for a wonderful couple of days reconnecting with nature. The caretaker of the property is Javier, another kind and gentle soul, who you can see in some of the photos below. He generously and ably made and tended our fire for us.

There are cabins for two people and cabins for ten people, as well as several sizes in between; all are well constructed and comfortable. Some have fireplaces. Some cabins are grouped together, others are off to themselves for added privacy. The place felt extremely safe, and our hosts were most hospitable.

The hiking trails are fairly easy and vary between jeep and foot trails; some are pretty steep. The vegetation we saw was incredible; such a variety, and all so very robust. We ate blackberries, we found wild cotton, we marveled at peeling bark and every type of fern, we saw dozens of types of pine trees, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves breathing the fresh mountain air.

I’ll post more pictures of the wonderful stuff we saw below, but for those of you interested in going, let me give you the information.

HOW TO RESERVE AND GET THERE, WHAT TO BRING

To reserve a cabin, call 044 66 9134 0166. You can also have book Don Santos’ guide services via that number. Reserva Chara Pinta is just this side of the small town of El Palmito. Take the toll road towards Durango, and exit at pretty much the only exit there is—towards El Salto. You’ll go about 15-20 minutes on the old highway, and then just before you reach El Palmito, you’ll see a sign for the Reserve on your left. The final 10 minutes are on a dirt road up a steep climb. I recommend a 4WD or at least an SUV. If you prefer, there are also cabañas in town; they are definitely not as picturesque, but they do have easier access.

We were told that the best time to go is in June, when the guacamayas/macaws can be viewed, and in July, when the tufted jays are nesting. All year round is good, however, as we were told it doesn’t snow at Chara Pinta, nor does it get that cold (we used light jackets).

Bring a towel, soap and toiletries, water, and any food you want to cook or eat as well as a cooler. Bring a flashlight if you want to walk outside at night, and charcoal if you want to barbecue; they have plenty of wood for a fire. We also brought extra blankets, but you don’t need them; the reserve supplies sheets, pillows, blankets and toilet paper. Also don’t forget the sunscreen.

Okay, so on to the rest of the flora. I used to live in Colorado, so I know and love bromeliads, otherwise called air plants. Chara Pinta is absolutely filled with them!

And where there are air plants, there is usually moss. In Chara Pinta there is loads of it:

We marveled at the gorgeous flowers as well. Wild mountain flowers are always so colorful and often so very dainty:

Perhaps my favorite aspect of the flora in the Sierras are the textures: bark, dried plants, leaves, pine cones of all varieties, peeled bark, curly ferns, pine needles three feet deep and joyously comfortable to lay on…

Finally, I really enjoyed the leaves of all colors and types. There were fresh green leaves, leaves with the trail remnants of some insect, leaves in silver and gold, and leaves in red and brown.

We absolutely loved our trip and will be going back in June or July. I highly recommend you make the trip if you haven’t already!

Block This Thursday Evening!

©5.DSC_0116One of my favorite artists here in Mazatlán, Rafael Avila Tirado, is opening a show at the Art Museum downtown with a reception at 7:00 pm on Thursday, December 3. Sadly, I’m going to be out of town, but I urge you not to miss it! Rafael has an incredible talent and a deep soul. You will not regret meeting him and seeing his work!

Avila art showSponsored by the Sinaloa Institute of Culture, the show is called Un Murmullo Agrio, Dulce y Nostálgico, or “A Murmur Sour, Sweet and Nostalgic.” In the video below, Rafael tells us about how these adjectives capture Mexico today, and also life in general—the sour: the violence and sadness; the sweet: working the fields, enjoying family; and the nostalgic: cows in the field and other scenes of life on the rancho in Robles where he grew up.

The artist opened his taller to give Greg and I a sneak preview of the eleven prints and nine paintings that will be on display through February, 2016. They are gorgeous, and all will be for sale! Below is just a sampling of his work; click on any photo to view it larger or see a slideshow.

Rafael began his career as an architect, entering the art world twelve years ago. He started making prints and graduated to painting. The artist has quite a few students, most of whom come on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. He also does commissioned work.

Rafa’s studio is on the First Friday ArtWalk, right on the corner of Canizales and Aquiles Serdán, just down from the cathedral, in an airy second floor walkup above Deportenis. You can call him on his cell at 6699-16-66-56, email him, or, best, show up ready to toast him and his work on Thursday evening! And, please, give him my best, won’t you?

 

My Favorite 2015 Day of the Dead Story!

XoloAnubisThis year’s official theme for Day of the Dead cultural activities in Mazatlán was Mictlán—the world of death in Aztec mythology. Navigating the nine levels of Mictlán towards the evening star in the heavens was said to take nearly four years and was full of challenges. The dead needed help, a guide, and they found it in a dog—Xoloitzcuintle—a carnation of Xolotl, the god of fire, lightning, sickness and deformities, twin brother of Quetzalcoatl.

Xolo effigyClay dog statues have been found ritualistically placed in the tombs of Aztecs, Mayans and Colima Indians, as have the skeletons of actual dogs. Sort of reminds you of Anubis, the Egyptian dog-god, lord of the underworld, doesn’t it? They are both black, guide the dead, and have pointy, stand-up ears!

Well, a modern-day incarnation of Xoloitzcuintle apparently lives in El Rosario, and her name is La Tigresa!

For the past year, every time Tigresa hears the funeral bells of Our Lady of Rosario ring, she walks into church and politely sits down to attend the funeral mass. When the mass is finished, she walks in the funerary procession, in front of the casket, all the way to the cemetery. There she stays with the body until the last person has gone home.

La Tigresa distinguishes between the bells of a funeral mass and those of ordinary mass, which she never attends. If there are two simultaneous funerals, Tigresa walks in between the two coffins, treating both equitably. If there’s a funeral in the morning and another in the afternoon, she attends both. If the body is taken back home after mass, that’s where she heads, too.

Photo from the Noroeste by Hugo Gómez

Photo from the Noroeste by Hugo Gómez

I want to thank my good friend Lupita, who shared this story with me from Sunday’s Noroeste. I just love it, and hope you will, too! We’ve got to meet La Tigresa!

Xoloitcuintle is, of course, a breed of dog here in Mexico, often shortened to “Xolo.” These beautiful, often black, hairless (and therefore flea-less) dogs were almost extinct, but concerted efforts to rescue it have been successful. It is believed to be one of the world’s oldest and rarest breeds, dating 3000 to 7000 years. In pre-hispanic times they were considered sacred, with healing properties both for the body and the soul.

The name is a combination of the god’s name, Xolotl, and izcuintli, which means “dog” in Nahuatl, though there are those who say the name means “he who snatches his food with teeth sharp as obsidian.” The breed has three unique features that baffle biologists:

  1. The absence of teeth between the molars and the incisors.
  2. A body temperature a few degrees higher than is normal for a dog.
  3. The dog sweats through its skin rather than by panting its tongue.

La Tigresa is obviously not a Xoloitcuintle breed, but would, indeed, appear to be an embodiment of this guardian of the underworld!

National Recognition for Local Handicrafts

barcinas

Beautifully handcrafted barcinas, which traditionally hold dried shrimp

I am very excited that reporters from eight respected national publications will tour Mazatlán and southern Sinaloa from May 7-10, to learn about, report on, and photograph our regional artesanía and artesanos. The tour is coordinated by Turismo Mazatlán and Turismo Sinaloa, as well as by the Association of Hotels and Tourist Enterprises of Mazatlán.

If you are regular readers of VidaMaz.com, you know that we are big proponents of culture, particularly the preservation of local, regional and indigenous traditions. We also support sustainable tourism, ecotourism, religious and cultural tourism. Thus, we are extremely happy to know that tourism officials are taking action to help promote “the little guy,” those who add so much to our communities by producing the gorgeous handiwork we enjoy.

Most traditional handicraft is beautiful and also utilitarian. It reflects the culture, the environment, the people, and the daily life of the place where it is made. Preserving it, helping it thrive and develop, creates pathways out of poverty, builds healthy communities, and prevents delinquency and violence. Just look at the increased success, popularity and value of Native American handicrafts and music over our lifetimes, and the improvement in the quality of what is produced! We can create such a success story here in Mexico as well. Sinaloa is smart to diversify beyond heavy eco-footprint industries like cruise ships. Cultural tourism can help preserve our heritage and the gorgeous natural environment with which we are blessed, and it can help build strong, vital, resilient communities. It attracts a more savvy brand of tourist, one that is increasingly wealthier and more committed to the welfare of local communities. Kudos to all involved!

Publications participating in the upcoming tour include my personal favorite, México Desconocido; the Reforma newspaper’s De Viaje supplement; the Destinos section of El UniversalConceptos Turísticos magazine; Travelers Guide to MéxicoViaja Bonito magazine; Reportour 98.5 FM; and the magazine, Tiempo Libre.

Here in Mazatlán the group will visit:

  • The museum at Seashell City, to view handcrafted items such as lamps, boxes, crosses, Christmas ornaments, and picture frames made of shells.
  • Onilikan in the Golden Zone, to savor their fruit-flavored liqueurs and aguardiente, distilled in that gorgeous copper kiln.
  • Suaves downtown, makers of the world’s best marshmallows, to meet María Clara and experience the process of creating our much-loved local pride, coconut-flavored marshmallows.

I would like to politely suggest that the group visit a few of our terrific local seamstresses such as Sodelva Rios de Garcia, to showcase our long local tradition of sewing Carnavál costumes and royal dresses. They should also tour some of the terrific art and artisan galleries around town. And even though they won’t be active this time of year, I would recommend the official visit include the talleres/workshops for the carrozas or floats of Carnavál, or at least a slideshow presentation showcasing how important, inclusive and wonderful Carnavál is for our local community, and how many terrific artisans contribute to making it a success. Maybe another trip, so they can see monigotes or giant statues being created as well.

Outside Mazatlán, reporters will visit our neighboring communities including:

  • La Noria, where they’ll tour the gorgeous, award-winning Los Osuna distillery as well as visit the leather makers.
  • El Tablón Viejo in El Rosario, where they’ll learn about handicrafts made from gourds by the Larreta Medrano family.
  • Escuinapa, where they’ll watch barcinas, as in the photo at the top of this post, being made. I would also suggest they visit Ernesto at Productos Rivera, so they can watch the wonders the crafty ladies there do with fresh and dried mango.
  • Malpica, Concordia, where they’ll witness mosaic-making.
  • El Rodeo, Cosalá, and the traditional method of making conserva de Papaya. The last time we visited El Rodeo, Saboreando Ando was visiting there as well. Click through to see photos and video of the making of the conserva.

If you have not already visited the places above, or if it has been a while, now is a good time to go! The weather is perfect, national tourists have not yet arrived en masse, and local handicrafts-men and -women are eager to earn your patronage!

Happy Birthday Mazatlán/The Old Textile Factory

DSC_0130Quick! What was the first name of Mazatlán? Don’t read ahead… Do you know?

What was your answer? El Presidio? If so, you are correct—El Presidio de San Juan Bautista, established in 1596. But where was El Presidio located? Shall I give you another clue? The name of the town was officially changed in 1828 to Villa de la Union. Yes, indeed, Mazatlán’s initial location was in Villa Unión. On March 23, 1792, the first municipal government, under the command of Don José Garibay, was established by royal decree. The town was uninhabited, and Garibay was charged with protecting the security of the port. Mazatlán with the name and in the location we now know it was born in 1831, according to Mazatlán’s official historian, Enrique Vega Ayala.

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending a ceremony in the old textile mill there to commemorate the 223rd anniversary of the first military and political government of Mazatlán. I was so excited, as I have long wanted to get in there to take photos. The hacienda was host to a huge Queen tribute band concert with Gordon Campbell’s orchestra back in 2007, but I was unable to attend that event. At the time, they said the hacienda was spacious enough to accommodate 1200 people. I heard it was gorgeous that night, all lit up with luminarias along the walls.

Well, not only was I able to take photos last night, but the hacienda was lit up with colored lights, we had a gorgeous moon and Jupiter in the sky overhead, a military honor guard and drum and bugle corps performed the national and state anthems, and the Mazatlán camerata/chamber orchestra played as well! It was a gorgeous evening! Click on any photo to view it larger or see a slideshow.

Originally owned by Francisco Echeguren, C. Corvera and Company textile mill opened in 1864, and closed its doors in 1956. The site includes the ruins of the textile factory, the family home, and huge gardens. The entire structure, or what’s left of it, is made of brick. Long corridors of arches lead to small and large rooms around at least two large courtyards. Some of the walls are still covered in tile, and trees grow from the walls in several places. A watchman also tends the gardens of the site.

To add to our good fortune, we met Jaime Coppel and his wife, who currently owns the historic site, and who kindly invited us back to take photographs during the day. Mayor Felton, Rosa María, the city’s Citizen Relations manager, and another city official kindly posed for my friend Jeanett and I in the ruins. We also met Manuel, owner of the world’s best aguas frescas, Tropico, who gave us a tasting of almost every one of the FIFTEEN water flavors he had on hand last night! He tells me he’ll bring a selection of 15 waters to any party you hold, for 1500 pesos for 100 people, and stay for four hours with his staff serving your guests. With every fresh fruit flavor you can imagine, you’ll make people happy and it’s easy enough to mix in a little piquete or liquor to add some punch to the drink if you wish!

We did not have tickets for last night’s event, so we were worried we’d drive all the way out there and not be able to get in. Fortunately, the event was open to the public and we had the pleasure of thoroughly enjoying ourselves—a great evening’s adventure for a couple of girlfriends who enjoy photography!