More than a World-Class Stadium

DSC_8345The new baseball stadium for our nine-time-series-champion Venados is advertised to be the best in all of México, and for once those superlative claims appear true. The architecture is stunning, the remodel retains iconic elements of the historic stadium around which it is built (weird-shaped historic columns, for example) and it increases seating to 16,000. We will now have:

  • 38 luxurious suites with indoor, air-conditioned seating as well as outdoor seating for 15 people.
  • 550 palcosor box seats, and a private VIP entrance and bar for them and the suites.
  • Two restaurants—El Muchacho Alegre and La Cantinetta.
  • Several food concessions including Water’s Edge and Surf’s Up.
  • Large bathrooms for both genders on each level!!
  • A seating area where vendors will speak English, to make this incredible cultural experience easier and more enjoyable for tourists and “polar bears” (“snow birds” as translated from Spanish).
  • A retro-sounding Venados Booster Club from which you can buy tickets in English.
  • Much improved locker rooms/clubhouse, umpire and training rooms and physical therapy facilities.
  • A media facility up top.
  • Pacífico beer is still a huge sponsor of the Venados, so Estadio Teodoro Mariscalcontinues the tradition as a Pacífico-only venue.

The stadium will glisten as an anchor to the remodeled Parque Central. It is envisioned to host not only the baseball season but other cultural and musical events, including, of course, our traditional and world class Carnavál coronations. The views from the stadium, both inside—of the field, and outwards—of the city, are fantastic! The only glaring problem is that they still have not solved the parking. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

The 2018-19 baseball season opened on Sunday October 14, and I was ready with my camera for what I was confident would be a spectacular fireworks show. My gut instinct proved true: these were fireworks as Mazatlán has never before seen over a stadium! They were flawlessly choreographed to music by Mazatlán’s own Arte Pirotecnia, and the show mesmerized everyone who saw it. The only issue photographically was that so many fireworks went off at once that it was difficult to capture the spectacle AND not burn out the photo!

Thanks to these photos I met Isaac Urquijo, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Venados, with whom I recently toured the new stadium. Isaac is a young mazatleco who left town to obtain his degree, going on to work for large multinationals around the country. Lucky for us, after 11 years out of town he was recruited a year ago to return for his dream job. Isaac is a fireball of energy and ideas with degrees in both accounting and marketing, and he speaks excellent English.

During our tour I very much enjoyed watching one of those gorgeous white steel arches go up and get welded in. Isaac told me that when the first arch was placed, two construction workers hung from it in order to weld it on! How I would have loved to get a photo of that! I was fascinated with the guts of these welders, dangling as they do high above ground.

The Presidential Suite is also most impressive. It has a kitchen and bar, dining table and chairs, and living room with flat screen, plus outdoor seating. The normal suites seem like a good deal to me. They cost 240,000 pesos for the season and seat 15 people. Palco or box seats are 10,400 for the season.

Once all the arches are up, the covers will be put in place. With the covers in place, much needed shade will be provided to box seats and others as well. Below is a video of the full design. Note that there have been many changes since the initial plans, including that there will be no water feature at the main entrance.

Governor Quirino’s father was in office when the original stadium was built, so he has had a special interest in seeing this remodel through. The stadium is owned by the municipality of Mazatlán, and reconstruction was financed primarily with state funds in the amount of 416 million pesos. The current remodel began on July 14, 2017. It was designed by Raúl Peña, an architect in Mexico City, and is being built by Dynfra. based in Guadalajara. This is the third stadium they’ve built for the league, after Hermosillo and Culiacán, and after watching it every day and hearing its progress all night every night, their work ethic is amazing.

The Venados’ concession for the stadium was renewed in September of this year through 2045, for an investment of 80 million pesos and 8% of the proceeds from each game. Isaac tells me that the official inauguration of the new stadium is planned for the first part of December.

The entire Venados organization, or, rather, it’s parent company, Espectáculos Costa del Pacífico—owned by the Toledo family (95%) and Ismael Barros (5%)—is on fire these days. The Venados in recent memory have had a leadership triumvirate: Ismael Barros, President; Chino Valdéz, sports manager, and Juan José Pacho, team manager. Under their leadership the Venados twice won the Caribbean Series, in 2005 and again in 2016. Barros left, however, to assume the position of city treasurer, and the Venados organization in January 2017 named a new President: 35-year old José Antonio Toledo Pinto. He is the youngest President of a Mexican baseball team, and his energy and enthusiasm seem to be transforming the entire organization. City administration ends the 31st of this month, October 2018. I am told José Antonio will remain in place, but we’ll see.

While in season the Venados organization employs 400 people, normally during the off-season they’ve had 20. This year they’ve increased that number to 80. They’ve hired an office full of young and enthusiastic creative staff who released a brand-new, hotly-debated Venados logo. The organization has opened five new Venados stores (increasing the number from three to eight) and is merchandising a stylish clothing line. They are adding a public gym (Rock Gym), a mini market, a barbershop and three Starbucks outlets to the stadium, in addition to other businesses. There are long-term plans to build a business hotel behind the big screen. The hotel would house out-of-town players in season and serve business travelers the rest of the year.

The Venados are aiming to become a much more inclusive, accessible organization, out of gratitude to their fans’ enthusiasm. Isaac told me that this year 40 pesos gets you a bleacher seat and a beer, plus full access to walk around the entire stadium. What a deal! With dancers, people on stilts and live music playing in the hallways as well as in the stadium, our local baseball games are a terrific, family-oriented party.

There are of course many aficionados who know the roster and focus on the game, but we also have a huge group of fans who attend for the party: to drink beer, listen to music, visit with friends, and, oh yes, watch a few plays. It’s quite amusing if you follow the Venados on social media. They have asked fans, “how many outs are in an inning?” and a fan answered “five;” or “how many players are on the field?” with a reply of “four.” But they do know the price of beer and all the special promotions! A professional game here is a different animal than a Major League game up north, more affordable, more of a full sensory experience, more like a Minor League game, perhaps. Isaac says he wants it to be like “Disneyland with a beer.”

The Venados don’t own players, for example; they borrow them from the Mexican summer leagues and the Major Leagues up north. Thus, there is a lot of fluidity on the roster from one season to the next. This season, however, the Venados have recruited several young, healthy, talented players who they hope to retain for a good five to ten years, to provide continuity for the crowd and the franchise. The season here is three months long, four if we go to the playoffs. Since there are twelve months in a year, the organization looks to find additional uses for this gorgeous new stadium.

Most interesting to me, they are branching out from baseball to become a true sporting franchise. They purchased a professional basketball team back in 2014 (Los Nauticos) that have played in the Multiple-use Center (Centro de Usos Multiples or CUM) since 2016—that gorgeous new sports arena in the marina that no one really uses. The Venados also support volleyball, boxing, and of course our internationally recognized annual marathon and triathlon. Their goal, as Isaac told me, is to support local athletes and entertain the local community.

They run academies or training camps for kids in the various sports. According to Isaac, a young baseball player here in Mazatlán is “owned” by the league in which he plays; the league controls contract negotiations and makes decisions if one of their players is recruited professionally. In fact, the control over the kids and their future earnings has been such an issue, that Major League Baseball recently took action and has banned MLB teams from recruiting from the Mexican League (LMB).

The Venados’ goal is to help players develop skill and experience while staying free agents. The same is true for boxing. The baseball academiaruns Mondays-Fridays, 4-8 pm ten months of the year; the 200 kids who are enrolled are coached by the Venados’ manager himself, Juan José Pacho. The academias are not profit centers but, rather, social service endeavors, though those attending do pay nominal fees. Isaac reports that there are similar plans for academías of boxing, basketball and volleyball. They are even planning to hold a golf tournament this December at Marina Mazatlán; Venados players and managers will play alongside the experienced golfers.

I was curious about how a pro baseball team here makes its money. Isaac told me that 55% of its income is from sponsors, 35% from box office and season ticket holders (Socios Venados), and beer income makes up the rest. If they sell 3000 tickets for a game with sponsorships in place they break even, and this season—other than the hugely attended inauguration—they’ve averaged 6500 people per game. In-season salaries total 6 million pesos/month.

The Venados organization engages in quite a bit of social outreach. They support the Red Cross and give away season tickets to families in need. You may have heard about the Venados Booster Club, with its aim to act as liaison with foreign visitors and help two local charities: Refugio Mazatlán and Amigos de los Animales. Simon Lynds helped the organization conduct a survey, and they found that many foreigners complain about dirty bathrooms and say they don’t speak Spanish so have a hard time buying tickets. The bathroom situation will be hugely improved with the new stadium, and the English-speaking section and Booster Club will remedy the English-language concerns. On November 24th they are planning a special invitational event for Booster Club members, with the charities and some franchise players.

Who was Teodoro Mariscal, the namesake of the stadium? He was a Mazatlecan businessman who campaigned long and hard for a new baseball stadium here in the 1940s. Our original stadium had been destroyed, and he assumed leadership of the “Committee for a Stadium in Mazatlán. When our current stadium was dedicated for the 1962-63 season, it was decided to name the space in his honor. The stadium remained largely unchanged over the decades, though it was modified several times, most thoroughly in 2000.

You may be wondering about our favorite Venados event of the year, Banda Baseball. This is an annual charity fundraiser, in which popular banda members play one another. Greg and I absolutely love it, and it hasn’t taken place this year due to the stadium reconstruction. Isaac assured me the season would not end without doing it. Fingers crossed…

You can buy your tickets online if you wish. Wednesday night, the 31st, they are urging the crowd to dress in Halloween costume. There is also a Venados app for your phone. You can watch the games live online, too. But, hey, what fun is that? The thrill is experiencing the cacophony of the crowd. A Venados baseball game has so much going on you don’t know where to look first!

Great New Spanish Vocabulary Book

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What do you call an ice cream scoop in Spanish? Yes, I know, most people would say cuchara para helado, but that is not its proper name. Specifically, that serving utensil, in Spanish, is called a funderelele, which is the title of Laura García Arroyo’s terrific little book of wonderful-sounding yet rarely-used Spanish terms. Funderelele y más hallazgos de la lengua is her attempt to share her love of words and encourage a more precise use of the Spanish language.

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Laura is a Spaniard living in Mexico City who grew up loving words. Her parents would read her to sleep, resulting in a lifelong love of the written word, and everywhere they moved the family’s books joined them; they were members of the family, as well. She is a translator and linguist, and has kept lists over the years of fascinating vocabulary she’s come across. Funderelele is based off that list.

The dictionary of the Real Academia Española contains 80,000 words, to which we could easily add another 70,000 Americanisms; there may be as many as 300,000 words in the Spanish language. It therefore saddens Laura that the average Spanish speaker uses only about 300 words in daily conversation—though most people have a passive (recognize the word when reading it but don’t use it in conversation) vocabulary of up to 4000 words. Laura is on a mission to help us improve our vocabulary, to love the Spanish language, to put into daily use some of its gorgeous terms.

Have you ever picked up a book that had some of its pages uncut, so that they stuck together? That’s called a libro intonso. Timar is what two lovers do when they understand one another with just one glance. I suppose that could apply to parents and children as well. The Spanish word for doppelgänger? Sosias. The smell of wet rain? Petricor. Isn’t that a cool word to know? Reminds me of some of the emotion-laden words in my beloved Japanese that have no equitable translation in English. How to say “fake news” in Spanish? Paparrucha. What about that gorgeous red color of the clouds we so often see in Mazatlán at sunset? We can communicate that beauty in just one word: arrebol.

One of my favorites in the book is giste, which refers to beer foam, that which so often remains on your lip as a mustache when you drink. And how do you describe someone who steps on the accelerator as soon as the traffic light turns yellow? Lord knows Mazatlán is full of people doing just that—flavilabando, which is much quicker and easier to say—with the slight downside that no one will understand you.

Most every word in the Funderelele has a two-page spread: a drawing at left with the word’s definition, and a short essay about it on the right. Its 152 pages aren’t meant to be read in one sitting, though that could easily be done. This is a book to have handy to peruse, so that the words insinuate themselves into our vocabulary and bring their history and culture into each of us and our daily lives.

In Laura’s opinion books don’t exist to make us happy, their purpose is to stir us, to move us: to feel, to take action, to think more deeply. She wonders why we spend more time dressing to present ourselves than we do in choosing our words, which she feels can count for much more in communicating our identity to the world. Like me, Laura feels she started to learn her birth language in a meaningful way when she began studying a second language; for her this was French, when she was in elementary school in Belgium.

I heard about Funderelele and Laura García via my book club. I’ve told you about my terrific book club in an earlier post—I am absolutely blessed with intelligent, talented, funny and interesting friends there and enjoy it thoroughly. Starting last year, Laura Medina, our wonderful local natural resource who has owned Casa del Caracol bookstore for the last 14 years, has organized an annual “gathering of the clans,” a reunion of all the registered book clubs in town. This year that included 16 different clubs who met in Casa Hass this Thursday evening.

In preparation, each club chose a minimum of ten books that our members loved, and which we wanted to share with others. Laura would lay the books out on a table during the event, one member from each club would be our representative, and choose new books for our club. It sounded like an interesting way to get some new books in the club library, although I’ll admit it was very painful saying adios to some favorite volumes.

The exchange was fun, and I’m excited about our club’s new books. I enjoyed sharing our favorites. The highlight of the evening was the talk. But, I have to tell you, the food was also wonderful! Oralia Medina makes delicious desserts, most Mazatlecos know that. But I did not know that she also makes some incredible savories: ceviche with coconut milk and mustard and empanadas with pumpkin seeds among my favorites.

Laura (Medina), thank you for your dedication to promoting reading in Mazatlán, and to always being ready to order the book we need or want. Thank you for arranging such a lovely and enjoyable evening for all of us. You are yet one more reason we are blessed to call this port home.

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!

Join My Photo Exhibit!


¡Puro Mazatlán, chiquita!

Click the link above to play the song while you read; it has a delayed start, so please be patient.

Please join me next week, Thursday March 1st at 7 pm in the Galería Peralta for the opening of a terrific photo show about the beauty and uniqueness that is Mazatlán. That evening will be the inauguration of my third one-woman photo show—the largest I’ve ever had (36 photos), sponsored by our beloved CULTURA Mazatlán, and this time in my own hometown!

Photo Exhibit by Dianne Hofner Saphiere
Yo Soy Fuereña Nací de Aquí Muy Lejos
I am a Foreigner Born Far Away from Here

Galería Peralta
(2nd floor of the theater)
7 pm Thursday March 1st
Free of charge

We will have music, drinks and eats at the inauguration, plus quite a few of the photo subjects tell me they will be present to talk with visitors. Sadly there is no elevator for handicapped accessibility, only the stairs. The exhibition will continue for six weeks, through 14th April. If you’d like reminders, just respond to our event on Facebook and you’ll get them. If you can’t make the grand opening, you can come another day to view it and sign the guest book.

I was so very honored when CULTURA Mazatlán Director Raúl Rico called me into his office last fall and asked me to do a photo exhibit on any topic of my choosing, in any gallery. Of course I chose our beloved adopted home as the subject of the expo; but for a theme? What better than our unofficial city anthem, the Corrido de Mazatlán? So many of us love that song, you here it everywhere around town, and I could make “mini-galleries” of photos according to the stanzas of the corrido. Raúl fortunately loved the idea, and I’ve been working hard ever since.

The gallery is huge, with 15 different walls for displaying photos under these stanzas:

  1. Donde el Pacífico es algo sin igual / Where the Pacific is beyond compare
  2. Para esta gente que es puro corazón / For these people who are all heart
  3. Y hasta en el faro se escucha mi canción / As far as the lighthouse you can hear my song
  4. Hay que bonito Paseo del Centenario / How beautiful is Paseo del Centenario
  5. Hay que bonita también su catedral / How beautiful also its cathedral
  6. Aquí hasta un pobre se siente millonario / Here even a poor person feels like a millionaire
  7. Aquí la vida se pasa sin llorar / Here life passes without tears
  8. El gran orgullo de ser de Mazatlán / The great pride to be from Mazatlán
  9. Que lindo es todo lo que hay en Mazatlán / How gorgeous is everything in Mazatlán

While many of you know me from this blog or from seeing me around town, here is my photographer’s bio:

Dianne has worked with people from over 100 countries during a 38-year career facilitating cross-cultural collaboration for major multinational organizations. USA-born, she has lived in Mazatlán since 2008, spent seven childhood summers in Coyoacán (Mexico City), and twelve years working in Japan.

Dianne documents daily life, community events and “human cultural treasures,” often through the lenses of ethnography. One critic says of Dianne’s work, “There is poetry all around us. Dianne pays attention and calls attention to that in a way of beauty. That is art.” Another says, “Looking Thru Di’s Eyes opens us to things we too often fail to notice. Dianne’s images transmit to us the soul of her subject; we feel we are experiencing it with her.”

Dianne has had solo shows in Paris and Vienna; her work has been selected for curated group exhibitions in Mazatlán, Tijuana, Culiacán, Paris, Vienna and Casablanca, as well as several state and local calendars. Her latest project is an edited volume of photographs called “Cliché or Consequential,” which focuses on debunking stereotypes from around the world. Proceeds will benefit refugees. Dianne’s photos can be purchased at Casa Etnika (Sixto Osuna 50) and Baupres Gallery (Heriberto Frías 1506).

Please invite your friends and family and come join me! I look forward to seeing you there!

 

Nature in All Its Glory

27982748_10160137908320637_2440691768523619203_oDo you love birds, animals, marine life, plants? Then head over to the Centro Cultural Multiversidad downtown at 21 de Marzo #36 for Cielo, Mar y Tierra: Vision of the Naturalists. They have a photo exhibit on the second floor with photos from five biologists and an actress (yes, but her photos are good!).

Especially now, when it seems our governor is intent on cementing over everything he can in Mazatlán, treasuring the very natural resources that bring so many tourists to our port seems more important than ever. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow (sorry, I only took my cell phone).

The opening last night was at 7pm, and attended by a couple of hundred people, I’d guess. It was typical: everyone had to wait, crowded into a corridor, but when they eventually opened the gallery it was worth the discomfort. All six photographers spent time with their photos, in order to tell those of us attending the backstory of each photo and answer our questions. It was a terrific chance to get to know a few experts in our local flora and fauna, and to learn a few more places to go out and take some photos!

Once you’ve enjoyed the gorgeousness that our environment has to offer, you might be wondering what you can do to help preserve it. First, I’d urge you to encourage our governor to stop cementing over estuaries and tearing down historic forts in order to cement over that area, too. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly long term for our planet, is to make every effort you can to stop using plastic. You’ve seen the horrible photos of the plastic “black hole” out in the Pacific, and we know how awful our beaches get after a big party weekend. Today I saw a photography project that uses beauty to profile the horrific reality of plastic’s effect on Sian Ka’an federally protected reserve. Click here to view it.