We All LOVE Our Monigotes!

dsc_0430We love Carnával, and it’s widely acknowledged to be the third largest in the world. I would posit it the best, as it’s so accessible to everyone, involves the entire community, and is HUGE.

About ten years ago, CULTURA started to put up papier-mâché statues on the malecón. The very first year, at least to my memory, these statues were egg-shaped. While the originals were a meter or so high, over the years, they have grown in size and they now tower over our fair city. One year they were soldiers from around the world—warriors, humongous guardians of Mazatlán. In 2013 they were movie stars, from Marilyn Monroe to Elvis, Cantinflas and Pedro Infante. The monigotes, or giant statues, are made by Jorge González Neri and his artists in their taller. I love taking a peek every year just to see what’s coming up.

Well, it’s obvious that you love the monigotes, too! The first couple of years, my photos got a few “likes” on Facebook. Those likes have steadily grown, and as of tonight you have shared my monigotes 2017 album over 3000 times! Some of the individual photos have themselves been shared over 500 times! It gives me such joy to read how you think this one is a Pokemon, that you live in that block and it’s “your” monigote, or that one is your favorite. Kudos to CULTURA and to González’ taller; they only get better. Now we hope the carrozas or floats do as well, because we still miss Maestro Rigo Lewis in that regard….

There are 11 giant statues this year, unless you count the two in the Plaza República. Those two went up first, and tantalized us for well over a week while we waited for the others. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow. I’d like to give a MAJOR shout-out to Greg, who accompanies me and makes sure I don’t get hit by a car or bike or something else while I’m peeking into my camera! Often times he finds the best shots, too.

I like to take photos as soon as I’m able to after the monigotes are up. Thus, most of the photos don’t have the titles yet; CULTURA puts those in white lettering on the black stand of each of the statues. Sometimes they also make changes or additions. For example, the awesome-looking snail below had a papier maché rider added to it the day the queen was crowned. It’s in front of Valentino’s/Fiesta Land and was one of the first to be made; Greg and I saw it in the workshop, finished and waiting. Then by chance we were able to come upon it as the CULTURA workers hand-pulled it all the way from Playa Sur to its home at the north end of the malecón. It’s called Carrera del Tiempo or “Time’s Race.”

Coming south, the next monigote is where Insurgentes intersects Avenida del Mar. It’s pretty scary looking, if you ask me, and is called Dragón Polinesio or “Polynesian Dragon.” Of course, the theme of Carnavál this year is “Alebrijes y Dragones.” Alebrijes are those hand-carved wooden animals from Oaxaca with all the little pieces, and dragons are, well, they fly and look fierce. The giant statue at the top of Insurgentes is a dragon alebrije. I waited for a pulmonía to come by, just at sunset, so we get a bit of Abbey Road al Mazatleco action going on:

Next up is the one in front of Las Gavias. It looks very much like a Carnavál clown, and is called Carnavál en Babuchas. “Babuchas” is a word for those Oriental or Arabic-looking slippers with the long curly toes.

Just south of that one, in front of SECTUR—or La Botana, or Franki Oh’s, depending on your preference— is a really cool dragon with a person on top. It’s one of my favorites. It’s called Elegancia Alada, or “Winged Elegance.” The monigotes of course look good during the daytime, with our bay as a backdrop, and they are lit up at night, so gorgeous then, too. I’m confident that shortly CULTURA will add a title to each and every one.

Where Avenida de los Deportes meets Avenida del Mar—the Aquarium street, where the liquor store/Cava del Duero is, we can see a monigote that is just the reverse of the last one. This one is a person with the dragon on top. Night lighting is not yet working on this monigote. The name of it is Pio Cabeza Madame, or “Pious Head Madame.”

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You know that Mazatlán is “land of the deer” in Nahuatl, and on the malecón facing the Lola Beltrán statue (The Vue condos) is a monigote with a deer on top. It’s called Carnavál del Sol, or “Carnaval of the Sun”:

Continuing our journey south you’ll see a giant ostrich, on the malecón in front of Hotel Aquamarino, on the corner with Banjército, beside the pulmonía monument. She is called Una Diva con Patas Largas, or “Long-Legged Diva.”

At the Fishermen’s Monument you’ll find a Viking-looking guy riding a pogo-stick dragon, and it’s appropriately called Cabalgata Vikinga or “Viking Horseback Ride.” It’s creative, even if it’s connection to the Carnavál theme isn’t exactly self-evident.

Next comes another favorite of mine, Pio Cabeza Gato, or Pious Head Cat. People tell me this one seems to be based on the Pokemon character “Meowth.” Personally, he looks straight out of “Where the Wild Things Are”/”Donde Viven los Monstruos.” I love where this monigote is located, as you get the pangas/fishing boats and a good shot of the bay in the photo. It’s where Belisario Dominguez intersects Paseo Claussen.

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From here you can take a detour into town and see the really cool alebrije statue in the Plazuela Machado. I love that in the past few years CULTURA puts a monigote here, as it’s where the original Carnavales were held in Mazatlán, and it’s a gorgeous spot for partying. I tried to photograph the giant statue with landmarks in the background: Casa Machado and our original hotel. The name of this gorgeous monigote is Equilibrio Frágil, or “Fragile Equilibrium.”

Ok, I’ve left the BEST FOR LAST!!!!! The southernmost monigote is in front of my BELOVED and screaming for restoration Casa del Marino. And is it every whimsical! I call it “fish cycle,” but CULTURA calls it Un Alebrije de Oriente or “An Alebrije from the East”:

Not that we need an excuse to walk, roller skate, jog or bike the malecón, but now is most definitely the time! Oh… don’t forget your camera or cell phone!

Happy People with Chickens!

Thank you all so much!!! We had 2500 very happy families today, on Christmas Eve, who received a whole chicken, bags of food, clothing, toys and candy. Below are just a few of the faces. One man gave me a rose from his bush in thanks. Another lady put on her makeup and best dress, and waited all morning for us to arrive. Then she plead with me to take her photo. Several babies were just a few weeks old. All looked very excited to have a nice Christmas dinner! Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Below I will share a few photos of their homes, most made of found, recycled items, including pallets and lonas/canvas signs. Kitchens are almost always outdoors, so boiled chicken will be much more popular than roasted.

Many thanks to EVERYONE who helped make this possible: people who made items, collected items, donated items, helped pack, helped deliver… Especially thanks to the Medina family, who lead this entire project and give us all the opportunity to have the best Christmas ever. Today is the 25th anniversary of Desayuno de los Pollos. Despite having THREE weddings and a baptism in the immediate family, the Medinas still managed to pull off our annual holiday tradition. God bless them, the people we shared this with, and you, one and all!

Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas! If you’d like to join us next year, there are MANY ways to help; click here to learn how.

Chicken Breakfast 2016

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Kids charming the camera woman while they line up for candy!

Want to have the best Christmas ever? Join us to bring joy to those in need! It’s a whole lot of fun, and a memory you will never forget!

Since 1990, Yolanda Medina and her family from the Quince Letras area of town have spearheaded an effort to feed those in need at Christmas time. In 2015, we fed over 3000 families with your help!

What is the “Chicken Breakfast?”
It is a two-step process to feed the neediest in our community.

First is a fundraising breakfast held in early December to raise money to buy one whole chicken and ten days’ worth of food for each family—we buy for as many families as we possibly can.

Second, on Christmas Eve morning (24 December), dozens of us gather together to load trucks and go out to the invasiones, the poorest, “squatter” areas of Mazatlán, to make people happy and hand out the goods! We give the chickens and foodstuffs, plus gently used clothing, linens, shoes, coats, and new toys and candy.

It is important to know that several of us go out to the squatter areas the week before Christmas. There we meet with area leaders and go around with them to hand out tickets, to ensure that those in need receive what they need, and that no one cheats or “double dips.” We especially want to ensure that we get food and clothes to the elderly and the disabled, so we go door to door to make sure everyone knows about the event, and to make plans to get things to those who can’t walk to the delivery site.

The history:

Yolanda Medina’s daughter, María Yolanda, was very sick. She and her husband kept vigil in the hospital, taking care of all their daughter’s needs. As Yoly’s sister-in-law Isa tells the story:

“It was Christmas Eve 1990, and María Yolanda’s days were counted. Yolanda and her late husband, Modesto, were in no mood to eat, let alone have a Christmas Dinner with all the fixings. But that night, a woman knocked on the hospital room door and peeked to see if there was someone with the patient. She came in to hand Yolanda and Modesto a box with a hot Christmas Dinner meal — and told them Merry Christmas and that God was with them. Yolanda never forgot that gesture.

After María Yolanda passed away, Yolanda got us all together and told us what had happened. So, the first couple of years, we had culinary arts students volunteer their time to prepare a Christmas Dinner meal, with donated ingredients from friends and family, and all of us volunteered to fill disposable thermal boxes with the hot dinners, load them into cars and pick-up trucks, and off we went, to hospitals, traffic intersections, parks — wherever we thought we might find people that, for one reason or another, wouldn’t be privy to a nice Christmas Dinner.

However, this was a huge effort, and very expensive, so we couldn’t cover that much ground. So we thought in terms of something more practical, something that could be cooked and prepared at home. This way, we could make sure many more families could have a Christmas Dinner. That’s when we started the Desayuno de los Pollos.”

How to help:

  1. Buy (or sell) tickets for the fundraising breakfast. Contact me at dianne@vidamaz.com, or buy them from anyone selling them around town. Post and Ship in the Golden Zone (beside Dolce Mami, across from FedEx) will have tickets also.
  2. Download a poster you can print out to help sell tickets or collect donations. Write on the poster with your details.
  3. Make crafts or baked goods to be sold at the bazaar during the breakfast.
  4. Donate (or gather) items for the silent auction (download a gift certificate, artwork, restaurant meals, hotel stays, airfares…)
  5. Help set up, cook, serve or clean up after the breakfast.
  6. Donate money (in person or click on the link), gently used clothing, diapers, lightly worn shoes, linens, blankets coats, new toys, or candy. 100% goes to those in need. Post and Ship will be happy to collect items if you drop them off there (beside Dolce Mami, across from FedEx).
  7. Help pack the food into packets—the week before Christmas.
  8. Help us load the trucks and deliver the goodies on December 24th! This is, of course, the most fun and a terrific tradition with friends and family.

When and where is the breakfast?
In 2016, it’s on Saturday December 10th, 8:30-10:30 am in the cruise ship dock/API. Please join us and bring all your friends! Your 180 peso ticket includes a full homemade breakfast, coffee and juice, a ticket for the door prize, a ticket for the raffle, and access to the Christmas bazaar.

API dock is on Emilio Barragón nearly across from the new OXXO. Below is a map. If you can’t find it, ask any taxi driver or blue shirt/Tourism Volunteer.

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How can I get to Quince Letras on December 24th, or to help pack?
Come by 6:30 am if you are driving a truck, 7:00 am if you are helping us load and deliver. We usually finish by 11:30 or noon, but some years it’s taken longer (depends how many routes you participate in).

Quince Letras, corner of Tampico and Francisco Villas streets We load from either side of this

Quince Letras, corner of Tampico and Francisco Villas streets We load from either side of this “Coca Cola” store on the corner

LOCATION: 15 (QUINCE) LETRAS, corner of Francisco Villa and Tampico, just down the hill from the Church of Cristo Rey (Christ the King—photo below).

  1. From Avenida del Mar turn East at the Fisherman’s Monument.
  2. Go to the first light and turn right.
  3. Proceed one block and turn left (Francisco Villa street, just before the Pemex station).
  4. Go two blocks.
  5. If you are NOT driving a truck or transporting supplies, please park in the next block. This will give us room for loading. Once you’ve parked, walk another block down, past the iron works business called “Quince Letras.” On the corner of Francisco Villa and Tampico you will see a small store with a bright red “Coca Cola” hand painted on the outside, across from a tortillería. A door next to the Cocheras Automaticas business will be open. That’s Yolanda’s mother’s house, and it’s from there that we’ll be loading.
  6. If you are driving a truck or transporting supplies, please drive up to Tampico street (the “Coca Cola” store on your right on the corner), turn right, and park. We will be loading right there.

IMG_0669If you can’t find it, just ask someone for “Quince Letras” or “Desayuno de los Pollos/Medina family.” Everyone in the area will know.

Merry Christmas to all! And see you there!

  1. Download a poster you can print out to help sell tickets or collect donations. Thank you for your help!
  2. Download and view or use a PowerPoint presentation with a full explanation of the project: chicken-breakfast-presentation
  3. Download a gift certificate to fill out, and we’ll advertise your business or service at the breakfast! Just contact us and we’ll pick it up!

Have questions? Contact the organizers:

  • Jorge Medina (speaks English well) on his mobile, (669) 110-0744
  • Yolanda Medina (some English) at (669) 431-4529

Day of the Dead 2016

p1300623Día de los Muertos in Mazatlán is an incredible holiday; one of our favorites. We love creating an altar every year and welcoming our dearly departed back home for a week or so. We enjoy touring the altars around town, and visiting the cemetery to watch families party with their deceased.

Last year I evidently started a new tradition. A couple of girlfriends and I took a makeup class with Johnny Millán and China Sanchez Duarte from the Municipal School of the Arts (post includes full instructions). The following week on the first of November, my friends came over to my house and we painted one another like catrinas, then headed to the parade. Afterwards, we ate dinner and toured the Teatro’s incredible event.

This year, as with most great things in Mazatlán, more girlfriends came over. My niece is in town as is a Japanese friend’s daughter, so they joined in as well. This morning my house looks like a set from The Hangover. Seriously. Champagne and wine glasses, food and bottles everywhere, feathers covering the floor… Click on any photo to enlarge, or to view a slideshow.

We had a whole lot of fun making each other up, trying not to repeat anything from last year. One cool thing was when we stopped by Curiel to have our group photo taken, they had a large framed photo of the three of us from last year posted proudly outside the shop, beckoning for people to come in. We’re models!

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After this year’s photoshoot, we headed over to the Plazuela, where the festivities were just getting started. My, were we popular! I believe every one of us felt like a movie star. Many of  you dress up, I know, so you know how it feels. It’s still new to us. Locals and tourists alike asked us to take photos with them, it was so much fun. Penny was especially popular. The guy in the photo below asked her for a kiss. 😉 I love how the architecture of Centro Histórico makes callejoneada photos so special.

We had a very nice dinner, probably with many of you sitting nearby. The Plazuela gets so crowded with the thousands of revelers who participate and spectate. It’s a great chance to see loads of friends and visit. Towards the end of the evening we headed over to the theater to tour the “haunted house” they have inside there. It is always such a delight, as the young people from the Municipal School of the Arts recite calaveritas, celebrate the lives of those who have died this year, dance, sing, play music, and act. The wood block prints were also on exhibition, and below you can see photos of a few of those cool works of art. The pan de puerto that was handed out as we exited is particularly delicious.

I hope you all enjoyed last night as much as I did. Thanks to my girlfriends for the good time, to Greg for patiently putting up with us all afternoon and for helping me (or leading the) clean up today!

 

5 Ways to Combat Mazatlecan Zombies

dsc_0363Day of the Dead is the main holiday in Mazatlán this time of year. Children and young adults, however, also celebrate the import—Halloween. Young children dress up and go Trick-or-Treating to shopping centers, while young adults dress in sexier costumes and head to the clubs. In our blue-skied, beach side community, we are thus normally spared the dangerous threat of many of the Halloween monsters from up north, such as witches, werewolves, vampires, mummies, devils and—zombies. The key word is “normally.”

Due to the unrelenting passion of a small group of zealots, Mazatlán has had the misfortune to have fallen prey to a zombie invasion for the past four years.

I put on my anthropologist’s hat today, as well as my bravery, to risk life and limb in order to gain insight into these most mysterious and menacing of characters. Gratefully I’ve lived to tell the tale—barely. My life is owed to the one brave survivor who fought the zombies off and defended both my life and our fair port.

Below I will share with you five key insights I gained today during my perilous anthropological investigations. I trust they might better help us combat the zombie invasion should it happen again next year. Click on any photo to enlarge it, or to view a slideshow.

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Isaac, Yezil and Wert Lovehorror

1. You may be deluded into thinking that there are no zombies in Mazatlán, that only catrinas frequent our fair city. No! Once a year, zombies roam the malecón! They’ve done so every Halloween for four years. It’s become an untenable menace! The leader of the Zombie Walk Mazatlán is Wert Lovehorror. His wife Yezil and their eldest son, Izack play key roles in the horrible happening. It is they who are responsible for this threat.

2. You may think of zombies as angry—grimacing, screaming, groaning and glaring. Mazatlecan zombies, however, smile—even their muerte se pasa sin llorar (their death passes without crying, playing on the Corrido de Mazatlán). They also pose for pictures and freely give interviews. Do not be misled! Despite their charms, they are highly treacherous!

3. When humans are in short supply, zombies eat ice cream! I feared for the ice cream vendor when he approached the invaders, but he was fearless. He assured me that zombies could be diverted away from human fare by playing upon their love of ice cream. And, sure enough, he knew what he was talking about! Our local zombies seem to have no clear preference regarding the type of ice cream they’ll go for, however—they devoured their frozen prey with gusto in all sorts of different flavors. If a zombie approaches you, get out the ice cream! They also talk on cell phones, so you can hand them one as a diversion.

4. Mazatlecan zombies are kind! They think of others and give to the needy. Every zombie or survivor who participates in the zombie walk is asked to bring despensas/food stuffs for Hambretón. Hambretón’s annual food drive, by the way, concludes next Saturday, November 5, in Sendero Plaza from 11:00am to 2:00pm. Join them there! And bring some canned goods or dry food! Do not let this kindness fool you…

5. Zombies apply makeup free of charge, and give out lessons and tips on how to make disgusting things. Need blood? Honey mixed with red food coloring; absolutely sickening. Need peeling skin? Mix white glue in with your face paint, and it’ll look like you have leprosy. Want to have no eyes? Cover them with tulle fabric. How about the ugliest, slimiest-looking intestine you might want to have falling out of your gashed-open stomach? Gelatin and pantyhose!

Will you fall for their tricks? Will you join the ranks of the zombies next year? Or will you be one of the survivors, and fight to defend Mazatlán?