Under the Big Top

I do love a good circus. And I especially love the aerialists: trapeze, tight rope, spinners, acrobats. Click on any image to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Circo Atayde Hermanos is here in Mazatlán for a couple of weeks. Their performance schedule is below. A girlfriend and I went recently and enjoyed it very much—we paid 200 pesos for very good seats. It’s a simple, classic circus, with clowns, jugglers, balancing acts, a guy who’s shot out of a cannon, motorcyclists riding inside a globe, and my beloved aerialists. The show is animal-free, as animals have been outlawed in circuses in Mexico since 2014.

What I really loved about this is that those kids selling popcorn, candy apples and toys are the performers themselves! So engage them in conversation and learn a bit about what they love about their lives and their job. Itzel, the girl with the loop on her head, told me she loves the traveling. She’s been all over Mexico and the US, and has hopes to get to Europe. She told me quite a few performers get trips to Europe for special performances. She studies with a teacher that the circus provides for the kids in the troupe.

Circo Atayde Hermanos is 130 years old this year. I have been told that it was actually founded in Mazatlán back in 1888, after the two Atayde brothers, who hailed from Zacatecas, fell in love with two sisters from El Rosario, and that Francisco Madera delivered his campaign speech under their tent here.

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Photo from the Atayde HMOs Facebook event page

The internet tells me (third-hand, as their own site doesn’t have a history) that the circus was founded in Zacatecas. Desiring to figure out the real story and get some behind-the-scenes photos and interviews, I arranged an appointment with them. Their local promotions director, however, is quite a piece of work and that interview very distastefully never happened. In its absence, enjoy the pics I did get!

 

A Challenging Race is Coming to Mazatlán

Something Different for the Running Community

Extreme price and info

[UPDATED WITH IMPORTANT DATE CHANGE] As most of you know, I like to run – a lot. I enter most carreras here in Mazatlán with a personal limit of half-marathon (21 km or 13.1 miles). Most of the races close the Avenida Del Mar for a brief period and runners run on the pavement instead of the malecón, where most train. But, it’s still the same view, it’s still relatively flat and many consider it to be unchallenging. With a few minor exceptions, to join a race with hills and trails, you must leave the area of the malecón and often drive or bus a great distance. Next month, however, brings a unique opportunity starting right along the malecón.

If you’re still reading, I will assume you are interested in participating in something different – something beyond flat. A respected runner in Mazatlán, Prof. Sergio Javier Leyva Santos, has put together XtreMazatlán, to be held on Sunday, November 18th (Please ignore the dates on the graphics). This 12 km (about 7 ½ mile) run will have runners going over two hills (Ice Box Hill and Lookout Hill) as well as up and down the Faro. Some will find this too difficult to imagine, and for that there are options to sign up as a pair or as a relay team of five people. He has assembled many great sponsors including dportenis, Powerade, La Mazatleca restaurant, TVP, Eléctrica Valdéz and Turbulence Training. I was fortunate to attend the press conference last week and can tell you that enthusiasm for this race was over the top! Many of us run the Faro on a regular basis and have longed for a race that would include it. Our wishes have been answered. Oh, and the city has agreed to close the Faro to all other traffic during the race.

Extreme group foto

The race begins at the new Sister City Park where Zaragoza hits Paseo Clausen. From there, it is right down to business with a run up Ice Box Hill, down the stairs into Olas Altas, up Lookout Hill, down Paseo del Centenario, and up to the lighthouse. If you sign up as a running pair, you will end your half here and your partner will take over. Once down the lighthouse, it’s up the 175 stairs to the Restaurant La Marea (formerly El Mirador), around and up the backside of Lookout Hill, up Bateria and then back down to Olas Altas, up the stairs to Ice Box Hill and around and down to return to Sister City Park. There will be five water stations, most of which runners will pass twice. The relay points for the teams of five are shown on the map below.

Extreme 12k map

There will also be a 5K (3.1 miles) for runners, walkers and families in the general area of the park and Zaragoza. The 12 km begins at 6:30 am, the 5 km at 7:00 and kids’ runs beginning at 9:00. You can sign up at dportenis locations in the Gran Plaza, Plaza Sendero and in El Centro on Azueta. Cost is 300 pesos per person for the 12 km and 100 pesos for the 5 km. The first 100 people to sign up for the 12 km will receive a dry-fit shirt and a commemorative medal. The first 200 people to sign up for the 5 km will receive a commemorative medal.

Extreme 5k map only

The running community in Mazatlan is very welcoming, supportive and inclusive. Don’t be shy about signing up, and feel free to ask me if you have any questions. In the meantime, click any picture below to click through a slideshow and see all the pertinent details:

While I’m at it, there are a few other upcoming races you may want to know about:

Sunday October 21: Trail run in Cosalá. Choice of 10 km, 15 km or 30 km. Very challenging. Incredible views and lots of hills. This will require a hotel stay the night before. Be prepared to get wet, perhaps very wet, on the longer distances depending on creek levels. The photo below has all the details.

Cosala Trail Run

The same day as the Cosalá trail run there is a Píntate 5K sponsored by MazAtún. If you are not familiar with a píntate, as you walk or run, you will have exuberant youth throwing non-toxic, somewhat clothing friendly, colored powder on you. If you choose to pass through it, there is usually a spray station which will mist you up to enable the colors to stick better. Lots of fun. Price is 150 pesos, no time given, but it will be in the morning. With the malecón construction, I’m not sure of the route.

The most well-known annual event is the Gran Maratón Pacífico, this year celebrating 20 years of bigger and better races. The event is Saturday and Sunday, December 1&2. Saturday features a 5km and a 10km with Sunday featuring a half and a full marathon. Saturday night, traditionally, is the Festival of Lights with fireworks around the bay. Last year, this was postponed due to road and malecon construction. If you don’t participate by running, spend some time cheering on the runners and admiring their dedication. The Kenyans come to town along with a host of International and National runners so the competition is truly world-class.

maraton logo

 

A general tip if you are looking to find competitive running in Mazatlan is to look on Facebook (including joining the group: Mazatlan Running Group), listen to local radio and check the newspaper periodically.

I’ve started training for the hills? How about you?

Cool New Architecture in MZT

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I love architecture. No matter where I travel in the world, I find myself fascinated with spaces that are unique, both beautiful and functional. Thus I was very pleased when our Montessori school here in Mazatlán opened its gorgeous new facilities. I have always been delighted that we have a Montessori option here in town, a powerful educational alternative for our youngest students, but the work of art that is their new facility makes it even better. María Montessori considered people works of art, so it’s only fitting that a building in which to educate people would be one, too.

Mazatlán’s own Erick Pérez Páez of EPA Arquitectos (who also designed the new Carpa Olivera ocean pool) designed the complex in conjunction with Estudio Macías Paredo (Salvador Macías Corona and Magui Peredo Arenas) out of Guadalajara, and it was built by EPA in conjunction with H Arquitectos from here in town. The design is highly innovative, based on Montessori’s “constructive triangles,” the fact that the triangle is such a naturally fundamental shape—all plane geometric figures can be made with triangles. Montessori herself said education is based on a triangle: environment, love and the child. Thus, the architecture of this academy perfectly fits as a home for its occupants. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

The two-story buildings are positioned to maximize the free circulation of air and the entry of natural light. Despite the heat and humidity when I visited, no air conditioners were running and a cool breeze could be felt throughout the facilities. We not only experience a hot and humid climate part of the year, but our ocean-front location wreaks havoc on buildings and equipment. This facility has been designed using materials to minimize the corrosion and the wear and tear inherent in the salinity of our location. I also delighted in the cool interplay of light and shadow; every angle seems to invite our gaze to a fascinating view or perspective, the result of so many triangular shapes and angles in the design.

Founded in 1993, Paulina Carrillo Collard and Rene de la Rocha have been running this SEP-certified Colegio Montessori Mazatlán since March 2014. When they took over the school it had 115 students from nine months to six years old; it now has 160 students up to nine years old. When the new facility opened last year it had nine students in primary school; this year it has 23, and next year 48 are enrolled. Paulina and Rene seem to have truly revitalized the school; a second multi-age classroom is being finished on the second floor now, in preparation for the new term beginning in August. Currently, preschool students still attend classes at Sierra Rumorosa 567 in Lomas, while grades 1-3 attend classes at this new facility at 6208 Paseo del Atlántico, just behind the Bancomer, next to the new Walmart in the Marina. Telephone 669 122 10 99.

Paulina and Rene would like to see the academy grow to include upper grades as well, but that will require more investment. Right now there are four hexagonal modules (1100 m2) on the site, out of a total nineteen (4000 m2) that are planned to be built. Below is an origami replica of the full design (above a timeline of María Montessori’s life), as well as architect’s renderings.

The modules are built around a central courtyard that provides open space in which the children can commune with nature, another fundamental Montessori concept. They have quite the garden growing, and actively compost. A nutritionist lays out a yearly menu that involves no packaged food—better for the environment and for the health of everyone involved.

In touring the facility I was pleased to see the use of the smooth, colorful wooden objects that I associate with a Montessori education. There were plenty of mats for floor work, tactile objects to teach about nature, and musical instruments—another cornerstone of the Montessori approach. Students learn English, and I was told they welcome any volunteers from our expat/snowbird community who would be interested in helping out. I was also really pleased to see the chore list above the sink, as Montessori children are taught responsibility for their own environments, both indoor and outdoor. I loved how my son learned to put away his toys and keep his room in order at his Montessori preschool in Colorado, a concept he sadly seemed to forget once we moved to Mexico and got a cleaning lady.

If you haven’t noticed this unique architectural village tucked in just behind the bank and the recording studio, you really ought to give it a look. Kudos to all involved and thank you for adding to the educational offerings and the beauty that is Mazatlan!

 

USA-Mexico Relations and Mazatlán

UPDATE: Consul General Karen Ogle of the U.S. Consulate in Hermosillo will be visiting Mazatlan and extends an invitation to meet her for coffee and to speak informally to members of the American citizen community.  She will be at Rico’s Cafe.  Ave. Marina #2216 Petroplazas from noon to 1pm on Thursday, March 16, 2017.
consular districts mexico.jpgIt is a difficult time for many US Americans who reside in Mexico. Our newly elected President has not ingratiated himself with our southern neighbor, long-time adopted home for many of us. I found it encouraging this morning, then, to read a newsletter that we receive from the USA Consulate General in Hermosillo (serving Sonora and Sinaloa), which included news on a collaborative project to support binational citizens. We get the newsletter because Greg and I are wardens, meaning we have a responsibility to help communicate information that can aid US American citizens in Mazatlán. Often times that is an unsavory role, as we find ourselves not agreeing with many of the legally mandated “warnings” that come out of the State Department.

Wardens are non-governmental volunteers of the American Citizen Services (ACS) Units of Mission Mexico. ACS offers routine and emergency services to U.S. citizens abroad. The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, its nine Consulates General, and its nine consular agencies provide passport, Consular Report of Birth Abroad, and notarial services. American Citizen Services sections also handle visas, IRS, Social Security, and VA benefits; they assist U.S. victims of crime, visit U.S. prisoners, and help with missing U.S. persons and international parental child abductions. They provide assistance to families of deceased U.S. citizens and identify local resources for destitute and ill individuals as well as victims of domestic violence. Our local ACS email is hermoacs@state.gov, should you wish to contact them. Mazatlán’s USA consular agency can be reached at 01-81-8047-3145 or via email to conagencymazatlan@state.gov. After-hours number is  Embassy 01-55-5080-2000. The office is located across the street from the Hotel Playa Mazatlán in the Golden Zone, and it’s open 9am-1pm Monday through Saturday, except US and Mexican holidays.

I will share with you three pieces of today’s newsletter that I believe you may find helpful. Be sure to pass it on to those who might need it.

  1. Soy México Initiative: Information for USA-born students or those seeking legal documentation upon return to or moving to Mexico
  2. Expo Consular/Consular Road Show: Upcoming consular visit to Mazatlán and US American community meeting
  3. Dispelling myths about obtaining a US American visa (video en español/in Spanish)

1. Soy México Initiative for Binational Kids

From the USA consular newsletter: “According to the 2010 census by the Mexican National Institute of Statistics and Geography, there are approximately 600,000 children born in the United States that have returned to Mexico. A large number of these children face major challenges in accessing basic services in Mexico, especially education and public health services. The U.S. Mission in Mexico has partnered with the Mexican government at federal, state, and local levels, as well as with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), to assist these children.”

Did you know that Mexican school registration requirements have changed? Children born in the United States are no longer required to present an apostilled birth certificate to enroll in school. Moreover, a CURP is no longer required for school registration. Ask USA Consular Staff if you need more information about school access.

“Children born in the United States to Mexican parents have dual citizenship. They have rights in both countries and the U.S. Embassy wants to ensure they can fully exercise those rights. The U.S. Embassy in Mexico processes more than 20,000 passport applications each year. Two thirds of these passports are for children under 16 years old, the vast majority of whom are binational.”

“In September, U.S. Ambassador Jacobson and Mexican Secretary Osorio Chong announced the Soy México initiative, allowing U.S. born children living in Mexico to verify their U.S. birth electronically (48 U.S. states and the District of Columbia participate) and then register with the Civil Registry in Mexico and receive their Mexican birth certificate. The program nearly eliminates the need for the costly apostille, mak-ing the dual citizenship process much more efficient and cost-effective.”

“Over the past year, U.S. Mission Mexico has conducted extensive outreach to migrant communities in Mexico to encourage families to document their U.S. born children with U.S. passports. American Citizens Services staff from all our consulates traveled directly to these communities and conducted town halls and passport acceptance fairs in order to reach our most vulnerable populations.”

“In addition to direct outreach with the public, we also partnered with state-level government offices to offer “Train the Trainer” events. Through these events, consular officials provide guidance about passport applications and other consular services to state and municipal migrant assistance agencies. The agencies then use the training to help families complete passport applications and gather proper documentation for passport “fairs” that follow several weeks later.”

“Throughout this coming year, American Citizen Services will be traveling throughout our consular district to promote this important program and to document U.S. citizen children. Please let us know if you are familiar with a community that would benefit from these services. When we go on these outreach trips, we look forward to meeting the wardens that live and work in those areas. Please take a look at the outreach schedule below to see when we will be visiting a locale near you. We will likely be reaching out to you when we are in your city.”

Below is a video in Spanish about how to obtain a passport for children born in the USA.

2. Expo Consular/Consular Road Show

The consular office in Hermosillo is planning a coffee and meeting with citizens here in Mazatlán in March. As soon as the date and details are finalized, we will let you know. Below is from the newsletter.

“It’s our Consular road show! We provide wide ranging outreach and information to Consular clients in conjunction with local partners, to create a one-stop shop for accurate consular information. Our Expo Consular team includes officers and local staff from the non-immigrant and immigrant visas, Ameri-can Citizens Services, Social Security, and Customs and Border Protection offices along with Mexican government officials from the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Civil Registry, EducationUSA, Mexican Im-migration, Sonora Secretary of Education and Culture, and the national employment service.”

3. Dispelling myths about obtaining a US American visa

Finally, I think it’s important that non-US citizens know that the visa process is fairly straightforward and they don’t need to hire “coyotes” or outside help to apply for a visa. The staff in the consular agency are bilingual. Below is a video the government has put together to dispel some myths.

Shark Tank, Mazatlán Style

dsc_0865UPDATE 3 February, 2017:
The aquarium is open again! Today a video purporting to be created by employees of the Aquarium is circulating on social media. It says that the Aquarium’s new director ordered employees to enter the tank and remove a yellow covering from the window shown above. As you can see in the photo, no yellow covering seems apparent. According to the video, the Aquarium personnel are not qualified to make any repairs or changes to the tank. Sadly, one erroneous hit with a tool, just as the workers finished, caused a crack in the acrylic. The video includes photos. It is hard to know, of course, what actually happened. To me this is hopeful, as it would mean the basic structure of the tank may be sound and the acrylic just needs replacing. Hopefully all will be sorted out soon.

UPDATE 2 February 2017:
The curved acrylic wall of the new shark tank, pictured above, cracked open yesterday afternoon about 6pm, just one and a half months after its inauguration. It was what so many had feared, given the storied history of the building of the tank and the final heated push to get it open before the change in city and state administrations. The rupture caused nearly two million liters of salt water to flood the surrounding area. Fortunately the fissure occurred after closing time, so no visitors were in the facility and staff were quickly evacuated. The Aquarium will be closed while a safety assessment is conducted and repairs are done. It has been reported that the 20 sharks and other sea animals are unharmed and will today be transferred to another tank. Mayor Pucheta promises legal action against those responsible for the shoddy design, labor or materials. Such a sad new chapter in this lengthy and expensive saga, and just before Carnavál.

Mazatlán’s long-awaited 2.5 million liter (660.5 thousand gallon) shark tank, which opened on December 23, includes one of those cool acrylic tubes you walk through to be completely surrounded by fish. The light in the kids’ eyes as they realize they are in the middle of a tank with 23 sharks is most definitely delightful.

Acuario de Mazatlán’s new Tiburonario was built at a cost of 80 million pesos over six years, two governors, three mayors and four aquarium directors; construction was far from the height of efficiency (final costs were 5x more than originally forecast), but unlike other projects, in the end this one delivered to us a first-rate attraction that will generate revenue and jobs for the city for years to come. The aquarium had 435,000 visitors in 2016—a 41% increase since 2013, and in early January when I visited the lines to enter snaked around the block and seating for shows was completely full. Last year the facility took in 20 million more pesos than in any prior year, and I have no doubt the new shark tank will add to that popularity. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with the aquarium’s Director, Milay Quintero Beltrán, just days after she was sworn in to her new position. I was impressed with the knowledge she demonstrated with only four days on the job! Lic. Quintero is a public accountant and holds a master’s in human resources. Brenda García, the Director of Marketing, joined us on my visit. They both were charming, hospitable and extremely enthusiastic about the aquarium, and made sure I was hugged and kissed by a sea lion in a private show. I was guided through the rescue facility, including the veterinary clinic and the temperature-controlled building where the sea turtle eggs are hatched.

I had not visited the aquarium in a few years, remembering it as tired and outdated. Its recent major remodeling, which is nearly complete, is the first in 36 years and one well worth checking out. More modern architecture and new acrylic murals jazz up the space, and plans include a new restaurant beside the shark tank; more fish, additional decorations and finishing to the shark tank itself; overall remodeling and updating with a consistent tropical theme; and the addition of habitats for both penguins and dolphins! If, like me, you wonder why those tinacos/water tanks right in front are such an eyesore, Milay assured me they will be covered up shortly.

The Acuario de Mazatlán opened in September of 1980 as part of the Bosque de la Ciudad (city park) project. The one-hectare site includes 34 salt water and 17 fresh water exhibition tanks, a botanic garden with 75 kinds of trees from around the world, three aviaries, and Latin America’s only frog habitat. It has partnership agreements with both the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California and the Acuario de Veracruz. Mazatlán’s aquarium is administered by DIF (Family Development Department), SEMARNAT (Secretary of the Environment) and PROFECA (Environmental Protection). Its goals include education and rehabilitation. The aquarium regularly hosts school groups and collaborates with the Mexican Academy of Sciences to host “Science Saturdays” for local youth interested in science and technology. The on-site clinic has four veterinary staff who most commonly aid pelicans and sea turtles, but have been known to treat tigers, raccoons and all sorts of birds as well.

mapa-acuario-mazatlan

The aquarium’s sea turtle rescue program has protected over 4,500 nests and released nearly 300,000 babies. The hatchery facility is made of paja, or straw and clay walls, to keep the eggs at a consistent temperature. The eggs are all in OXXO coolers, as the chain of supermarkets sponsors the turtle rescue program. Did you know the eggs must be gathered from the beach within four hours of being laid? They gestate for about 40 days, and then the babies are immediately released. Mazatlán’s aquarium will host turtle specialists from all over Mexico in a convention February 7-9.

While sea turtle rescue is well known, you might not have heard about the aquarium’s Pato Pichichin program. The Pichichin ducks, who are in danger of extinction, reproduce on Bird Island, the northernmost island directly offshore—an environmentally protected area. Young pichichines leave the nest to come to Mazatlán’s lagoons, and some become separated from the flock. The aquarium receives about 300 of these babies annually. Aquarium staff also aid about 72 pelicans every year, most of them injured by fishing nets. Any wildlife that recovers sufficiently and is able to fend for itself is returned to its natural habitat.

The Acuario de Mazatlán is open 9 am to 5 pm every day of the week. You may, like me, be spoiled by having visited some of the world’s best aquariums. Mazatlán’s is much quainter in comparison. I went not expecting to enjoy myself, honestly, more out of curiosity, but I had a hoot of time! If you haven’t been, it’s well worth a visit.

In addition to the fish tanks there are extensive displays of reptiles, birds and amphibians. Admission includes access to all the shows; the four half-hour espectáculos run back-to-back from 10:30 am to 1:30 pm and 3:40 to 5:00 pm, and include tropical birds, sea lions, animals of prey and divers feeding the fish. Most of the aquarium’s show performers are rescue animals who cannot be returned to the wild.

Entry costs 115 pesos for adults and 85 pesos for children 3-11. Swimming with sharks or sea lions is an extra charge (300 and 400 pesos, respectively). The swimming still takes place in the aquarium’s original 123,000 liter main tank.

Did you know that sea lions live in captivity up to 40 years, and eat up to 25 kg of food per day? Or that an owl can turn its neck 270 degrees, not 360? I know you’ll pick up some more fun facts on your next visit, and greatly enjoy yourself. If you’re lucky, you might just get a sea lion kiss, too. Below is the official video from the inauguration of the shark tank.