Adventures in “La Comer”

Expats here call it “Mega.” Most of the locals I know call it “La Comer” or “Comercial Mexicana.” Either way, to me it’s a pretty boring place. I’m not a big shopper, I prefer the mercados to the supermarkets, and when there’s not a lot of variety in the offerings (fresh, local-grown or caught, unique), well, suffice it to say, Mega is not my favorite place in town.

So, we went grocery shopping there today, and we actually had a bit of excitement!


First of all, we met one of my favorite painters, Maestro Antonio López Saenz. I’ve heard him speak several times, but until today I’d never met him. What a friendly, kind and gentle soul he seemed to be! Soft-spoken, warm, and hospitable. We spoke right there between the epazote and cilantro. I was finally able to make my request, which I’ve hoped for for several years now.

“Please, maestro, might you paint a painting of our malecón as the biggest gymnasium in the world? You know how every Mazatleco uses it: running, roller blading, walking, yoga, pushups, sit-ups, bicycling? It’s perhaps the world’s longest oceanside promenade, and it’s a popular free gym for so many. It would be a gorgeous painting! It would really capture the Mazatlán of today.”

He told me how the original malecón is really just the Olas Altas portion, and that this longer part down towards “La Comer” is all new. Then he and his colleague Victor shared some really exciting news!

From December of this year the Maestro will be issuing canvas prints of his paintings! He wants them to be affordable and accessible! Woo hoo! Can’t wait to possibly have a replica of a López Saenz on our walls! Bravo!

And, the excitement in La Comer didn’t stop there. Maybe I just haven’t been looking closely enough, but I saw several interesting looking products. Rather unbelievable that they were there, actually. These included sushi rice, sushi roll wrappers (soy paper), and sesame seeds in bright “rainbow” colors (yuk—artificial dyes, but fun). Slideshow below:

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Back in the dairy case, they are carrying wine sorbets, and even one that is flan-flavored!

Just when you thought supermarket shopping couldn’t get any more boring! 😉

You Drive Us Wild We’ll Drive You Crazy


We had a whole lot of fun this past Wednesday, March 6. Our gorgeous Angela Peralta Theater, venue for so many classical music performances, became host to… sit down and take a breath — a rock band!

It was a KISS tribute band called “Dynassty,” composed of four young Mexicans including two Mazatlecos (García and Barrón):

  1. Carlos García as Gene “The Demon” Simmons, vocals and bass
  2. Angel Barrón  as Ace “Space Man” Frehley, lead guitar and backing vocals
  3. Mijael Chaín as Paul “Starchild” Stanley, vocals and rhythm guitar
  4. Miguel Ángel Chain as Peter “Catman” Criss, drums and backing vocals

The boys in the band seemed a bit nervous at the start, or perhaps just low energy due to the large venue and the less-than-overwhelming turnout. I imagine they’re also used to performing in a bar, to a much rowdier crowd. So, the four of us (Greg and me, our son and niece—who took all these photos, Arely Hernández), along with many others in the crowd, turned up our own energy and the night ended up being awesome. What a treat to dance, sing and shout en familia, especially with our seventeen year old!

The guys’ costumes were incredible; whoever made them should really be commended. They all had those really tall platform boots, too, and it sure seemed tough walking around and rocking out in them. One of the guys told me he spends two to three hours getting his makeup put on prior to an event. The boys rocked hard, spit up fake blood, got on the floor to play, and even pretended to break a guitar. It was a whole lot of campy and a whole lot of fun.

PonchoOne of the best parts about any event here in Mazatlán, of course, is the chance to meet and greet some of the many famous people who call our city home. I was beside myself when I first met Ferrusquilla, and I am afraid I acted starstruck on Wednesday to finally be able to meet Poncho Lizárraga of Banda El Recodo. I have loved their music for so long, and shouted and danced at their concerts as well. He was very kind, and I just sort of stood there smiling. I guess it’s a good thing once in a while. I wanted to ask him and failed: “WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO PLAY IN YOUR HOMETOWN AGAIN?” We haven’t seen them since they played in the bull ring during Carnavál three years ago!

Thank you, CULTURA. This was a far from typical Angela Peralta Theater event, and it was really enjoyable. And thank you and good luck, Dynassty!

I wanna rock and roll all night and party every day! Who’s with me?

Behind the Scenes of Carnavál: The Making of a Giant Statue


This year’s Carnavál de Mazatlán statue of Marcel Marceau

Every pata salada loves the monigotes, those super-sized statues that go up along the malecón and in the Plazuela Machado each year in the weeks prior to Carnavál. The tradition began in 2005, with Maestro Jorge González Neri’s replicas of the work of Antonio López Sáenz, Mazatlán’s illustrious painter and sculptor. Last year, for Festival de los Imperios, we had gigantic warriors from major world civilizations protecting our fair city. And we all loved it! Excited to see them go up, rather heartbroken to see them taken down, it is a terrific tradition.

Every year we wonder and guess, what will the monigotes be this year? On Saturday we were driving down Avenida del Mar and happened to see them putting up the first statue: the mime Marcel Marceau. Ah, the excitement! This year, with the theme of La Linterna Mágica, we are privileged to enjoy eight-meter tall likenesses of international film stars — Las Luminarias de Neri.


Maestro Jorge González Neri in his taller

Marlon Brando, my beloved comic actor Cantinflas, the pachuco Tin Tan, actor and luchador El SantoPedro Infante, and Al Jolson were erected over the last few days. Marlene Dietrich went up this morning at Playa Norte. Just this afternoon we watched them put Charlie Chaplin up in front of our home. Oh, the thrill! The rumbera from the Golden Age of Mexican cinema, La Tongolele (Yolanda Montez), went up late this afternoon. We watched it leave the taller after final painting and varnishing. Towards the end of the week the final monigote, of Marilyn Monroe, should make her appearance. We watched her head being carved today (see video and slideshows below), and her body being welded. Maestro Jorge González Neri himself told me that, yes, her skirt will be flying up in that iconic pose of hers.

So, how do you make one of those giant statues for Carnavál de Mazatlán? Well, the Maestro is a set designer who creates pieces for the stage as well as for public events. He is based in Monterrey, so there is a lot of sending of drawings and designs back and forth, between Monterrey and CULTURA here in Mazatlán, as they agree on what the monigotes will look like each year. It sounded to me like Neri himself is a bit astounded at how large they’ve become — the bar higher every year.

Once designs are agreed on, the staff of his taller begin working. Finished parts and parts in process are shipped to Mazatlán. A month or so prior to Carnavál, the Maestro travels here with a crew of 15 of his people from Monterrey. They hire papier maché people here locally, people who have now been doing this for years.

And, in an incredible open-air artistic assembly line, they create magic!


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Below is a very short video clip of one of the artists carving Marilyn’s face:


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Below is a very short  clip of the artists lowering La Tongolele (from vertical to horizontal) so they can paint her shoulders:


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Below is footage of the workers loading the huge statue onto the truck for transport.

Below is a clip of the crane workers installing Charlie Chaplin in front of our building. They stake the monigote to the beach, and counterbalance the stand with sandbags.

As you can see, it’s a bit like making a piñata, or one of the papier maché projects we all did as children. But, not really. It’s nothing like that! What an incredible dream to make magic in this way, don’t you think?

Click here for a slideshow of all the 2013 Carnavál de Mazatlán statues. Thank you, Maestro and crew, as well as CULTURA and all involved! This year’s “Luminarias” rock!

Are you curious to learn more? A couple of years ago we visited Maestro Rigo Lewis in his taller, as he and his crews worked on the parade floats or carrozas for Carnavál royalty. He was born during Carnavál and the event and its magic run in his veins. Need a schedule of events? It’s posted on CULTURA’s Carnavál site. The inside scoop of what to attend and how it all works? Check that out here.

Oyster Divers in Mazatlán/Los Ostioneros

VictorToday we had breakfast with Victor. He is an oyster diver here in Mazatlán, and has been for 33 years. His brother, Javier, has been diving for oysters for 28 years. Their father before them was an oyster diver for 52 years.

There were 12 divers late this morning on Playa Camarón, just off Valentino’s/Fiesta Land, and they were all family: brothers, uncles, nephews, cousins.

Victor told us there are at least ten locations or oyster reefs around town that are good for diving. He told us they start work about 8 or 8:30 each day, diving till 10:30 or 11. Each diver makes what he makes; they are not a cooperative. A normal haul — one fill of the net in one of their inner tubes — is about 50 kg. They pack the oysters into green mesh bags that weigh about 23 kg each. Those bags wholesale for about 400 pesos locally.

For our breakfast we were charged 30 pesos (about US$2) for five oysters shucked fresh from the water as we watched. Fresh limes and bottled salsa were available, as well as plastic stools on which to sit while we ate.

Victor explained to us that they throw the shucked oyster shells back into the ocean in order to increase the harvest: that the shells have larvae on them, and they will replant and grow. He also told us about how they have a forced holiday every summer, when the veda is in place — when it’s illegal to dive for oysters. That’s why September is so often called “Septi-hambre,” the hungry month, because it comes after they’ve had three months of no oyster income.

I asked Victor how long he stays under water when he dives. He said if the water is about three meters deep, they stay down about 40 seconds, hammering on the rock to get the oysters loose. If it’s deeper water, they may stay down as few as 20 seconds at a time. Based on my observations, I’d say he underestimates.

He told us that sometimes tourists like to come out diving with them. They bring underwater cameras, and ask the guys to teach them how to oyster. He thinks it’s cool that they want to take home with them such a souvenir: a new skill, a new experience.

Below is a slideshow with a few more photos. ¡Gracias, Victor y familia!

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Mini Maz: A Work by Marco Hernández

47320_1616036159131_5108622_nI have long loved miniatures. I collect them wherever I travel. I have belonged to groups in which we make them. So, when a friend of a friend posted pictures on Facebook of a miniature city, including my beloved Mazatlán, my interest was piqued!

Marcos & GGMarco A. Hernández has been working on his maqueta for years.

Once a year, during the month of December through the first week of January, it displaces his car and takes over his family’s garage. It brings joy to those walking by on the street, and squeals of delight to anyone smart enough to ask to go inside and take a look around.

Marco started with a collection of toy cars. He built some roads, overpasses, parking areas, and then a Golden Gate Bridge for those matchbox-sized cars. But he didn’t stop there.

FarmHe added a farm. He made the Angel of Independence, and put it in the center of a roundabout.

Angel of Indep

Eventually, and to my delight, he started to add in features of Mazatlán. In his miniature, garage-sized city you can walk along the malecón. It includes benches, plant boxes and a guardrail that look just like the real thing! He has even painted the malecón in the two different designs that I remember it having, thus preserving a bit of history.

Monos BichisMarco has created a miniature Monumento al Pescador. It even lights up at night! He has the pulmonía monument in miniature, as well as the Cervecería Pacífico monument. He has the Escudo, the state seal of Sinaloa, that is in Olas Altas, just down from the Pedro Infante statue.


382150_4596447463081_150681162_nMarco has created such detail that this year he even added the row of Salvador Herrera’s photographs that hang in front of the Universidad del Occidente!

167152_1872972422377_5172596_nMarco loves to show off his project, and watch the delight in the eyes and hearts of people who come to visit. I urge you to stop by if you know him. I hesitate to post here his address, but if you’re interested in going, I can put you in touch with him.

garageFor some history on how Marco started, and how the various items in his diorama are made, visit:


New Year’s Update: I am psyched that more and more people are passing on these posts. Today the local newspaper El Debate ran a short story using this post’s same title, though in Spanish of course.