Comic-Con Mazatlán

DSC_2479©Ok, our local “Comic-Con” is a whole lot smaller than San Diego‘s, but it sure is a whole lot of fun and growing every year. The event also shows what one 20 year old young woman can do when she sets her mind to it! These young people know how to put on an event! And how to publicize it! Kudos and more kudos!

Yvonne Tirado, who is now 24, along with her team of six, just finished producing the fourth edition of Mazatlán’s “TomodachiFest,” a conference and “festival multicultural” that attracts young adults from at least three states who are passionate about anime, hip hop music, manga, comics, medieval arts and cosplay. I’ve been wanting to go for the past few years, but life didn’t let me attend until this year. And oh what energy and fun it was!

In my day we would maybe call these kids “geeks,” but here they call them “freaks.” They are largely highly intelligent, fun-loving and very creative young people who love fantasy, invest large amounts of time and talent in handcrafting costumes and memorabilia, and who are in seventh heaven once a year thanks to Yvonne and her team. The event this year took place on Saturday October 14th at the Convention Center from noon till 8pm. It was attended by well over 1100 people, mostly young adults, but also including children and families of “freaks.” Below are the poster and full program for this year’s event, as well as a photo of the t-shirt and main stage. Click on any photo below to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

TomodachiFest (“tomodachi” means “friend” in Japanese, and Japan is, of course, birthplace of anime, manga and cosplay) Mazatlán came to be because Yvonne and her friends were complaining that local conferences offered nothing of interest to young adults. They decided to change that, and despite being full-time students with little to no budget, they birthed the festival. They continue to produce the festival as volunteers.

The high energy event has several things going on at the same time. There are projections of movies and Asian pop music; a karaoke singing contest as well as a dance and cosplay/costume contests; presentations by YouTubers, illustrators and actors who dub films; workshops in drawing, crafts, medieval archery, and ink drawing; and autograph events; and several video game tournaments throughout the day; and a medieval tournament that was held outside in the late afternoon.

The contests have celebrity judges who come from out of town, and the costumes really blew me away. I’m used to seeing incredible cosplay outfits in Japan, but here in Mazatlán, where I know everyone has to make their own costumes and equipment, it truly was impressive.

There is an exhibition hall for the conference, where those attending can buy memorabilia—some of it handmade, comics, and apparel. There were also several computer stations set up for the video game contests.

I had a chance to speak with Alon Ramirez, the internationally known creator and illustrator of “Chico Detergente,” about his work. Born in Culiacán and a former resident of Mazatlán, he now lives in Tepic:

There was a long line for Alon’s autograph, and he took time to sign every one quite memorably:

Congratulations to everyone involved in TomodachiFest Mazatlán! You are shining examples that an individual and a handful of talented souls can, indeed, make a difference!

Manuel and Ignacio

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Last Friday night after the opera, my friend and I were walking around the Machado. We meet a 23 year old Aztecan named Manuel, who told us he moved to Mazatlán two years ago from the interior of the country because he wanted to live on the beach. He said he loves it here, but misses home.

His totem or spirit animal is the jaguar, and he was gifted the skull and pelt of a baby jaguar when he was younger. Apparently that little baby killed a few cows, and the farmer then killed him. Manuel wears the taxidermied piece as a headdress, along with extensive feathers and beadwork that he makes, and often sells, to make a living. He and his friend Ignacio perform on the Plazuela Machado most weekend evenings, Manuel told me. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Nacho, Manuel’s friend, is only 19. Manuel dances and Nacho plays the drum. Manuel tells me that his father taught him to dance the traditional way as soon as he learned to walk, and he’s been dancing ever since. He jumps, spins, and uses fire in a pottery incense burner. He tells me there are dances he can perform in public, and those he can not as they are private to the community. He speaks a bit of Nahuatl, but not as much as he’d like.

Welcome to Mazatlán belatedly, Manuel and Ignacio. Obviously I need to get out more often, lol, as it’s the first time I’ve met you. I very much enjoyed meeting you both, and your performance. Thank you for sharing a bit of your culture. I hope to see you both again soon and learn more.

Focus on Responsible Tourism

Three cruise lines, new air connections, 12,000 rooms in 180 hotels… We greet hundreds of thousands of national and international visitors each year in Mazatlán. Any chance I’ve gotten over the past eight years I’ve tried to encourage travelers to get beyond the stereotypical but wonderful beer and beaches to experience a bit of the “real Mexico,” be it a visit to a small town, witnessing the shrimp or mango harvest, or admiring the Mayo-Yoreme traditions.

Recently, however, I’ve been working with a colleague in Milan, Maura di Mauro, on a project, and she cautioned me about how the culture of Mursi villagers in Ethiopia was changing due to tourism. Thanks to an influx of camera-toting tourists willing to pay for photos, the villagers increasingly exaggerate their traditional practices and even falsely embellish them, to make them more attractive to visitors. Lord knows I’ve witnessed this sort of thing happening in and around Mazatlán. She also told me about Chinese tourists descending en masse on a small village in The Netherlands. Many of the Dutch residents welcome the added economic boost such international tourism provides, but they have also experienced downsides to such tourism and, again, changes to their culture. We in Mazatlán sure experience the ups and the downs of tourism, and know how important it is to our economy.

Maura said there were documentaries about both of these topics, made by the same Dutch cinematographer. She got me excited and I can not WAIT to view the two films!

The first documentary Maura told me about is called Framing the Other” by Ilja Kok and Willem Timmers  (25 min, English and Mursi with English subtitles).

The Mursi tribe lives in the basin of the Omo River in the south of the east African state of Ethiopia. The women are known for placing large plates in their lower lips and wearing enormous, richly decorated earrings. Every year hundreds of Western tourists come to see the unusually adorned natives; posing for camera-toting visitors has become the main source of income for the Mursi. To make more money, they embellish their “costumes” and finery in such a manner that less of their original authentic culture remains. The film contrasts the views of Mursi women and those of Dutch tourists preparing for a meeting. This humorous and at the same time chilling film shows the destructive impact tourism has on traditional communities. A preview is below:

 

The second film is called Ni Hao Holland: The Chinese are coming” by Willem Timmers (25 min, Mandarin and Dutch with English subtitles).

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It is a documentary about Chinese tourists and their quest for the authentic Dutch experience. Cherry, the main character, has long dreamt of swapping her home city Beijing for the Dutch village Giethoorn. She has heard and read a lot about this mythical place. The day arrives that she and her friend hop on the plane in search of adventure. In the meantime, entrepreneurs from Giethoorn work hard behind the scenes to cater to this “Holland experience.” They want to make the most of the fast-growing flow of Chinese tourists to their village. How is this authenticity created by some and experienced by others? A preview follows:

 

While I’ve yet to watch either of these movies, it sure sounds like there’s a lot to think about for tourism in Mazatlán and Sinaloa. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

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!

 

Gay Pride Mazatlán 2017

DSC_0280Our 9th annual gay pride parade started at 5:30 pm Saturday afternoon, June 3rd, from in front of Valentino’s heading south down Avenida del Mar to the Glorieta Sanchez Taboada (cliff divers). It was better attended than ever. What a joy to see so many participants and the large number of spectators cheering them on and supporting authenticity! Witnessing our beautiful malecón lined with lesbian and gay lovers was rather nice, too. A society that embraces difference and has a place for everyone just as they are is a society where justice can reign and violence becomes unnecessary. Such is the hope for Mazatlán on a day of such sadness in London.

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LGBTQ Pride Mazatlán 2017

I absolutely loved the messages printed on front of each float, reminding us why celebrations such as this are so healthy not only for the LGBTQ community but society as a whole. Who can criticize the parade’s lead slogan, “With respect and love, less discrimination”? Key messages included:

  • Honesty: Know who you are and express what you feel.
  • Liberty: Sexual liberty without stigmas or discrimination.
  • Respect: We live together in diversity.

Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Riders on the float included performers at the various gay nightclubs in town as well as the winners of charity and other beauty contests. My girl Thalia Fedorova was there with her entourage of drag queens. A man in a thong wore a full Aztec feathered headdress and a glittery big-horned-sheep-type mask. I loved the angel hottie.

CULTURA supports the celebration and thus the parade included floats from Carnavál 2017. There were no live bands but lots of upbeat dance music, and one group of young dancers in a comparsa. Candy, condoms and pens were thrown, and gay pride flags were circulated. Confetti was shot through the air and floated along the avenue.

People of all ages attended and participated. Some wore t-shirts supporting the cause—there were various types. Most waved flags and pet dogs and pigs got in on the act; there was even a costumed roller blader. Eye candy for every sexual orientation was on full display. Frank (Juan Francisco Diaz) from The Voice Mexico was there, as was a vendor selling flags.

A young migrant who just arrived Saturday via La Bestia from Honduras made the mistake of telling me he was Christian and didn’t approve of this sort of thing. After quoting him a few of Jesus’ words, and explaining to him that, as a migrant/undocumented worker, if he wanted acceptance, respect and inclusion, how could he deny it to others, he changed his tune long enough for us to give him a few hundred pesos to help him on his journey.

I’ve been blessed to have been able to attend quite a few Pride parades in my day, but Mazatlán is definitely the prettiest location of any of them. Thank goodness this parade grows in size and joy every year, and that participants hold strong to constructive messages that benefit our whole community. Lead on, friends!

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