Mazatlán’s Largest Employer and World Leader

mostazaLovers of fresh seafood enjoy living in Mazatlán. We can go down to the boats or visit the pescaderías and be blessed to eat fresh fish nearly every day of the year. The only downside can be that what is available depends, of course, on what was caught that day.

There is a new market in town, however, that ensures that we can always have fresh tuna on hand to use as sashimi, in a tasty ceviche, or to sear as steaks for unexpected company. A month or so ago Greg and I happened into Dolores Market at Rafael Buelna #20 (between Valentino’s and Soriana on the south side of the road) to check it out. There we found flash-frozen-on-the-boat, sashimi-grade tuna at very good prices, tuna pre-cut for ceviche, minced tuna to use for meatballs or paté (or pre-made paté that is delicious), tuna pre-made with veggies on kabobs, pre-formed tuna burgers, canned tuna premixed with seasoning and veggies for an on-the-go lunch, as well as tuna chorizo and ham. I am glad to have Dolores Market so close to our house, as it provides me an easy way to make a healthy and beautiful meal in just a few minutes! Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Then, out of the blue, a book club friend called to say he’d taken on a new job in charge of Dolores Markets and would love to have us tour the production facility to see what it was all about. It turns out that Dolores Market is part of our local and world-class Pinsa group, owned by Leovi Carranza (PezAzteca, Tamara Trucking, ProNova, Estrella del Mar). Pinsa, founded in 1990, is Mazatlán’s biggest employer with over 4000 team members, and one of the world’s most important tuna plants. Their brands include Mexico’s best-selling tuna brand, Dolores, MazAtún, El Dorado, Portola and Brunswick. They produce over two million cans of tuna per day! The market on Rafael Buelna opened in 2016, though the original store in Parque Bonfil (the commercial fishing port) has served Pinsa employees and the public for five years. There are also Dolores Markets in Monterrey, Guadalajara and Culiacán, with plans for major expansion.

Our beloved Mazatlán is not only home to México’s largest tuna fleet—Pinsa has 26 tuna fishing boats and is certified “Dolphin Safe”—it’s also home to our adopted country’s largest and most state-of-the-art tuna processing and packaging facility—Pinsa Congelados. Greg and I were fortunate to tour this factory and felt very proud to learn that Mazatlecos have built, run and work in such a world-class facility resplendent with certifications: Global STD/SQF System, Socially Responsible Company, ESR, HACCP, GMP, Clean Industry, FDA… They have Ministry of Health certification to export to the European Community, the USA and Canada, and elsewhere worldwide. They wouldn’t let me take photos inside the factory, so the pics below are from the offices, and an official video below shows the production line.

Our economic diversity is part of what makes Mazatlán such a terrific place to live. We all see the fish packing, canning and processing facilities in Parque Bonfil as we drive to and from the airport. Touring, however, was quite an eye-opening experience. I worked for years in the semiconductor and food industries, so am very familiar with cleanliness and sanitation standards. Pinsa takes these to a new level. Greg and I were both instructed to empty our pockets, remove any makeup or hair products, as well as any jewelry—like airport security on steroids. We then put on freshly-washed (at the on-site laundry) white sweatshirts and sweatpants, white rubber boots (also freshly sanitized), a hair net, fabric face mask and a full burka-like hood—with only openings for the eyes. We looked like snowmen or players in some futuristic, sci-fi version of Arabian Nights. Sadly, photo taking was prohibited, so you are spared from seeing the evidence, but the video below will show you the garb, the factory and the process. The warm clothes help workers because the warmest area of the plant is 10 degrees C/50 degrees F.

Upon entering the 17,000 square meter plant we had to clean our already clean boots—lifting our legs up into motorized boot brushes moistened with sanitizer-filled water. A guard checked our entry badges, ensured our pockets were empty, and sent us through a metal detector.

We entered onto a long hallway, with numerous swinging doors leading to rooms on the left and the right. The left side of the hallway is the “natural” side, where tuna fish flash-frozen on the boat are cut up and packaged for sale. The right side is the “mejorado” or “improved” side, where tuna is injected with salt to cure and give it color before being processed and packaged. We stepped into a pool of sanitizer each time we entered or left a new room, and we wore rubber gloves.

On the left side, tuna fish are first sorted by size—60 kg and up, 40-50 kg, 20-30 kg—into large bins in a room kept at -9 degrees C/-4 degrees F. In the second room the heads and tails are cut off the frozen whole fish. Next, they are cut into quarters, removing the spine and entrails and leaving two stomach quarters and two back quarters. Finally, the skin is removed. Workers stand with knives along conveyer belts to remove any remaining blemishes. Quarters go through x-rays to be sure no foreign material is inside the fish; the machine ejects any piece of fish in which metal is detected. Vacuum sealing is automated: stomach quarters are shorter and packed right on the conveyer belts; back quarters are longer and are packed into vacuum-sealed bags on a separate line.

From here the tuna flesh takes different routes. Some is destined to be cut into medallions/steaks. The leftover pieces will be shaped with a knife, packaged as “pieces” and sold at a cheaper price, but still perfect for sashimi or searing. Smaller or irregular pieces are cubed for kabobs, cut up ceviche-size, or minced for burgers and sausage. At each stage the fish pieces are meticulously weighed and inspected. The skin, entrails and odd pieces go to the flour mill, also run by Pinsa, to make pet food.

On the right side, the “improved” tuna rooms, the frozen quarters are injected with the salt solution to cure them and give them a nice rich color. As the quarters travel around conveyer belts the excess saltwater runs off and into a tank for recycling. Next is a room with huge thawing space, where the tuna quarters are left for a couple of days to cure.  The plant processes over 66 tons of fish—including 27,000 tuna medallions—on every shift; up to 240 tons per month! The cold storage facilities are huge.

The plant is amazingly clean. Nothing is on the floor, anywhere. We saw many lines in full production, and several on pause while workers ate lunch. All were spotlessly clean. I cannot believe that fish processing can be clean and not smelly!

Locally,  Dolores Markets has plans to branch out before Semana Santa to offer fresh food cooked to order in addition to their retail products. So, while listening to banda and side-stepping the crowds, there might not be carne asada on the grill, but fresh tuna steaks courtesy of Dolores Tuna. Qué rico!!!! Their website is full of recipes (in Spanish), so for those of you who love to cook—or just eat good, healthy food—be sure to check it out!

 

Lighthouse Update & Event of the Season!

DSC_4453Readers, many of you share my love of the lighthouse. Every season of the year it has natural wonders to share, breathtaking views, and provides us a good place to exercise and breathe clean air. Do you also love :

  • Historic properties, elegantly restored, surrounded by gardens and furnished with antiques?
  • Great views of our bay and port, with the city at your feet?
  • Creative cocktails served at a modern Victor de Rueda-designed bar by a trained mixologist?
  • Getting into a private, luxurious facility that you can’t normally get into?

On Thursday, December 20th you can experience all of the above while watching a killer mazatlecan sunset with a bunch of other cool and civic-minded people—for the benefit of our beloved lighthouse.

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Noche de Luz (Night of Light) will take place at the Observatorio Histórico de Mazatlán, atop Cerro del Vigía, overlooking the lighthouse on Cerro del Crestón. Cocktails and canapés will be served from 5 pm, and a concert including classical, Mexican and Christmas music will be performed by baritone José Adán Pérez, mezzosoprano Sarah Holcombe and soprano Rebeca de Rueda, accompanied by Michiyo Morikawa on piano. The performance is scheduled to start at 6 pm, and it’s all to benefit the Patronato Parque Natural Faro de Mazatlán. The promotional video is below.

Tickets are 800 pesos and can be purchased in Centro Histórico (Plaza Machado) at La Tramoya (4-11 pm) or at Deco Designs (Camarón Sábalo 610-5, tel 669-916-5393). Raul Rico’s Vivace Producciones is in charge, so we are sure to enjoy a super show. In order to avoid use of styrofoam and other environmentally unfriendly disposables, logo’d mugs designed by Emilia Igartúa will be available for sale. Do not miss it, or your access to this incredible private property! The event site has very limited parking, so attendees are asked to park at SAT (the old aduana/customs house on Venustiano Carranza and Miguel Alemán) and take a shuttle to and from the observatory. Shuttles will start running at 4:30 pm.

The observatory where the concert will take place was built in the 1800s, according to my friend and local historian, Joaquín Hernandez, designed by Friaco Quijano when our city was still called “Mazatlán de los Mulatos.” It was constructed as a lookout for pirates, at a time when many of the tunnels around downtown were dug—as hiding places for gold and silver from the mines in the Sierras as well as escape routes for the wealthy in case of attack. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

When I first visited the Observatory a couple of decades ago it was in complete ruin, though still beautiful. Some years back Amado Guzmán purchased the property and he has both restored and significantly upgraded it, adding antique nautical furnishings, historical photos, comfortable dining and seating areas and a full bar. The bar is now staffed by a bilingual mixologist during events! My apologies for the fuzzy night shots, but I was out all day and did not have my tripod with me, so we tested my handheld abilities.

The Observatory provides nearly a 360 degree view of Mazatlán, the port and the bay. It is a private party place used only for the elite as well as family and close friends, so those attending Noche de Luz will be quite lucky.

I very much enjoyed interviewing María Esther Juarez, presidenta of the new civil organization “Patronato del Parque Natural Faro de Mazatlán” that takes care of the lighthouse. Since their formation we’ve already seen installation of three new webcams (with a fourth coming soon), funded by Javier Lizarraga Galindo, which provide a 360 degree view of our city 24/7/365. It’s kind of fun to watch the waves crash, the weather change, and the planes take off and land, via the internet. Ten of the key points Esther told me during our interview include:

  1. Public bathrooms, funded by the municipality, are being built at the bottom of the lighthouse at government expense. There is no water at the top, so no bathrooms there yet.
  2. Though Governor Quirino has scheduled the sewage plant at the foot of the lighthouse to be moved out to Stone Island within the next year, planning restaurants and tourist shops designed primarily for cruise ship passengers in its place, the new municipal government has recently vetoed the plan.
  3. Funds from Noche de Luz will be used to (properly repair and) finish the recently redone trails up the hill. The paths will be covered with a natural-looking surface called tucuruguay (you can see it at Parque Ciudades Hermanas/Sister Cities Park), which will be put over the top of the current gravel held on by the geocelda or plastic netting, assuming current tests of the product prove it appropriate.
  4. The zip line is still being planned, with the state coordinating the concession.
  5. The lighthouse keepers will soon be getting uniforms!
  6. The roundabout at the entrance to the lighthouse will be finished very nicely, and a gate installed.
  7. A fence to keep people away from the glass bridge when it is not open is planned.
  8. The patronato is currently looking into ways to make the lighthouse inclusive (accessible to the disabled, elderly, families with strollers), using the ideas and experience of Cuastecomates beach in Jalisco state.
  9. There are plans for drinking water atop the lighthouse.
  10. The patronato would like to make every November “Lighthouse Month,” as the lighthouse was first commissioned in November of 1879 (though a fire burned atop the hill and served as a lighthouse for perhaps a century before that).

The lighthouse itself is owned by API (Integral Administration of the Port), while the lighthouse hill has been thought to be federal land but may actually officially belong to the state or city; that’s part of the clarity those involved are seeking right now. The  patronato thus has to coordinate between FOUR disparate entities—federal, state, local and API—as well as listen to and involve the public. Glad that coordinating role is not mine!

So how did this new civil association come to be? There were a group of regular faro-goers who became concerned about the lack of supervision of the contractor for the lighthouse upgrades. It seems the project supervisor was a state official who only visited the site 2-3 times during the entire construction process. Thus, we have geocelda, the plastic netting on the pathways, that has already disintegrated due to a failure to install it properly. Geocelda is not intended to be used on paths with such a steep incline as we have at the faro. This same group of people was proud of the new crystal bridge and the amphitheater, but well aware how quickly and easily beautiful new installations can be trashed—witness the graffiti-covered Carpa Olivera (ocean-fed swimming pool), Glorieta Sanchez Taboada, or Parque Lineal.

Desiring to prevent neglect and vandalization, the group of civic-minded lighthouse-goers decided to form an association and went to a notario to officially register. They are all volunteer, and just last night successfully joined the much-admired JAP (Junta de asistencia privada), which is a very selective group of patronatos that ensures bookkeeping and decision making are transparent to the public.

Members of the patronato include María Esther; Elsa María López, owner of Deco; Javier Hidalgo, architect, who designed the new lighthouse installations; Alejandra Contreras (a daily visitor to the lighthouse); Balbina Herrera Medrano, who has worked for the lighthouse and API for many years); and Raquel Briseño, a researcher at UNAM. They would seem to be a group with diverse and complementary interests, and they all live locally.

I asked María Esther how our readers can help the faro. She said that soon they will have an online registry to sign up for lighthouse cleaning days (trash pickup and minor gardening). She asked that people stop feeding the feral cats at the lighthouse, as the cats have nearly eradicated the native flora and fauna. The patronato has paid to neuter most of them, but at 800 pesos per cat, they can’t afford to keep it up. Anyone interested is more than welcome to adopt one or more of the resident cats. The great news is that just yesterday the city’s Secretary of the Environment agreed they would find a solution to the problem!

I hope to see you while hiking up the lighthouse, and I also hope to see you on the 20th at the Observatory! Do NOT miss this once-in-a-lifetime event and your chance to support our beloved lighthouse!

THANK YOU, Raul and team!!!!

DSC_9455Those of us living in Mazatlán are incredibly blessed to have had the past seven years straight with our outgoing Cultura (Instituto de Cultura, Turismo y Arte de Mazatlán) team. Tuesday night in the brand-new Sister Cities Park was a very fitting send-off for this enormously talented and dedicated team of world-class professionals. While they thanked Mazatlán, hundreds of mazatlecos attended to give them at least three standing ovations. While I am hopeful the incoming crew will step up and shine, I can honestly say I am in mourning thinking that the people I so value and esteem at Cultura are leaving. Insert a big sob here.

Pasión por la Música was a musical and pyrotechnic extravaganza that included live music from the Camerata Mazatlán, Pércival Álvarez conducting, and the Angela Peralta Chorus, who performed a selection of pop, classical and rock music choreographed to a multimedia show (Karla you are amazing), laser lights (David Olvera) and incredible fireworks (Jorge Márquez, who has done Combate Naval in recent years). Raul Rico, who has led our public arts scene for nearly three decades—as director of Codetur, Cultura, and various other arts and cultural institutions, with a few brief breaks during administration changes—directed festivities from the center of the park, surrounded by those working the sound and light boards. Seated at tables in the background with wait service were the VIPs attending the current international tourism fair, including Governor Quirino.

Carnavál is what it is today because of Raul Rico. He got involved in it in 1975 and has pretty much been in charge of it since 1987 (a few breaks with political shifts). He is Mazatlán’s own maestro de la alegría, master of joy. His goal has always been to grow the public, to bring arts and culture to the schools, to history, to people’s homes and hearts. And that he has done incredibly well. Under his leadership, Cultura events have grown to cover everything from opera and ballet to bandanorteña and folkloric dancing, art shows to book readings. Cultura puts on our annual Day of the Dead as well as Day of the Music festivities, the various cultural festivals, and so much more. Adults and children alike enjoy the performances, which take place in our gorgeous Angela Peralta Theater, Casa Haas, as well as in public parks, plazas, orphanages, libraries, or walking through the streets, downtown and in the farthest, poorest colonia. There is such a wealth of programming offered that no one person could possibly attend everything. Rico promises us he will remain actively involved in the arts and culture scene here in town; he will receive a pension for his over 25 years of service.

Cultura’s final administrative meeting reported that the current team is leaving 7.8 million pesos behind, 5.8 million earmarked for equipment for the Angela Peralta theater, including an LED screen, lighting console, firefighting equipment, interior communication and air conditioning for the galleries, and the rest to cover taxes and Institute operation for the next few months. The report details over 16 million pesos of investment into the theater under Raul’s leadership, and 900,000 pesos in instruments for the camerata. Last year they were responsible for 16 separate activities within the Tianguis Turístico, the national tourism fair, which dazzled the country and our international visitors.

The new city administration takes over November 1st. Incoming mayor is Luis Guillermo Benítez Torres (El Químico), a member of AMLO’s Morena party looking to transform this country. He has named Mazatlán-born movie director Oscar Blancarte as the new Director of Cultura. I very much hope he will bring new life and vision to our arts scene, building on what we already have. Blancarte has publicly said that he wants to make Cultura more inclusive, more participatory, and closer to the artists, building on the work Rico and team have conducted, and that he will take a three-year break from his film career to head the organization here.

Thursday November 1, 6:00 pm in the Plaza República, our new mayor and his cabinet will be presented. Entertainment for the party will be provided by Jesús Monárrez and the Camerata de Mazatlán; my favorite, La Falsa Orquesta Cubana; and the Ballet de Danza de Ángel Rivera.

The callejoneada or parade for Day of the Dead will take place on November 2nd this year, due to the changeover in city administration.

 

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!

Hurricane Willa

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Sunset over the malecón pre-Willa

Mazatlán proved itself ready; it was encouraging to see. Businesses and homes boarded themselves up and put sandbags in place. Most everyone taped over windows to try and prevent flying shards of broken glass.

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The morning after Hurricane Willa

We lived here during Hurricane Lane (Cat 3, 2006) and Tropical Storm Rick (2009), and remember what I felt was a lack of safety precautions then: people not taking down billboards or boarding up windows, surfers pursuing their passion even during the storm, people unsure of flood areas and where to take shelter. This time around there were maps of potential flood areas and shelters, lists of items to have at the ready, and regular updates regarding the weather and evacuations. We’ve come a long way. Commercial activity was ordered stopped at 2:00 pm on Tuesday (so people could get home to their families), and public transportation to stop at 3:00 pm. Protección Civil evacuated some tourists and residents from flood zones to the Convention Center. Most importantly to me, people took the threat seriously. Of course, Willa quickly became a Cat 5 hurricane, which was extremely intimidating.

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Fortunately we in Mazatlán were spared Willa’s wrath; those south of us, in Escuinapa, Teacapán and Agua Verde, were not so lucky and need our aid. And today they are evacuating El Rosario and other places due to potential river flooding. Here we experienced very high tides and incredible beach erosion. There was very little rain or wind, fortunately. Most of the damage I have observed is with the palapas on the beach, and with the beaches themselves. Even without a hurricane our sandy beaches regularly move, so most mazatlecos consider ourselves incredibly blessed. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

 

The day before Willa was scheduled to arrive, there was a double rainbow over Mazatlán. The photo below doesn’t show the second one that well, as I did a panoramic of the full rainbow. Of course all the memes circulating said this was God’s way of telling Mazatlán it would be safe.

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The evening before Willa’s arrival we had one of the most incredible sunsets I’ve seen in my 11 years living here full time. The sky and the ocean were orange for as far as the eye could see. The huge waves crashing with their orange color was a sight to behold!

 

Then, the day Willa was supposed to arrive, Tuesday, there was a second double rainbow. God wanted to be really sure we felt safe. We in Mazatlán are blessed with a bay sheltered both by the Baja Peninsula and by our three islands. There is a legend about how the three islands were formed after the death of three indigenous sisters, and another legend about how we are protected by “Our Lady of the Port.” So, once we dodged the bullet, so to speak, everyone thanked the Virgin of the Port—you can find her in the parking lot of La Puntilla restaurant in Playa Sur, if you’d like to pay your respects.

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Thank you, God of the seas and the skies. Thank you, Virgen de la Puntilla. Thank you, three sisters in our bay. Let us use our gratitude to share drinking water, food, toilet paper, moist towels, diapers, toothpaste, flashlights and batteries for our friends to the south. You can drop off your donations at one of the many Centros de Acopio around town, including the Soriana Híper on Rafael Buelna today. And you can also join in a peregrinación of thanksgiving to the virgin today (Wednesday) starting at Hogar San Pablo at 4:00 pm, concluding with a Mass at 5:00. The virgin has already been showered with flowers, as you can see in this photo by my friend Jessica Aviles.

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La Virgen de la Puntilla hoy, miércoles, foto tomada por Jessica Aviles