Viajando Por La Libre

DSC_0037©Take a moment to think back on a time you jumped into the unknown with little more than trust? Maybe it was when you decided to move to Mexico. Remember the exhilaration? The joy and excitement? The blessings that flow from such a leap of faith?

Today we found kindred spirits in two twenty-somethings from Tijuana who are living life to the fullest in just this manner They are Sergio Vazquez and Iuvet Sanchez, who quit their jobs, sold their homes, cars, business and clothing, and set off with their two dogs, Ponyo and Ginger, on an open-ended journey through Latin America. These two adventurers prepared for their journey for two years, purchasing and renovating a VW bus (“combi” in Spanish) and starting a fan page on Facebook—Viajando por la Libre—so they might meet people along the way and make some new friends. That fan page currently has 13,000 followers, many of whom are eager to host the couple when they arrive in their city. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

The two were married in Mulege, Baja California Sur, eight months ago. They began their honeymoon trip two months ago, traveling from Tijuana through Sonora and along the US border to Chihuahua and the Sierra Tarahumara: Casas Grandes (Pakimé in Rarámuri), Cuauhtémoc, and Valle de Jimenez. They went through Coahuila to Torreón, and then entered the state of Durango, where they visited the pueblo mágico of Mapimí. I’ve got to visit Mapimí; it sounds gorgeous, and their saint’s day is my birthday! Sergio and Iuvet also loved the nearby ghost town of Ojuela. In fact, they told me that the German engineer who designed the suspension bridge near there—Wilhelm Hildenbrand—also designed the Brooklyn Bridge.

They have obviously learned and seen a lot already, and their trip is just beginning! Their favorite stop thus far has been Durango, where they ended up staying for eight days because they had such a good time. There they were treated like a king and queen, VIPs in every respect: welcomed with a community dinner of discada, entertained in huge and simple homes, given a house in which to reside during their stay, taken out to dinners, tour-guided around, welcomed as friends. Vocho or VW clubs along the way have been unbelievably hospitable to them. Their bus has broken down three times, and each time the people repairing the bus refused to accept payment. Sergio and Iuvet are discovering how good and generous people are, happy to help young people get out and see the world.

Iuvet is a nutritionist who had her own office, and Sergio is an electro-mechanical engineer who worked for a maquiladora in the medical industry. They had good jobs, made good money, owned homes and cars. Neither of them were born to wealthy families; they are representatives of Mexico’s new and growing middle class. Though successful, they could both feel themselves part of the “rat race,” doing repetitive, mundane things in order to buy a better car, a bigger house and nicer things. Iuvet looked around at her female doctor friends, most of whom were very successful at work but not so successful in their personal lives, and she didn’t want that for herself. They were both convinced that life had a lot more to offer.

Sergio told me he has followed the journeys of other travelers for many years: Chilenos, Argentinos, a Frenchman. Most of them traveled in VW buses, and so that has always fascinated him; travelers in combis are “a brotherhood,” he says. The couple took a year-long class on Buddhist spirituality and psychology that they say changed them both as individuals and as a couple, and gave them the confidence to set off on their journey. Both of them see the trip as a chance to let go of ego, which according to Sergio can “grow and grow but never explodes.” They originally dreamed of traveling all of Mexico, but that quickly expanded to include all of Latin America.

Before they started their journey, there was an aunt of Sergio’s who was aghast that they would try to travel in a VW bus. “You’ll never make it up the Sierras,” she chided. Sergio’s eyes fill with delight when he tells me they climbed to 2500 meters and took a photo to prove it to her. While largely a positive trip, the couple has had a couple of scares, one of them with a drunk guy who was convinced they had stolen his van. Fortunately all ended well; they found a safe place to spend the night and left the town at earliest light of morning. They’ve also had a few naysayers on their page, people who scold them for being irresponsible and foolhardy. But, as Iuvet says, “if we don’t take the chance, we then let fear rule our lives instead of love and a sense of adventure, and I much prefer the latter.” We trust their good luck continues.

Iuvet tells me that the trip so far has been nothing like she imagined. In her mind’s eye she saw herself sleeping in the combi, cooking in the combi, bathing in cold water… In reality, during their two months of travel they have only spent a few nights sleeping in their bus, and have cooked only a handful of meals, thanks to the incredible hospitality of the people they have met. Iuvet imagined an austere lifestyle but, in fact, she has gained weight thanks to the incredible generosity of so many new friends along the way. They are fortunate, because looking inside the bus, it is a very simple lifestyle indeed!

Here in Mazatlán the couple are staying with Iuvet’s cousin, who works at Sea Shell City. They have been loving our beaches and seafood. This afternoon her uncle is barbecuing them some pescado zarandeado; they have plans to kayak to Deer Island, and to chill out on Stone Island. They met with the Mazatlán VW Club a couple of days ago.

The couple do not make plans, and are taking each day as it comes. They’re not sure how long they’ll be in Mazatlán, but want to get out of here before the craziness of Semana Santa and MotoWeek. They do intend to head to Tepic, San Blas and Vallarta from here, and visit her family in Guadalajara. They want to go to Aguas Calientes, San Luis Potosí and the Huasteca, and the Bahía: Querétaro, Guanajuato, and Puebla and Chiapas, before hitting Guatemala. They are not on a schedule, but are open to advice from people along the way on places they should go, things they should do, and people they should meet. They have a fan in Guatemala that corresponds with them nearly every day, asking when they’ll arrive. Their intention is to wind through Latin America until they reach Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego—the southernmost tip, though already Iuvet mentions the possibility of continuing on to another continent.

Sergio’s parents have been very supportive and encouraging, urging them to travel while they are young and able. Iuvet says her father “almost had a heart attack” when she told him she was giving up her successful medical practice to travel. Now he is respectful of her decision, though he can’t quite understand it.

When I asked what they’d like me to be sure to say in this article, they replied, “Get out and travel! It opens you to new worlds! Don’t put limits on yourself, such as you don’t have enough money. If you want to do it, you can!”

Sergio and Iuvet have been selling t-shirts, cups and stickers to help pay for gas and fund their journey. However, those items have pretty much sold out, and they only sell them live and in person. Greg and I told them about our local t-shirt maker, but something tells me they’re not interested in doing that right now with the ocean calling. So far they are not set up to receive donations, but they may eventually try to get some sponsors for their journey. Sergio loves to write and take photos, and would very much enjoy publishing an electronic book of their adventures. Iuvet enjoys making videos, and has started a YouTube channel.

Readers, I trust you will be able to meet Iuvet and Sergio while they are here. They are upbeat, enjoyable people whose excitement for life is contagious.

Best of luck to both of you, Iuvet and Sergio! We will most definitely be following your journey as well as your advice, and sending very positive travel energies!


Women’s March Mazatlán


(inglés y español) Sábado, 21 enero 2017, a las 4 de la tarde frente el Escudo en Olas Altas, una marcha hasta la Glorieta Sánchez Taboada/el Clavadista. ¡Vengan e inviten a todos! ¡Mazatlán está en el mapa y se cuenta entre los más que 600 marchas internacionales! Detalles y registración gratis aquí. En México, habrán marchas en México, Ajijic, Campeche, Chetumal, La Manzanilla, Mérida, Oaxaca de Juárez, Playa del Carmen, San Miguel de Allende, San Pancho, Todos Santos, Tuxtla Gutierrez, y Zihuatanejo. Página en Facebook está aquí.

Saturday January 21, 2017, at 4 pm, meet at the Sheild in Olas Altas, on the malecón in front of Hotel Freeman, and march to the Glorieta Sanchez Taboada/Cliff Divers. Join us and invite everyone you know! Mazatlán is on the map and counts itself among the over 600 international marches! Details and free registration here. Marches in Mexico include Mexico City, Ajijic, Campeche, Chetumal, La Manzanilla, Mérida, Oaxaca de Juárez, Playa del Carmen, San Miguel de Allende, San Pancho, Todos Santos, Tuxtla Gutierrez, and Zihuatanejo. Facebook page is here.


Women’s March Global invites individuals and organizations committed to equality, diversity, and inclusion and those who understand women’s rights as human rights to join our local coalitions of marchers in representing the rights and voices of progressive people around the world. As concerned citizens standing up for human rights, Women’s March Global is a proactive international movement, not a U.S. election-specific protest per se, which has galvanized people to defend women’s rights and those of others in response to the rising rhetoric of far-right populism around the world.”

El sábado 21 de enero de 2017 millones de personas se reunirán en Washington DC y en cientos de ciudades alrededor del mundo. Este es un evento local para aquellos que creen en la misión y los valores de la “Women’s March on Washington” y quieren mostrar su apoyo. Lea más sobre la Women’s March on Washington aquí:

16112816_227802494344632_8977447224765482083_oEn solidaridad con las mujeres de todo el mundo, nos reuniremos a las 16:00 en el Escudo de Olas Altas y marcharemos pacíficamente por el Malecón y la Madre Océano hasta la Glorieta Sánchez Taboada/los Clavadistas, donde nos uniremos en un círculo de Amor y Paz. Este es un evento no político, no violento, con el propósito de mostrar apoyo y respeto por los derechos humanos básicos de las mujeres, las minorías, los marginados y los que son diferentes, dondequiera que vivan. Nos solidarizamos con la protección de nuestros derechos, nuestra seguridad, nuestra salud y nuestras familias, reconociendo que una comunidad vibrante y diversa fortalece y enriquece a la sociedad, a nuestros países y al mundo.

Maestros, traigan a sus estudiantes; Madres, traigan a sus familias extendidas; Niños, traigan a tus amigos. Adultos jóvenes, por favor, participen y ayuden a lograr un cambio positivo en nuestro mundo. Hombres de todas las edades, marchen con nosotros en solidaridad y apoyo a todas las mujeres en sus vidas que aman y valoran. Esta es una marcha inclusiva y todos son bienvenidos!

Tendremos una pancarta con el logotipo de la marcha de Washington y el texto que dice, SISTER MARCH EN MAZATLAN, MEXICO ~ EN SOLIDARIDAD CON LOS MEXICANOS, liderando la marcha. El grupo de planificación también hará algunos carteles para que los manifestantes lleven. Y le animamos a que haga su propio signo en el idioma que prefiera (o ambos). (Nota para los extranjeros: Manténgalo corto, respetuoso, legible, y dirigido a nuestras preocupaciones, ya que los extranjeros están prohibidos por la ley de la participación en la política mexicana.) Sugerencias para los lemas incluyen declaraciones de valores que queremos; Por ejemplo, “Honestidad / Honestidad”; O “Dignidad / Dignidad”; Derechos Humanos Para Todos; (Derechos Humanos para Todos); “Los Derechos de la Mujer son Derechos Humanos” o “Derechos de las Mujeres Son Derechos Humanos”.

¿Quiere decir algo sobre la propuesta muralla construida por EEUU a través de la frontera mexicana / estadounidense? “No al Muro” (No a la pared) es corto y dulce.

No es una protesta específica de las elecciones estadounidenses per se, sino un movimiento internacional proactivo que ha galvanizado a la gente para defender los derechos de las mujeres y los de otros en respuesta a la creciente retórica del populismo de extrema derecha en todo el mundo.

“La historia de Mazatlán está llena de inmigrantes procedentes de muchos países (España, Alemania, Francia, Filipinas), siendo acogida en la comunidad y esta inclusión ha construido una ciudad que se enorgullece de su patrimonio multifacético. La tradición continúa hoy con los jubilados americanos y canadienses acudiendo a la ‘Perla del Pacífico’, integrándose en una comunidad cálida y hospitalaria y construyendo el futuro juntos. Es este sentimiento de inclusión y aceptación lo que me motivó a organizar nuestro Marcha de Mujeres Mazatlán.

La verdad es que para construir un futuro mejor para nuestros hijos y para nosotros mismos debemos hacerlo juntos, con respeto, honestidad y dignidad para todos. A pesar de aquellos que quieren construir muros que se separan, literalmente o ideológicamente, en última instancia, todos somos un solo gente, viviendo en un planeta. Parece lógico que las mujeres, las madres, estén difundiendo este mensaje de unidad.

Como Mazatlecas – nacidas aquí o ‘pata saladas’ – nos unimos orgullosamente con mujeres alrededor del mundo en apoyo de las mujeres en nuestras vidas que nos dan tanto”.
—WMM organizadora Janet Blaser

Encabezadas por los organizadores de la primera vez y los activistas experimentados, las marchas reunirá a personas de todos los orígenes, razas, religiones, identidades de género, edades y habilidades. Si bien son dirigidos por mujeres, todos son bienvenidos a asistir.

¿Necesita más ideas? Revisa: 

On Saturday, January 21, 2017, hundreds of thousands will gather in Washington D.C. and in hundreds of cities around the world. This is a local event for those who believe in the mission and values of Women’s March on Washington and want to show their support. Read more about the Women’s March on Washington here:

In solidarity with women around the world, we will gather at 4pm at the Escudo in Olas Altas and march peacefully along the malecon and Mother Ocean to the Cliffdivers’ Plaza, where we will join together in a circle of Love and Peace. This is a non-political, non-violent event with the purpose of showing support and respect for the basic human rights of women, minorities, the disenfranchised and those who are different, wherever they may live. We stand together in solidarity for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families — recognizing that a vibrant and diverse community strengthens and enriches society, our countries and the world.

Teachers, bring your students; mothers, bring your extended families; children, bring your friends. Young adults, please take part and help effect positive change in our world. Men of all ages, march with us in solidarity and support of all the women in your lives that you love and value and couldn’t live without. This is an inclusive march and everyone is welcome!

We will have a banner with the Washington march logo and text that says, SISTER MARCH IN MAZATLAN, MEXICO ~ EN SOLIDARIDAD CON LOS MEXICANOS, leading the march. The planning group will also make some placards for marchers to carry. We encourage you to make your own sign in whichever language you prefer (or both).

Note to foreigners: Keep it short, respectful, legible, and directed at our concerns, as foreigners are forbidden by law from involvement in Mexican politics. Suggestions for slogans include statements of values that we hold dear; for example, “Honestidad/Honesty”; or “Dignidad/Dignity”; Derechos Humanos Para Todos; (Human Rights for All); “Women’s Rights are Human Rights;” or “Derechos de Las Mujeres son Derechos Humanos.’’

Want to say something about the proposed US built wall across the Mexican/US border? “No al Muro” (No to the Wall) is short and sweet.

This is not a U.S. election specific protest per se, but a proactive international movement, which has galvanized people to defend women’s rights and those of others in response to the rising rhetoric of far-right populism around the world.

“Mazatlán’s history is one that’s full of immigrants from many countries – Spain, Germany, France, the Philippines – being welcomed into the community, and this inclusion has built a city that’s proud of its many-faceted heritage. The tradition continues today with American and Canadian retirees flocking to the ‘Pearl of the Pacific,’ integrating into a warm and hospitable community and building the future together. It’s this mood of inclusion, and acceptance, that motivated me to organize our Women’s March Mazatlán. 

The truth is that in order to build a better future for our children and ourselves we must do it together, with respect, honesty and dignity for all. Despite those who want to build walls that separate, literally or ideologically, ultimately we are all one people, living on one planet. Somehow it seems only logical that women – mothers – are spreading this message of unity.

As Mazatlecas – whether born here or ‘pata saladas’ – we stand together proudly with women around the world in support of the women in our lives who give us so much.”
—WMM organizer Janet Blaser

Spearheaded by first-time organizers and seasoned activists, the marches will bring together people of all backgrounds, races, religions, gender identities, ages and abilities. While led by women, all are welcome to attend.

Need more ideas? Check out:

Mazatlán’s Great New Park

20-dsc_0173Have you checked out the wonderful new Parque Lineal? It’s an incredible addition to our city, built to improve the quality of life of middle-class Mazatlecan families. The park provides much-needed green space for recreation and sports, and a secure place for families to play as well as for commuters on bicycles, in a very strategic area of town. Over 85,000 Mazatlecos can walk to the park and it is serviced by 28 transportation routes. I love the new space! It’s clean, green, and colorful, and you should visit it while it remains that way.

Officially called Parque Lineal Pérez Escobosa, it is 5.7 km long and is located in the median of Avenida Oscar Pérez Escobosa from Avenida Clouthier to Fraccionamiento Real Pacífico, passing right in front of Sendero Plaza. That median, you may recall, was previously an unkept, ugly ridge down the center of the road. The new park has a total of 42.7 hectares (105 acres) and cost approximately 130 million pesos, paid for with federal, state and municipal funds. Its stated purpose is to build community, bring families together, get people outdoors and physically active, and promote sports. It will bring economic benefits to the surrounding areas, and gives young people a safe and constructive place to hang out. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Called a “lung of the city,” the entire length of the park has grass, trees, and flowers watered by a sprinkler system. The park includes bicycle lanes, a skatepark, outdoor crossfit gyms, areas for exercise classes such as zumba and yoga, bicycle and pedal car rentals, a water park, basketball courts, tables to play chess and lotería, quite a few covered spaces for events, climbing bars and playgrounds, a jogging trail, picnic areas and barbecues, esplanades, pedestrian bridges, security and first aid stations (Municipal Police, firefighters, and Red Cross), restrooms and commercial concessions (cafes and snack stands). On the corner of Cristobál Colón is a beautiful fountain called Acueducto de los Cantaros. If you haven’t seen it or done more than drive by the park, you really should take a bike ride, walk, jog or car ride along the length of this new jewel of Mazatlán. Just know that parking is a hassle and crossing the street to get to the median is not for the faint-hearted.

The park has been built and unveiled in stages—the first section opened in March of 2015, and the sixth was dedicated in September of this year. The inaugurations were attended by Governor Malova, Mayor Felton, and the two different Secretaries of State Tourism who’ve had tenure during the two year period. The six parks-within-a-park are:

  1. Parque El Pata Salada, which was inaugurated in March 2015. It includes multi-use sports courts, outdoor gyms with stations for the differently abled, a jogging track, concrete walking trails, bicycle lanes, playground equipment, and a dog park that is not a run park like northerners might be used to, but has exercise or performance equipment to use with your leashed dog. It is 850 meters long, between Santa Rosa and Francisco Madera, and cost 18 million pesos.
  2. Parque de la Juventud opened in July of 2016 and is the most active portion of the park. It contains 850 meters of skateboard park, crossfit, open-air gyms, areas for exercise classes, bike lanes, bike rental, security, first aid, restrooms and commercial concessions, and represents a 20 million peso investment. It is between Avenida Francisco Madero and Highway 15 (Ejército Mexican). There are regular fitness classes held here, as well as in other areas of the park.
  3. Parque del Arte y la Cultura, inaugurated in August of 2016, is located between Highway 15 (Ejército Mexicano) and Cristóbal Colón. At only 500 meters long, it’s the smallest of the six parks within Parque Lineal, and is designed to keep people connected to arts and culture. It features art exhibitions (painting, sculpture, photography) and performances (dance, poetry, theater), and was built at a cost of 7.6 million pesos.
  4. Parque de la Tranquilidad, which opened in Aug 2016, includes relaxation and exercise areas, a book lending library with computers, a cafeteria, green areas, jogging trails, bicycle lanes, a meditation garden, outdoor gym, a multi-use sports court, lighted esplanade, parking, security and first aid. This is where they projected the Festival Cervantino from Guanajuato earlier this year. This portion of Parque Lineal cost 22 million pesos.
  5. Parque de la Familia, where they cut the ribbon to open it in September of 2016, is located between Avenidas Manuel Clouthier and Munich, It is 1.5 km long and cost 36 million pesos. It has a jogging trail, bicycling lanes, picnic areas, barbecues, green areas and playground equipment, an open-air gym, a very cool pedestrian bridge over the Arroyo Jabalíes, three multi-use esplanades, and security.
  6. Parque de la Niñez was opened in two phases, with the second section that includes the water park opening most recently, in September. It’s between the streets Zapopan and Santa Rosa, 750 meters long, and cost 14 million pesos. This is a place for young children to play and has playgrounds, swings, slides and a colorful spray park.

I love bicycling, and it’s long been a dream of mine that our city would actually follow through on its plan to build ciclovías or bike lanes around town. One of the things I love most about the Parque Lineal is all the workers commuting in safe green space to and from work on their bikes! I still saw plenty of bikers not using the park, but rather riding on the street, so no doubt culture-change will take time.

As with any linear park around the world, in those places where major roads cross the park, walkers, joggers and bikers need to be very careful with the cross traffic. In some places city planners have installed topes/speed bumps on the cross-streets. I would hope those might be added in all along the route. Another great thing about the park is that the planners had the foresight to install loads of trashcans everywhere. Rather miraculous, no?

We know that many times public spaces get built and then fall into disrepair due to lack of maintenance (like that wonderful park for the differently abled that Rotary built, that’s now pretty much unusable) and vigilance (the Parque Lineal has already been hit by graffitists a couple of times, despite the security). I respect that this time the project seems to be much better thought-through: security on site, irrigation systems installed, LED lighting, first aid stations and commercial concessions, and an unbelievable amount of signage—very different from normal urban development projects here. In fact, there is SO much signage that I began to question who’s brother owns the sign shop. Let us hope that our beloved Mazatlecos can preserve this park in good condition and maintain it as intended: as a safe public space for the enjoyment and health of families.

The Christmas decorations that they’ve put up are really beautiful; yet another reason to get out soon and see this new park. It seems that instead of putting up Santa’s village, which for several years Mayor Felton and his wife installed in the Bosque/City Park, and then moved to the Plaza República, they invested in decorations here. The day I took photos a university was hosting a Christmas party for a group of local kids, transforming one of the covered areas into an energy-filled party zone.

I’ve read several articles saying that the Parque Lineal is the biggest in Mexico; you know how much people here love everything to be a record. However, Chapultepec Park in DF is 686 hectares (1695 acres), the largest in Latin America. Those claiming our park’s grandure may mean it’s the longest linear park or greenway in Mexico, but Parque El Encino in Chihuahua is 13.5 km long, and Ferrocarrilero in Aquas Calientes is 12 km. To me, Parque Lineal Pérez Escobosa doesn’t need to be Mexico’s biggest; it’s gorgeous, well-planned, -located and -built. Congratulations to all those involved! It will make a wonderful place to walk around and people-watch over the holidays.


Tourism Mazatlán’s Julio Birrueta



  • What’s the percentage of national to international tourists in Mazatlán these days?
  • On average, who pays more for their holiday?
  • Why are airfares to Mazatlán more expensive than those to other Mexican destinations? (Answers are at the end of this article.)

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Julio Birrueta, the friendly, no-nonsense Director of both the 25-year-old Mazatlán Tourism Board and the Mazatlán Hotel Association. It’s his office that runs the wonderful site.

Mazatlán a Leader in Mexico
Julio told me that Mazatlán has been a leader in tourism on the national stage for decades. When the Mazatlán Tourism Trust was founded 25 years ago, it was the first public-private partnership for tourism promotion in the country. Today, Mazatlán and Cancún are the only two destinations in Mexico with private-public partnerships to promote tourism. Other destinations express their envy of Mazatlán, because purely government-run tourism promotion often equates to an inconsistent message— the government changes every few years and new people bring new ideas.  Other destinations also envy our 3% tax on accommodations; the amount is fully earmarked for tourism promotion. Thanks to this tax, as well as help from the Federal Tourism Board and SECTUR, Mazatlán is able to employ PR agencies in Canada, the USA, and Mexico.

“I don’t know that we’ve ever publicly thanked Mazatlán’s foreign community in an English language outlet for their incredible support. I’d like to do that now. Thank you. Your love of our city made a huge difference to its future.”
—Julio Birrueta

Mazatlán has also been a national leader for the way we recovered from recent setbacks. In 2008, the world economic crisis hit. In 2009, it was the Bird Flu. In 2010, Mexico’s national economy fell, and in 2011 the cruise ships pulled out. Julio explained that it was thanks to Mazatlán’s very active and engaged expatriate community that things turned around. Many visitors as well as foreign residents recorded videos talking about their experiences here, addressing safety issues in particular. Julio and others played those videos at every industry event for nearly two years. Audiences believed the message because it was people like them saying it, rather than something a tourism official claimed. “I don’t know that we’ve ever publicly thanked Mazatlán’s foreign community in an English language outlet for their incredible support. I’d like to do that now. Thank you. Your love of our city made a huge difference to its future.” Julio told me that when Puerto Vallarta recently had its own crisis, the Federal Tourism Board called SECTUR to get advice and hear the inside scoop on how Mazatlán engineered its recovery. After their success, Acapulco came asking for help, as well.

The Tourism Board
The Mazatlán Tourism Board is comprised of our two local hotel associations, the municipality, and the state. The Technical Committee meets three times a year to agree on plans and budget. The Marketing Committee, composed of the Sales Directors of every hotel as well as the three GMCs, meets at least every two months, and of course there are ongoing phone calls, meetings and texts.

While Julio’s office only has three employees, staff at hotels around the city volunteer their time, expertise and connections to perform the various roles needed. For example, a local hotel sales director is responsible for encouraging airlines to bring more seats our way, and a hotel vice president negotiates how much money we get from Federal Tourism.

The Mazatlán Hotel Association includes 80% of the municipality’s hotels, including those in Centro Histórico north to the Fishermen’s Monument, and from Valentino’s north. Mazatlán’s original Tres Islas Hotel Association includes the hotels on the malecón from south of Valentino’s to the Fisherman’s Monument—the other 20% of the hotels in Mazatlán. Tres Islas, for example, created the Festival de la Luz, the fireworks show held annually in conjunction with the Maratón del Pacífico, and everyone promotes the event.

We are fortunate that every hotel in town promotes Mazatlán as a destination; the port has a very united message. The destination is first, and hotels pay their own expenses and contribute rooms, meals or staff to help make events happen.

The video below includes excerpts of my hour-long interview with Julio, including his appreciation to our local international community, Mazatlán’s recovery from the triple crises 2010-2013, his opinions on AirBnB and Uber, and the Tourism Board’s future plans:


Distinct Types of Tourists
Mazatlán is blessed with two distinct seasons for different kinds of tourists. Nationals love to visit Mazatlán’s beaches in the hot summer months; winter is too cold for most of them, at least for the beach. In contrast, Canadian and US American snowbirds love it here in the winter months. The new highway to Durango has brought us record occupancies in the warm months.

Before 2010 Mazatlán had an equal balance of international and national tourists. By 2013 that had changed to 80% nationals and 20% internationals. That drastic change was very tied to the changing image of Mexico in North America and on the world stage. Now the trend is reversing and more international tourists are coming.

As most of us observe, Julio reports that national tourists tend to travel with extended family: three to four kids and the mother-in-law—“with the dog and the parrot,”  as they say in Spanish, or “familia burrón.” Nationals generally make their travel decisions close to the date of travel, and because of that they pay 30-40% more for their accommodations. They stay and average of two to three nights—over a weekend. They want banda music on the beach, and the younger crowd wants to go out clubbing. Fortunately, their transportation expenses to get to Mazatlán are less, whether they come by highway (bus transportation is popular) or air.

International tourist, on the other hand, tend to stay no less than five nights, often seven or fourteen. They spend more money in Mazatlán because they’re here longer, they take more tours, and they go out and dine at different types of restaurants. They play golf, go fishing, and purchase more time shares than nationals do, though that’s changing.

2017 Tourism Plans
I asked Julio what plans they have that our readers would be interested in knowing about—perhaps he had a secret or a scoop to share with us?

He tells me they plan to double the advertising budget in 2017, and increase the public relations budget by 20%, thanks to higher occupancy rates, more money from the state, and hopefully more federal funds as well. Plans are to bring in foreign journalists and bloggers, focusing on special events and unique experiences. They’ll add in a section on their website for conventions and events at the International Center (MICA: Meetings, Incentives, Congresses and Events comprises 28% of our national occupancy and growing), and another section for destination weddings.

Readers of this page know that for nearly a decade I’ve been promoting cultural and religious tourism to the municipality of Mazatlán. Fortunately Tourism has started to value and promote our cultural heritage more. The good news that Julio shared with me is that from 2017 the Tourism Board will add religious tourism to their promotions.


Answers to Opening Questions
So, do you want the answers to my lead-in questions?

  • Julio says that nationals currently comprise about 70% of our tourists (and 70% of them arrive by car). If you count cruise ship passengers, that total goes to 60% national and 40% internationals.
  • Surprising to me, on a per-night basis nationals tend to pay 30-40% more for their stay in Mazatlán than do internationals—foreigners tend to plan farther ahead, stay longer, and purchase package deals. Of course, because international tourists tend to stay longer, they invest more total money in Mazatlán on a per capita basis.
  • Airfare prices are a definite concern for Julio. He says the solution is to bring in more airlines so that competition and more seats lower prices. Their strategy is to focus on specific markets with marketing plans, as Mazatlán has done with Calgary and Minneapolis. Foci will include Chicago, Denver and Seattle, which will in turn give Mazatlán more connectors from a broad number of cities. As to the frequent rumor that other cities subsidize the airlines, Julio bets they don’t.


Help Us Find Oneil

14681859_10211225149723508_3995029327415111999_n.jpgMost of you know Oneil Patrick Carroll McGean. As owner/operator of Café Playa Sur, he is always ready with a smile and a hug. He includes so many of us in his wonderful parties, whether fireworks viewing or piñata busting. He has lived here in Mazatlán full time for 10 years, and still manages the Old Mazatlán Condominiums. He is a quintessential bridge-builder, with as many local as international friends.

Oneil’s a great guy. Last winter, when a local public school was vandalized, he worked tirelessly to raise money to repaint and buy new computers. Oneil’s the kind of person that’s there when you need something; he’s just good people.

Tuesday night, Oneil went missing. We know where he was headed—to meet a new acquaintance at Hotel Punta Pacífico, at the entrance to the Delfín area. Friends watched him leave. After that, we don’t know. It is heartbreaking.

Thanks to local connections, friends, and officials, we have moved mountains today and gotten the wheels in motion to find him. Obviously the longer the delay, the more fear we have. His brother will join us from Hawai’i tomorrow.

We are quite confident Oneil has met misfortune. He loves his dogs dearly, and has left them unattended. He would never do that in a million years. Thankfully, his friend Jorge has stepped in to make sure the dogs are well taken care of, and to spend two days without sleep mobilizing a search effort and investigation. No one could ask for a better friend. Janet Blaser has also been a huge help. I so admire her clear thinking in times of trauma. And her connections.

The local, state and US American authorities have been alerted that Oneil is missing under suspicious circumstances. I contacted Mayor Felton this evening, and he spoke with Governor Malova, who tomorrow will send a specialized group of personnel here to Mazatlán to search for Oneil. A small group of close friends are working with the family, US American consulate, local authorities, and police to try and expedite and help as much as possible.

Please, help to spread the word of his story. Use any connections you have to get everyone informed and helping with this. And help us hold him up in prayer or meditation for a safe return.

Please do NOT spread sensationalistic nonsense—this is most probably not narco or gang violence. We hold hope that Oneil will show up soon, perhaps with fewer pesos, and not too badly beaten.

We love you, my dear friend.