Covid-19 Update Mazatlán

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Despite—or perhaps because of—our concern about Semana Santa and COVID-19, things are finally getting quiet here in Mazatlán: no RAZRs running up and down the malecón at all hours, almost no motorcycles revving, and very few pulmonías or aurigas blaring their music in the middle of the night. It has taken a while, but Mexico is on board.

This pandemic to me is Mother Nature’s way of sending us all to our rooms and telling us to reflect on our actions while she cleans up her air. I do hope we will listen, but looking at the number of single-use masks now polluting our global waterways (photos below from the internet–not from Mazatlán), it seems we are not learning.

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Governor Quirino Ordaz first closed schools and massive events; then casinos, discos and cinemas. Next bars and restaurants were ordered to scale back seating 50%. Despite all this, we went a couple of weeks with loads of fireworks going off around town periodically and banda music blaring—showing that, despite the cancellation of loads of parties and events, others continued. Even now El Muchacho Alegre seems to have a party crowd in the evenings.

As it is up north, here it’s difficult to find hand gel, good sanitizer (bleach seems readily available), and face masks. We worry if medical staff will have the equipment they will need. A week or ten days ago people in Mazatlán started to make fabric masks. First they passed them out to family and friends, and now many locals are selling them, including ones made by the domestic-violence-surviving young women at Floreser. If you need homemade masks, they are my go-to source. Call Ely Cucurumbe at 669-123-1669 and she’ll deliver some to you (50 pesos each); she speaks great English.

Many restaurants have now voluntarily closed or have cut back to pickup or delivery only, including the Panama chain. This week the governor closed all beaches in Sinaloa: ocean, river, lake, stream. We have watched all day today as the lifeguards on 4-wheelers chase down anyone walking or gathering on the beach and make them leave. Banks, doctor’s offices and many stores are practicing the social distancing promoted by cartoon super-heroine “Susana Distancia” (“sana distancia” is “social distancing”) by marking their floors and setting chairs at a safe distance. This sadly does not prevent people from crowding around on top of each other. Below is a photo of the sign on the Cuban place, Carlos and Lucía’s, in the Golden Zone.

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All but essential workers have been asked to shelter in place, as we accustom to a new normal of food and grocery deliveries (stores remain open). Of course workers who are accustomed to living paycheck to paycheck are suffering horribly. President Lopez Obrador has promised relief, and Mazatlán’s mayor has done so, as well. It’s not enough, but it’s something. Most foreigners here have paid their housekeepers to stay home and not work, and I believe most foreign-owned businesses are doing the best they can by their workers, too. These are challenging times, to say the least. Yet, there are those who continue kissing, hugging and drinking on the malecón, and others who insist on partying. It breaks my heart, as so many of us are already indoors for three weeks in order to help minimize the effect of this virus on the community.

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

Wednesday the governor ordered the closure of all hotels. The AquaMarina Hotel had been one of the first to close, it seems a couple of weeks ago already. The photos above are of workers putting up a fence to prevent access to the Olas Altas Inn on the malecón, plus photos of the Hotel Playa Mazatlán, closed for the first time since its founding, the Decima and the Playa Bonita.

Several of the hotels have lit hearts using the lights of their empty rooms, as a sign of hope to our fair city, I suppose. I do love the gesture. The Hotel Hacienda, of course, has a tradition of lighting up for the holidays. Sadly, this time it’s not a celebration.

Below I throw in a pic of tonight’s sunset for those of you who are up north.

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Be well, dear readers, whether you are here in Mazatlán or you have returned to your families up north. Stay home, stay safe. Help out anyone you know who is alone, has special needs or underlying medical conditions. I hope you can use the time to read, learn a new skill or try a new exercise. Take care of yourselves and reach out to others; creativity is key as we tread this new territory.

Truck Lovers

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The first Semana de la Troca hit Mazatlán this week and over 500 pickups—from classic and beater to custom and modern—hit the Avenida de la Bahía facing the new Central Park this weekend. Participants arrived Friday for a parade last evening followed by a concert (we live streamed it on Facebook), and are partying again this evening. The event will finish tomorrow (Sunday) morning.

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We met truck lovers from several states, lots of families, members of truck clubs, Mazatlecos now living outside the city and coming home for a visit. The car show, rally and musical event is sponsored by Mzt Trucks and the Asociación Trokera Nacional. We experienced a whole lot of excitement and bonding, and big hopes for making this an annual tradition. I guess Mazatlán is becoming the motorized vehicle capital of the area?

I am recovering from major surgery, so hobbling around with a cane. I was excited to get outside, if even for an hour, so put on my fisheye lens and had a bit of fun with what we saw. I trust you’ll enjoy the pics! Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

 

Lost Mazatlecan Tradition?

DSC_4630©Mazatlán has a tradition of fishing that dates back probably a thousand years: shrimping with hand nets. The gorgeous way the tarayas spread out and then splash onto the water has always fascinated me; it’s a very tranquil, rhythmic dance. Below are a couple sequences of the net throwing, to give you a better idea.

Riparian shrimp fishermen go out in small pangas in pairs. Reminiscent of the gondoliers of Venice, the non-fisherman sits in the back of the boat and holds a long stick (la palanca, made of mangrove wood) with which he pushes the boat through the shallow lagoon or estuary. The second person stands in the front of the panga and casts the net. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Watching shrimp fishermen work in the estuaries and lagoons of Mazatlán has brought me joy since I first arrived here on La Bala train in 1979. Back then much of the Golden Zone was still covered with waterways (Laguna Gaviotas and Estero El Sábalo), as was the whole of the marina area (Salvador Allende). El Venadillo, Laguna del Camarón and Estero del Yugo were much larger. And there were shrimpers everywhere! We were all in shrimp heaven!

Just as we can hail an oyster diver or a fishermen to buy his catch today, up to a few short years ago we could buy the catch direct from shrimpers easily here in Mazatlán. But now? It’s a gorgeous and delicious tradition awaiting the final nail in its coffin. I posted a couple of photos on Facebook a few days ago of buying shrimp from the shrimpers in Estero de Escopama, and I immediately had about 20 people asking me privately (they don’t want others to know!) the secret to where they could go to buy such shrimp. Now that we’ve cemented over our waterways, we have to travel that much farther to see the beauty of the tarayas.

If Mazatlán were Patzcuaro, we’d be promoting the beauty of our traditional fishing methods as tourist attractions. There, of course, the “butterfly net” fishermen catch tourist tips much more frequently than they catch fish. In Mazatlán, however, we seem to have purposefully worked the past 50 years to kill our centuries-old tradition. At the same time we seek UNESCO certification as a Creative City in Culinary Arts, we lose the tradition for harvesting the shrimp for our famous aguachiles.

I was very fortunate to be welcomed into the last hand net shrimping cooperative in our city, The Veterans of the Mexican Revolution. They most kindly agreed to take me out with them while they fished. The first day I joined them, they caught 135 kg of shrimp that they sold to the owner of a pescadería at the Stone Island Embarcadero. The second day I joined the group they sadly caught far less: maybe 35 kg. They told me that was because it’s the end of the season, and because it was a cloudy day. Cooperative members share equally in their catch. Some may choose to take their daily pay in shrimp, others prefer cash. Either way, it’s equal: you fish, you get paid.

85 year old José Ibarra Rodriguez is the only surviving founder of the cooperative. In the video below he tells me that they started the fishing cooperative in 1967, and their first day of fishing was August 16, 1968. At the time, they purchased a 50 year federal concession to fish. There are currently 24 members in the co-op.

However, due to the government losing documentation, and to the emphasis on tourism and development over the environment, over the years they have lost most of the estuaries that they used to fish, and are currently fighting over the rights to everything between Escopama and Pozole (Dimas).

The estuaries and lagoons of Mazatlán used to be lined with mangroves, filled with shrimp and fish, and home to endemic and migratory birds. Our gorgeous bay, dozens of miles of beaches and the wetlands, with our view of the Sierras to the east, is what attracted the Who’s Who of Hollywood as well as so many renowned writers and artists to our city.

The sad thing to me is that very soon we will have to go even farther to see the beauty of the tarayas. Other fishermen in the group tell me they have lost their concession to fish the Escopamas, and that the Salinitas concession has also expired. Mazatlán’s centuries-long culinary tradition continues to die out at the very time we seek UNESCO accreditation.

I leave you with a few happier shots of the pelicans that gladly clean up the smaller fish that the fishermen fail to throw back in, as well as some cormorants fighting over a fish.

Behind the Scenes of the 9th Temporada Campbell

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The 9th Temporada Gordon Campbell brings us loads of live music with first-rate global performers. Concerts are generally at noon on Sundays in Mazatlán’s gorgeously restored, historic Angela Peralta Theater.

As usual, Maestro Campbell and his wife, Guianeya Román, joined me to give the VidaMaz.com community a “behind the scenes” peak into each concert this season. You can enjoy their commentaries in the short videos below.

Bach’s Magnificat, Sunday January 12, 2020 at noon in the TAP
This next Sunday in the Angela Peralta Theater you can enjoy Bach’s “Magnificat” as sung by the Culiacán Community Chorus with a solo performed by the marvelous tenor from Mexico City, Leonardo Villeda. We are privileged to have Leonardo perform here. In addition to his voice talent, he is director of the well regarded Ad Hominem Chorus in the capital. He and Gordon are such good friends that his 150 person chorus sang at Gordon and Guia’s 50-person wedding! Hear this behind-the-scenes story in the video below.

The soprano will be Perla Orrantia, and second soprano Jessica Toledo, the nineteen year old who started singing with the chorus as a ten-year-old girl. We are so blessed in Mazatlán to watch terrifically talented singers of international caliber grow up before our eyes and in our ears! Susan Sanga will be the mezzo—first time as a soloist in Mexico. Baritone Alejandro Hernandez, soloist in the cathedral concert recently, will also sing.

Mozart and His Women, Sunday 19 January, 2020 at noon in the TAP
The letters between Mozart, his wife, daughter, sister and friends are harvested to create this highly innovative, heart-touching show that provides the story behind some of the best music he composed. Narrated by Angelica Aragón (daughter of local music and film legend Ferrusquilla) while the Camerata Campbell plays, and featuring soprano Perla Orrantia. Below Gordon and his wife, Guia, share the story.

American Quartet by Dvořák, Sunday 26 January, 2020 at noon in the TAP
Antonín Dvořák wrote this piece in 1893 while he was director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York—while spending the summer in, of all places, Spillville, Iowa. In Spillville, Dvořák found an active Czech immigrant community in which he was able to speak his native language and enjoy the feel of home. He finished the chamber piece in less than a month. According to music critic Betsy Schwarm, the composer set out to capture “the spirit of America music in its melodic flow and harmonic construction.” The Marketo String Quartet returns to Mazatlán to perform the four string movements.

Mozart’s Gran Partita, Sunday 2 February, 2020 at noon and 5 pm in Casa Haas
The Sinfonietta Philomúsica Juventus, a group of young people in Culiacán who have asked Maestro Campbell to direct a youth orchestra in addition to the adult Camerata Campbell. Many of them are children or students of the musicians in the camera. In this program 13 wind players will perform Mozart’s best wind music, Serenade No. 10.

Corky Siegel Sings the Blues, Sunday 9 February, 2020 at noon in the TAP
Mazatlán’s beloved, international acclaimed, Corky Siegel returns, playing harmonica and piano while he sings the blues! What a treat this will be! The maestro promises that Corky is living proof leprechauns exist.

3 Centuries of Chamber Music, Sunday 16 Feb, 2020 at noon and 5 pm in Casa Haas
The talented string musicians of the new Sinfonietta Philamúsica Juventus join us this time for the group’s second performance during this 9th Season Gordon Campbell. They will play more than three centuries of music, starting with Renaissance music through 20th century sounds. Gordon’s introduction of the concert below:

The post-Carnaval portion fo the season will include three performances in March, including the Maestro’s personal favorite: his first time ever performance with his son!

Father & Son: Gordon & Alexander Campbell, Sunday 1 Mar, 2020 at noon in the TAP
It was a huge pleasure to meet Gordon’s long-lost and very talented son, and to see the love and joy between these two men now that they are reconnected. I for one can not wait for this concert!

Please forgive the fuzziness of the video; perhaps my concussion is still playing with my brain. I do think the stories are very worth the listen.

The Romantic Music of America, Sunday March 8 at noon in the TAP
The Rondalla will return to their welcoming Mazatlecan crowd

Looking Out for Number 1, Sunday March 15 at noon in the TAP
For the final concert of the 2020 season we will enjoy the young piano prodigy, Hermann Valdez Fregoso, with both the adult Camerata Campbell and the youth orchestra, playing Beethovens Symphony No. 1 and Piano Concerto No. 1.

Buy your tickets at the Angela Peralta box office, either for individual performances or with terrific discounts on season tickets. The Camerata and the Youth Orchestra (this latter completely volunteer) are labors of love. Your donations to support the musical mission are gratefully accepted and are tax deductible.

National Ballet Director Invites You

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I’ve told you about this season’s “not-to-be-missed” ballet gala with lead dancers from Mexico’s best dance companies: the National Bellas Artes as well as the Ballet de Monterrey. They will be joined on stage by top students from two of Mexico’s leading ballet schools—in Veracruz and Monterrey—as well as from a local mazatlecan ballet academy.

The International Ballet Gala will take place on Sunday November 17th at 6:00 pm in the Angela Peralta Theater. It is a fundraiser for DIF Mazatlán, which helps families in need. Tickets are available at the Angela Peralta box office or by sending a WhatsApp to Carolina at +52-1-669-941-2550 and paying via PayPal. There is only one performance, so be sure to secure your good seats now.

On Monday I had the distinct pleasure and privilege to host the Director of the National Dance Company, Maestro Cuahutémoc Nájera, in our home. He and his wife make their home here in Mazatlán, and have high hopes for our local cultural and dance scene. He tells me how much he loves the Angela Peralta Theater, and how he performed there as a young dancer, before it was completely remodeled.

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the maestro. He is very easy to talk to, charming, and down to earth, counter to the stereotype of so many talented artists. Below is the promo video for the event. Get your tickets now, as I’m confident this event will sell out.