Miss Universo Carnaval 2018

God bless you, Thalia! Last night was the BEST EVER Miss Universo Carnavál (Gay Carnaval Queen) pageant, full of trans-gendered and trans-sexual pride and pure human joy.

I was born into this world with a whole lot of privileges. I’m white, I’m straight, I’m fairly intelligent. While born into a working-class family, we had a solid home and food, and all our necessities. I’ve received a good education.

Despite these facts, I’ve had my share of identity crises, as has most anyone. I’m sensitive, so at times I’ve listened too much to what others have to say, rather than following my heart. I have worried about how I appear, how I look, that I live in Mexico as a woman and don’t regularly put on makeup or dress up. I’d like to think now, at 57, I’ve reconciled most of these identity issues. I’m happy in my own skin. But, still… that triple chin, those extra kilitos…

Thus my complete and utter admiration for these drag queens born into our hetero-centric world, many of whom have had to struggle with gaining acceptance from family and friends, say nothing about themselves. Their identity questions were so much more fundamental than my own comparatively trivial ones, and most of them seem to have come out of that challenge more beautiful, confident and resilient than I could dream of being. When we are a bit different from the dominant “norm,” we are presented with loads of possibilities for exploration, creativity, and love, if we can find the presence of mind and strength of heart to see them. Click on any photo below to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

The gowns! The dresses! The swimsuits! The makeup! The hair! The shoes! The guts! The maturity! The confidence! The strength!

We saw chubby queens and skinny queens, buff queens and those with a roll or two. We saw cross-dressers and those who have undergone reassignment and cosmetic surgeries. In the dressing room we saw queens stuffing themselves into girdles and support hose, balancing fake boobies and butts, and those who’ve survived the pain of implants. I congratulate each and every one of you. You have more joie de vivre and bravery than I could ever aspire to have (and that’s a high bar, lol)!

Last night the money collected went to pay hospital bills for a local lady who is ill in the hospital in Culiacán. Thus, this fun event is actually a labor of love by the members of “Belleza con Propósito,” “Beauty with a purpose.”

This event always takes place just prior to Carnaval. Put it on your calendar for next year. I always announce it on the VidaMaz Facebook page. The last few years it takes place at Castillo de Lulu in Playa Sur. The event is BYOB: bring your own drinks. A lady sells hibiscus tea/agua de jamaica and tostilocos (chips with ceviche), but other than that, bring your snacks. Entrance is usually 60-70 pesos and goes to a good cause, and donations are gratefully accepted.

The pageant includes self presentation, dresses, swimsuit, evening gown, and questions. In between stages of the pageant we enjoy entertainment by dance troupes and drag queen performers, this year including Cher. I’m guessing the crowd last night numbered about 150-200, a good mix of locals and internationals. The judging table always includes local celebrities and politicians as well as members of the international community.

The organizer of all this is Thalia Fedorova Chequer-Zahap. I can not imagine the work that goes into this, the details, the pressure. And she pulls it off with incredible grace and beauty.

May we all grow more tolerant, more accepting, more respectful, of ourselves and others. May we all reach out to help a fellow human, today and every day. And may we all enjoy life to its fullest!

Oh, and CONGRATS to Miss Colombia, Yeimi, our Miss Universo Carnaval 2018!

 

Annual Carnavál Infographic

We’ve got some amazing entertainers, world-class fireworks, two incredible parades and a whole lot of merriment coming up for Carnavál de Mazatlán—the oldest Carnavál in Mexico! Things may be a bit different from prior years due to the construction on the malecón and throughout the city, but we know that 2018 will be a Carnavál to remember!

You can choose “Carnaval” under “Categories” on this site or search these pages using keyword “Carnavál” to read some of the many in-depth stories we’ve written over the years about this terrific event.

Enjoy the infographic!

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Blessings in the New Year!

We had a hard time deciding what to do for New Year’s this year. We’ve done the Machado a few times; it’s great, but the music is too loud for Greg’s ears and there are not great fireworks there. We’ve done the dinner and dancing at a hotel or restaurant; also a lot of fun, but we were feeling more casual this year. Friends kindly and generously invited us to their homes, but we needed something more simple yet memorable and special. We wanted time to reflect, as well as to hope, to celebrate what we loved about 2017 and to let go of and learn from what we didn’t. We all agreed the total solar eclipse was the highlight of the year.

Greg and I planned a romantic picnic, with a citrus salad, jamón ibérico, smoked salmon and champagne, on the beach in the Golden Zone so we could watch the myriad fireworks displays. The best New Year’s gift EVER was that Danny decided to forego his invitations as well, and spend NYE with his parents! We were psyched! God bless the 22 year old! It was the perfect night for us: live music from the Hotel Playa, good food and drink, and incredible fireworks—with views from the Golden Zone to Olas Altas. There were at least ten different sets of professional fireworks we watched, and loads of those launched by families and groups of friends. The beach rocked. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

We trust your celebrations have been wonderful, and that 2018 will bring Mazatlán, and you and yours, peace, joy and prosperity. Thank you, Lord, for a year of health and joy, much travel and new adventures. Please help Danny in his upcoming, hopefully last semester of university, and in his job quest. May Greg run fast and far, and may my health, and my photography, get stronger and stronger.

Bless you all!

Love Fresh Produce?

Margaret Hefner

Mazatlán is blessed with a cornucopia of fresh locally grown vegetables and fruits, as well as those that arrive here from the interior of the country. Yet the large variety astounds those of us who haven’t grown up here; when we walk through the market or past a street vendor there is so much produce that is new and unfamiliar.

Now there is an interactive book—Frutas y Verduras: A Fresh Food Lover’s Guide to Mexico—that you can download to your phone, tablet or PC to help us learn the name of the item as well as hear an audio recording of its pronunciation in Spanish! You can click to get information on its nutritional composition, tips for storing it most effectively, and chef-created recipes for using that ingredient. What a godsend for anyone not familiar with indigenous Mexican produce!

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The “enhanced e-book” is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It’s basically a website in e-book format: clicking on a photo, icon or link opens up further information. I learned that you can make pastry dough from cassava (yuca), that taro (malanga) improves digestion and gives you energy, and got a great recipe for prickly pear (tuna) syrup. It can be downloaded to your device from Apple (iBooks) or Kobo; because Kindle doesn’t allow such functionality, the book is not available there.

The volume is authored by Margaret Hefner, a Canadian chef living in Mexico City. When I recently spoke with her about Frutas y Verduras, I imagined we’d be talking about the book and her passion for the food. She surprised me, however, by spending most of our interview talking about her passion for the indigenous growers of Mexico. She has been moved to action in an incredibly heartfelt way by the fact that these farmers are way too often the voiceless in Mexican society, despite the fact that they are the custodians of ancestral knowledge regarding their plants and the medicinal value they contain. She wanted to do something to show her respect and appreciation for the campesinos whose stewardship has made Mexico a world heritage cuisine.

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Photo from Margaret Hefner

Margaret, who was neither an author, publisher or programmer before this project, spent over two years researching, collaborating (with other chefs, UNAM professors, the Herdéz Museum) and experimenting to produce the content for the book. She travelled throughout the central portion of the country as well as to Yucatán, Oaxaca and Chiapas. While every region of Mexico is included in her book, her budget did not allow her to make it to the west coast. Margaret found Ricardo Muñoz Zurita’s “Larousse Diccionario Enciclopédico de la Gastronomía Mexicana” very helpful; she hired a nutritionist in Guatemala to calculate of the nutritional values for each entry. Finally, Margaret spent six months glued to her computer screen programming the book’s interactivity.

The result is an absolutely beautiful and highly practical volume that I am delighted to own. Her goal? That more of us will buy local, from the growers, supporting family farms. She told me she believes many people are uncomfortable speaking to a vendor sitting on the ground; they may feel it uncomfortable, too hierarchical. Yet buying ten pesos worth of produce from that woman could make the difference in whether her children have books or shoes.

Margaret first fell in love with Mexican produce when she worked as a personal chef for an expat family living in San Miguel de Allende. She was used to only having imported produce over the snowy Canadian winters; the year-round fresh food here “blew her mind.” She loved throwing cocktail parties in which every canapé used a different indigenous ingredient in a surprising way. Her book contains multiple photos, indigenous names, and helpful information on over 60 of the hundreds of indigenous fruits and vegetables that exist in Mexico.

During her time in SMA she learned that the ingredients she had grown to love were often associated with the poor; that they had long been out of style and have only regained popularity in the past five years or so thanks to a few celebrity chefs.

Frutas y Verduras has a Facebook page where Margaret encourages people to upload photos of the fruits and vegetables they find throughout Mexico, in order to keep building the information depository. In this way, she hopes also to include more of the indigenous produce of Sinaloa and other regions where she was unable to travel. Margaret is offering a 30% discount to our readers through the month of January 2018. Just go to Kobo, https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/frutas-y-verduras-1 and enter the code FYVmaz when you check out. You can also choose your own price here: http://fyvmexico.com/fyv-book-pwyw/