Must-Read Novel on Mazatlán

51wVr9BRpHLAnyone who loves Mazatlán, history, stories of friendship or iconic buildings infused with spirit should peruse Hotel Belmar: The ghost has the key. It’s a terrific read, a perfect holiday gift, and it’s free with your Kindle Unlimited subscription!

The novel is written by local snowbird resident Sue Carnes, who I first met years ago on an Art Walk when I purchased both a book and a print of one of her paintings—she’s obviously multi-talented! I had the privilege of having her call me years later as she started her research on the Belmar; she asked me for directions to the municipal archives. I took her there, introduced her to the crew as well as to my friend Joaquín, a well-known repository of Mazatlán’s past, and the rest quickly became history.

I sort of forgot about Sue’s efforts until, months later, Joaquín told me how much fun he was having helping with her new volume! He has authored a long list of his own non-fiction books, and helping Susan weave a story of historical fiction seemed to delight his soul.

Hotel Belmar is told in first person by Lori, a foreign resident of Mazatlán who enjoys her morning coffee on the ocean-facing terrace of the 100-year-old Hotel Belmar in Centro Histórico—the beloved yet long-neglected beauty of a hotel filled with hand-painted ceramic tiles imported from Europe and hand carved woods from around the world. If you have not spent an hour or more exploring the Belmar, you owe it to yourself to do so!

Lori becomes intrigued by snippets of stories about Hollywood stars, Carnaval queens, governors, generals and even presidents of the country, all seeming to revolve around the hotel. Then, one day, she senses a spirit in the hotel; could it be one of the ghosts her friends who live in the hotel have told her about? But, she doesn’t believe in ghosts!

I am an avid reader of historical fiction, but it never would have crossed my mind to write a novel about the Belmar that would both entertain and educate the reader about its elegant and storied past. Sue had that vision and executed it very well. My dream would be that this novel would catch on with such popularity that we might see this architectural and historic gem restored to its former glory.

Any resident of Mazatlán will recognize quite a few of the characters in the book: those who call the rooms of the Belmar home, and those who dine and dance on her patios. Local expats will identify with Lori’s life: her friendships with locals as well as other expats, visits of friends from up north, her curiosity and ongoing quest to figure things out. This is a quick and interesting tale, and in the process the reader learns a whole lot about local history, including Mazatlán’s mining heyday, visits from famous people, and mazatlecos’ role in the Mexican Revolution. Inside you’ll find quite a few historic photos and some very cleverly drawn chapter dividers.

Come on, folks. Take time this holiday season to put your feet up and enjoy a good ghost story set right here in Mazatlán. In addition to buying it online, you can purchase the novel locally at the offices of the Pacific Pearl in the Golden Zone, San Francisco Quilt Shop downtown, or at Susan’s house during the monthly downtown Art Walk.

Christmas in Parque Central

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The mayor and DIF Mazatlán have a terrific new offering for all of us this Christmas season: an interactive light show set to music on Avenida de la Bahía (formally Avenida Mazatlán), facing Central Park one block off the malecón behind the Olas Altas Inn. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

The show debuted tonight as city residents and tourists were treated to The Nutcracker ballet performed for free in the open air. Hundreds of people were in attendance, including loads of families with small children ready to start the holiday season off with a bit of joy and merriment. Vendors sold salchichas and balloons to make sure they would benefit from the crowd and earn some money to buy their family’s presents.

The ballet was to have been preceded by the “spectacle of lights,” which was the reason most of the people were there—despite our terrific orchestra, dancers and chorus. All week the lighting guy has been setting up the electric Christmas trees and rehearsing to make sure tonight’s light show complete with fireworks, planned for 6:00 pm, would function well. It would have been terrific, too, as the full moon rose directly over the lighted tree display.

Apparently something malfunctioned even after all that preparation, and the audience wasn’t able to enjoy the show until the intermission of the ballet. By that time scores of families had left: disappointed, grumbling and sad.

The Christmas tree light show is enjoyable and worth a visit, especially if you have family or friends in town, have not yet walked the new mini-malecón—which we love, or  you are looking to get into the Christmas spirit. Greg’s terrific cell phone video of the show is below.

Four shows will be held every evening from now through the New Year at 6:00, 7:00, 8:00 and 9:00 pm. Each show lasts about 20 minutes. The fireworks were only for tonight’s event, as far as I know.

Happy Holidays!

30th Annual Chicken Breakfast!

Cuando es más grande el corazón que la necesidad

Each year for over thirty years Yolanda Medina, her family and friends have fed the neediest of Mazatlán’s families at Christmas time in what is called “The Chicken Breakfast/Desayuno de los Pollos.” A multicultural group of Mazatlecos, Canadians and Americans have fed 2500 families/year, including a whole chicken, pantry items that last about a week, gently used clothing, bedding, coats, shoes and new toys.

THIS SATURDAY December 7th is the annual fundraiser breakfast. Tickets are 250 pesos and include a ticket for the raffle. The breakfast will be held at the Cruise Ship Dock, API, in front of the OXXO on Av. Gabriel Leyva. Start time is 8:30 am and it usually continues till about 11 am. Please join us! For tickets contact me, Jeanette Leraand, or Jorge Medina (speaks English well) on his mobile, (669) 110-0744. You can purchase tickets at the door.

In addition to the breakfast and raffle there is a Christmas Bazaar, bake sale and silent auction. If you are unable to attend, please make a donation! 100% of the money goes DIRECTLY to the needy; we are all volunteers. If you have items to donate for our silent auction or bazaar, please contact me at 118-4114.

The gifting process is labor-intensive, but we want to reach Mazatlán’s neediest, and sometimes that’s not easy to do. We go out to the squatter colonies and visit each and every shack, to verify that the families are living there (some just put a house up in hopes of eventually getting free land) and to be sure we reach the elderly, handicapped and home-bound. Many of these families live in “homes” made of sticks or pallets covered with garbage bags or tarps, as they have no where else to go. Most do not have running water, electric or gas. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

The whole chickens we hand out normally are not roasted for Christmas dinner, as we might imagine, as these people have no ovens. The happy recipients usually boil the chicken in a pot over an open fire, and occasionally rotisserie it over an open flame. We serve elderly people whose children have abandoned them, unwed mothers with babies who’ve been kicked out of their homes, people on crutches, in wheelchairs, the blind and deaf. It is heartbreaking to see how these people live, and it completely makes Christmas to be able to help out a bit.

Please join us, donate bazaar or silent auction items or monetary support (you can donate money here). You can download a gift certificate here.

Also you are MOST welcome to join in early on the morning of December 24th to experience a WONDERFUL Christmas Eve morning by helping us hand out the food and clothing. Prior to Christmas, you can donate gently used clothing, blankets, coats, shoes or new toys. Drop off is at Quince Letras, Jorge Medina’s wrought iron workshop on Francisco Villa just down from the corner of Tampico. Detailed information can be found here.

 

Marathon of the Pacific

DSC_8101©During the thirteen years we have lived full-time in Mazatlán, El Gran Maratón del Pacífico has been an annual touchstone. We love the sound of cheering outside, for hours on end, by the crowd encouraging the runners. Some people run effortlessly, some look like they’re about to die; some wear the race shirts, some dress in costume; some run alone, others in groups with family and friends. Click any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

We love joining them. I’ve run the 5k with my girlfriends several times, and Greg has run both the 10k and the half-marathon several times each. This is a family affair, a race with runners from all over Mexico and from throughout the world, as it is internationally ranked.

I love watching the emotion of the runners crossing the finish line. Many people of course smile from ear to ear, and raise their arms in a champion pose. I am amazed, as well, how many make the sign of the cross, look to heaven to thank God or their departed loved ones, and how many kneel down to say a quick prayer after crossing the meta.

My favorite series of photos this morning was of a young mother. She had just completed the half marathon in a time she should be very proud of. She had evidently grabbed her young son from amongst the spectators, and ran the last bit to the finish line with him—a common practice. She was obviously needing to stretch a bit and catch her breath. She and her son high-fived. “Mommy, I’m hot,” he then whines. And what does marathon Mommy do? She crosses the finish line of her half marathon and removes the child’s jacket. You can be a champion, but first you are a Mom!

This year it looked to me like a Mexican man won the half. At least on Insurgentes heading back down to the stadium, a national was in the lead ahead of the Kenyan runner. Official results will tell. I did get a pic of the three female winners of the half.

It is always so encouraging to see runners in wheelchairs (wheelers?), on crutches, and blind runners in the race. Looking at the number of “Praise Gods!” at the finish line, I become so curious about what personal challenge the runners are overcoming, or who they are running for.

This year as you can see the runners departed from in front of the new baseball stadium and finished inside it. It was pretty cool and different, although much more difficult for families to get reunited.

I know many of you love my fireworks photos. It has been such a busy couple of months, with loads of travel and commitments, that I couldn’t bring myself to go downtown last night. So, I’ll leave you with a few pics taken from our deck. Thank you, Mazatlán and Maratón coordinators and sponsors! It was a TERRIFIC weekend, as usual!

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.