Humble Beginnings Don’t Hold Him Back!

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+ The Masculine Form (project in development)
Photos: @santiago_barreiro @insidenatgeo #insidenatgeo

Most every society worldwide seems to be suffering a breakdown in the social fabric these days, a rise in corruption and violence, a loss of the values that make individuals and our communities healthy.

Maestro Cuahutémoc Nájera—the director of Mexico’s National Ballet Company—and his wife, Maestra Carolina Rios, strongly believe in the power of dance to strengthen communities and build strong, healthy, disciplined and principled individuals. Luckily for us, they live here and see dance as a tool to secure a better future for Mazatlán and México. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

The maestros shared with me a post by es+Cultura that I found to be extremely powerful, and I have translated it for you below:

“Seven years ago the priest told Aaron’s grandma, Magda, ‘get him out of that ballet; the kids there become gay.” To avoid conflict she agreed, though she never followed through, because her grandson’s dream was to be a dancer and she was going to support him.

Aaron de Jesús Márques is one of the talents discovered by a program (PROVER) that seeks to promote dance in the city of Córdoba, in the state of Veracruz, giving scholarships to boys from complex social contexts. If the boy has needs and the desire, they pay for his studies, transportation, equipment and food for eight years, eight hours a day. The low enrollment of men in the private academy of Martha Sahagún was the impulse for this project, which now has various generations promoting the talent and diversity of Veracruz.

When he was barely seven years old Aaron didn’t even know what ballet was, in fact, the term didn’t sound familiar, but when the opportunity presented itself he didn’t hesitate even a minute to run up to the teacher who conducted the auditions to show her his physical conditioning. Months later when he’d begun his training, he understood that what his body was really asking him for was to dance ballet, and now no one would get in his way.

Aaron lives with his grandmother, or better said, his mother, as that’s what he likes to call her. She raised him once his Dad died and his biological mother emigrated for a better life economically. Magda supported the family. She was responsible for feeding, taking care of and giving life to the dreams of her grandson. The career of a classical ballet dancer involves a lot of dedication and discipline; it is a family project and in most cases requires the moral support of a feminine head of the household.

Classical dance gave the boy a stylizing manner to move his body, it proposed a language in which it wasn’t necessary to use impact and force like so many other disciplines. Aaron dances to express himself without words, to liberate himself from the structure that questions, violates and judges masculine feelings.

The exercise of classical western dance has implicated from its beginnings situations of violation and exclusion, it has generated negative stereotypes against men who pursue this discipline as a way of life. The hegemonic precepts around what it means to “be a man” in Latin American culture tend to determine how ballet is seen as art. In this 21st century, respect for the male dancer still hasn’t penetrated deeply into society, where machismo and its prejudices only put pride in “manly” sports . With this line of reasoning, dance is habitually associated with femininity. In this sense, there are unequal conditions for dancers, with men playing subordinate roles. This conception brings with it endless social conflicts. Today’s man tries to feel, express and free himself from established obligations (to procreate, provide, protect). However, society insists on assigning gender roles when and where they should not be. Dance in and of itself should not divide, distinguish or bias.

Aaron and some of his colleagues, plus his teacher, will be here in Mazatlán on Sunday, 17th November, performing in the Angela Peralta Theater at 6:00 pm, along with principal dancers from Mexico’s two best ballet companies: Ballet de Monterrey and the National Bellas Artes. Get your tickets at the box office now or WhatsApp Carolina at 52-1-669-941-2550; the performance benefits DIF Mazatlán (local families in need).

In the video below, Maestro Nájera tells us a bit about Aaron’s terrific program in Cordoba, Veracruz, where for the past ten years street kids have been given a new lease on life and a future in professional dance through educational and dance scholarships with amazing results.

Carolina dedicates herself to teaching young students; she owns and runs a dance school up in the marina. In the video below, she talks to me about the ways she has witnessed dance helping her students to be stronger, healthier, with higher self esteem, more cooperative and disciplined, and her plans for programming in the public spaces of Mazatlán.

Personal Invite to 2 Art Events

I hope you’ll join me for two events, both to be held a couple of blocks from one another in Centro Histórico on Friday, November 22nd.

Book ReadingThe first will be a reading from the book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats. Edited by Janet Blaser—who will facilitate the event—the book is a terrific read for anyone thinking about life abroad or already living it. Local residents Susie Morgan, Nancy Seelye, Lisa Lankins and yours truly will be reading from our chapters.

Please join us at El Recreo, Constitución 209, from 3:00 – 5:00 pm on Friday Nov. 22, 2019 for the book event. The event requires registration, and will have a 50 peso or so fee to cover the venue rental.

Magic of Black and White

Then, have a nice dinner somewhere and join us again at 7:00 pm for the very first group art exhibit that I have curated! It will be a photo show entitled, The Magic of Black and White. If you click “Going” on the Facebook link, it will remind you so you don’t miss this terrific opening. Participating photographers include Alwin van der Heiden, Lucila Santiago, Marcopolo Amarillas, Christian Lizárraga, and yours truly.

The photo exhibit will open on Friday, Nov. 22, at 6:30 pm in Baupres Gallery, next to Casa Haas on Heriberto Frías, across from Hector’s. There will be wine and hors d’oeuvres. The show will continue every day through 21st December, 2019. I very much hope that I’ll see you and your friends there!

Please help me pass the word about both of these events. Be sure to put them in your calendar so you don’t miss out! They’ll both be a lot of fun, and you’ll be supporting and encouraging your creative neighbors and friends.

The Sand Man Daniel Fermín

DSC_5685-HDR©Remember when Mazatlán had frequent sand sculpture contests? I do; I absolutely LOVED them!

Enter a young man from Zihuatanejo, Daniel Fermín, who currently studies visual arts in Morelia. He is in Mazatlán from now through Christmas, and is making his living via the tips we give him in exchange for enjoying his sand art.

Daniel was making a different sand sculpture every day, starting at 6 am and ending at sunset. On Wednesday he made a giant catrina; on Thursday a sand castle. He tells me he may keep the castle up for a while, even though castles are not his favorites. But he says he makes better tips with castles because the public seems to prefer them to other designs. Personally, the photo he had of an octopus he sculpted was my favorite. I asked him if he’d do that here, and he wouldn’t commit. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

He asks that if you go to admire his work and take photos that you please leave him a little something to help keep him fed. I think that the major hotels in town should commission Daniel to personalize a sculpture for them and their guests, and do photo ops! Don’t you think, local empresarios??? The guy who rents umbrellas is helping him out, and a local family is graciously putting him up.

Daniel can be found on the beach below the Fisherman’s Monument. Be sure to check out him and his creations from time to time through the rest of the year.

Below are a few more pics that I couldn’t resist taking during our visit. I hope you enjoy them.

International Ballet Gala!

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You do NOT want to miss this incredible benefit performance by the principal dancers of the best ballet companies in Mexico! Dancers will join us from the Ballet de Monterrey, the Compañía Nacional de Danza de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, the Escuela Superior de Música y Danza in Monterrey as well as from the renowned Fomento Artístico Cordobés. The gala will benefit DIF Mazatlán — families in need in our municipality and take place on Sunday, November 17 at 6:00 pm in the Angela Peralta Theater; the promotional video is below.

Now, let me tell you the story behind this terrific event; Mazatlán is so incredibly lucky. Carolina Rios, originally from Culiacán, has a ballet school here in the marina (Carolina Rios Ballet). A talented and experienced dancer in her own right, it turns out she is married to Cuahutémoc Nájera Ruiz, the National Dance Coordinator and former principal dancer of the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes! The couple frequently travels to Sinaloa, of course; they fell in love with Mazatlán and decided to raise their daughter here. Sounds a lot like our family!

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Caro Rios

So, Carolina moved here three years ago to prepare the way for the family, but Cuahutémoc keeps getting promoted, and, well, hasn’t been able to fully make the move yet (he will be here on Monday for a press conference about the gala).

Despite her busy schedule with their five-year-old and her dance academy, Caro is very passionate about promoting cultural events in Sinaloa. So, she’s called on her friends, including Marta Sahagún Morales from Fomento Artístico Cordobés, and Diana Farias Ortegón, Director of the Escuela Superior de Música y Danza de Monterrey, both of whom said they’d love to bring their dancers to Mazatlán and support any cultural effort here that Carolina has planned. God bless good friends! She invites you to the event in the video below.

Dancers from other companies were also happy to join in. The gala will include four dancers from Bellas Artes (Ana Elisa Mena, Roberto Rodríguez, Valeria Mariaud and Argenis Montalvo) and two Cuban dancers from Ballet de Monterrey (Daniela Favelo and Jonhal Fernández). The performance will include international classics as well as some contemporary choreography.

The gala will include a musical interlude with an aria sung by Mazatlecan mezzosoprano Daniela Rico Coppel, and piano played by Lorenzo Sendra Galván Duque, an autistic child prodigy from Guadalajara. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow. The complete and incredibly impressive program for the event is:

Introduction
Choreography by Carolina Rios • Music by Ludwig van Beethoven • Interpreted by Ana Elisa Mena and students of Carolina Rios Ballet

Bohemian Rhapsody
Choreography by Josué Rebollo • Music by Queen • Interpreted by Jorge Emilio Peña, Engel Pérez , Aron de Jesús, Jesús Martín Rivera, Braulio Fernández, Alec Reyes, Roberto Cobos, Armando Villa and David Pérez, students of Fomento Artístico Cordobés • Directed by Martha Sahagún

Don Quijote “Pas de deux from Act IV with Kitri and Basilio”
Choreography by Marius Petipa • Music by Ludwig Minkus • Interpreted by Valeria Mariaud and Argenis Montalvo

Planimetría del Movimiento
Choreography by Irina Marcano • Interpreted by Ana Elisa Mena and Roberto Rodríguez

La Esmeralda “Pas de deux of Diane and Actéon”
Choreography by Agripina Vaganova • Music by Riccardo Drigo and Cesare Pugni • Interpreted by Daniela Favelo and Jonhal Fernández

Musical Interlude
Daniela Rico Coppel / Mezzosprano • Lorenzo Sendra Galván Duque / Piano

Intermission (10 Minutos)

Swan Lake “Pas de deux of the White Swan”
Choreography by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov • Music by Piotr Ilich Tchaikovsky • Interpreted by Valeria Mariaud and Argenis Montalvo

Giselle “Adagio from Act II”
Choreography by Jean Coralli y Jules Perrot • Music by Adolphe Adam • Interpreted by Ana Elisa Mena and Roberto Rodríguez

La Bayadére “The Kingdom of the Shades”
Daniela Favelo and Jonhal Fernández • Music by Ludwig Minkus • Students of the Escuela Superior de Música y Danza de Monterrey

Get your tickets now at the Angela Peralta box office or by sending Caro a WhatsApp (+52-1-669-941-2550) and paying via PayPal. This looks to be the most exciting event to take place in Mazatlán in quite some time. Help me get the word out and let’s fill the Angela Peralta to capacity!

The Dead Will Show You Just How Alive the GZ Really Is!

EXCELLENT New Day of the Dead Event!b2b7db28-2f60-4e33-96cd-446bac619f77Mazatlán is internationally renowned for its Día de Muertos events, especially the callejoneada/alley parade in Centro Histórico (which will take place on Saturday November 2nd this year, Cultura confirms). Many tourists, however, come for a week or more, and locals and snowbirds would enjoy something beyond the main evening. How about fourteen days of cool, fun and traditionally respectful events in the Golden Zone?

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You will be able to take a tour of fourteen Day of the Dead altars in the Zona Dorada,  anytime between October 20th and November 3rd, receiving free gifts, cocktails, and entries to a raffle for terrific prizes that will take place on the afternoon of November 4th. You could alternatively go everyday, visiting the altars of places that have special events that day, and fully immerse yourself in the season. I’ll list the special offers below.

Some of these businesses have done altars for years, but this is the first time they’ve coordinated and expanded their efforts. The participating organizations are very clear that their goal is to honor tradition and gift a terrific event to their customers and the community. The hope is that this event can grow and contribute to putting Mazatlán further in the forefront of Day of the Dead festivities in México.

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So, put your shoes on and get your cameras ready. You’ll learn a lot about making an altar and about the historic personalities of Mazatlán, and it sounds like you can easily get drunk on complimentary beverages and return home with a bag full of swag. Below is a list of the participating locations. Please note that events will take place in the Golden Zone locations of each business:

  1. Señor Frogs Clothing: Altar dedicated to Pedro Infante and María Felix. Gift: Lollipops personalized with the brand. Special offer throughout the duration of the event, while supplies last: With the purchase of 500 pesos of merchandise men may purchase a t-shirt with Pedro Infante as a calavera while women may purchase a t-shirt with María Félix, made special for the occasion for just $149 pesos. Special day Nov. 2.
  2. Michael’s Gallery Giftshop (both Golden Zone locations are participating): Altar dedicated to The Family, all of our beloved family members that we’ve lost. Gift on Oct. 28: A pottery skull to use on your own altar.
  3. F.I.S.H Restaurant: Altar dedicated to Fishermen, who bring us the abundance of the sea. Special offer throughout the duration of the event: 10% off all purchases when you present your altar map. Special day Oct. 27.
  4. Onilikan Artesanal Liqueurs: Altar dedicated to Selena Quintanilla, who, like them, represents two worlds. Gift on Oct. 25: Mulatto cocktail with a base of coffee liqueur. Special offer for the duration of the event: Three for two on everything in the store when you present your altar map.
  5. Marimba Handicrafts and Jewelry: Altar dedicated to Frida Kahlo. Gift on Oct. 29: Complimentary appetizers and margaritas. Special offer for the duration of the event: 15% off everything in the store when you present your altar map.
  6. Mazatlán 4 Sale Real Estate and Art Gallery: Altar dedicated to Francisco Toledo, the Oaxaqueño artist. Gift on Oct. 31: Free margaritas.
  7. Royal Villas Hotel: Altar dedicated to Alfonso Pelayo y Clara Osuna, the hotel’s founders. Gift on Nov. 1: Complimentary hot chocolate and pan de muertos. Special offer for the duration of the event: 15% discount in the restaurant with your altar map.
  8. Rico’s Café: Altar dedicated to The Spirit of Coffee. Coffee has a unique position between life and death, present at births as well as funerals. Gift on Oct. 24: Complimentary pan de muerto filled with chocolate, with hot chocolate or Mexican coffee.
  9. Venados Store Athletic Wear: Altar dedicated to José Alfredo Jimenez, composer of the Corrido de Mazatlán. Gift on Nov. 2: Complimentary beer and tequila shot or candy for the kids.
  10. Inn at Mazatlán Hotel: Altar dedicated to Rigoberto Lewis, legendary Carnavál float designer. Gift on Oct. 30: Complimentary typical candies, hot chocolate and bread, plus a special performance in the lobby at noon.
  11. Panamá Bakery and Restaurant: Altar dedicated to Everyone who has made us who we are. Gift on Nov. 1: Complimentary pan de muerto and other surprises from 6:00 – 8:00 pm.
  12. El Cid Hotels: Altar dedicated to biologist Julio Berdegue, founder of the hotel chain and important player in the development of Sinaloa. Gift on Saturday Oct. 26 from 6:00 pm: Complimentary drinks and canapés in the commercial center of El Moro Tower plus special prizes. Special offer for the duration of the event:  Discounts of 20% in La Concha restaurant when you present your altar map.
  13. Casa Maya: Altar dedicated to Coco, from the Disney film. Gift on Nov. 2: Complimentary shot of mezcal and traditional candy.

When you visit the altars DO NOT FORGET to get a ticket to deposit in the box at each location! There will be terrific prizes from each participating business given out via a drawing to be held on the afternoon of November 4th at 1:00 pm and announced via Facebook Live. The more altars you visit, the more chances you’ll have to win.

I am so proud of this initiative! It unites key players in the Golden Zone, including Rico’s Café, El Cid, Señor Frog’s, Panama, Michael’s Gallery and the Venados Store in an effort to preserve and extend a Mexican tradition valued since prehispanic times. As a member of the foreign press, it also does us proud because it’s an effort led by and including foreign resident business owners (Rico’s, F.I.S.H., Maz4Sale, Onilikan) as well as locals in a quintessentially mazatleco multicultural effort. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.