Cool New Architecture in MZT


I love architecture. No matter where I travel in the world, I find myself fascinated with spaces that are unique, both beautiful and functional. Thus I was very pleased when our Montessori school here in Mazatlán opened its gorgeous new facilities. I have always been delighted that we have a Montessori option here in town, a powerful educational alternative for our youngest students, but the work of art that is their new facility makes it even better. María Montessori considered people works of art, so it’s only fitting that a building in which to educate people would be one, too.

Mazatlán’s own Erick Pérez Páez of EPA Arquitectos (who also designed the new Carpa Olivera ocean pool) designed the complex in conjunction with Estudio Macías Paredo (Salvador Macías Corona and Magui Peredo Arenas) out of Guadalajara, and it was built by EPA in conjunction with H Arquitectos from here in town. The design is highly innovative, based on Montessori’s “constructive triangles,” the fact that the triangle is such a naturally fundamental shape—all plane geometric figures can be made with triangles. Montessori herself said education is based on a triangle: environment, love and the child. Thus, the architecture of this academy perfectly fits as a home for its occupants. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

The two-story buildings are positioned to maximize the free circulation of air and the entry of natural light. Despite the heat and humidity when I visited, no air conditioners were running and a cool breeze could be felt throughout the facilities. We not only experience a hot and humid climate part of the year, but our ocean-front location wreaks havoc on buildings and equipment. This facility has been designed using materials to minimize the corrosion and the wear and tear inherent in the salinity of our location. I also delighted in the cool interplay of light and shadow; every angle seems to invite our gaze to a fascinating view or perspective, the result of so many triangular shapes and angles in the design.

Founded in 1993, Paulina Carrillo Collard and Rene de la Rocha have been running this SEP-certified Colegio Montessori Mazatlán since March 2014. When they took over the school it had 115 students from nine months to six years old; it now has 160 students up to nine years old. When the new facility opened last year it had nine students in primary school; this year it has 23, and next year 48 are enrolled. Paulina and Rene seem to have truly revitalized the school; a second multi-age classroom is being finished on the second floor now, in preparation for the new term beginning in August. Currently, preschool students still attend classes at Sierra Rumorosa 567 in Lomas, while grades 1-3 attend classes at this new facility at 6208 Paseo del Atlántico, just behind the Bancomer, next to the new Walmart in the Marina. Telephone 669 122 10 99.

Paulina and Rene would like to see the academy grow to include upper grades as well, but that will require more investment. Right now there are four hexagonal modules (1100 m2) on the site, out of a total nineteen (4000 m2) that are planned to be built. Below is an origami replica of the full design (above a timeline of María Montessori’s life), as well as architect’s renderings.

The modules are built around a central courtyard that provides open space in which the children can commune with nature, another fundamental Montessori concept. They have quite the garden growing, and actively compost. A nutritionist lays out a yearly menu that involves no packaged food—better for the environment and for the health of everyone involved.

In touring the facility I was pleased to see the use of the smooth, colorful wooden objects that I associate with a Montessori education. There were plenty of mats for floor work, tactile objects to teach about nature, and musical instruments—another cornerstone of the Montessori approach. Students learn English, and I was told they welcome any volunteers from our expat/snowbird community who would be interested in helping out. I was also really pleased to see the chore list above the sink, as Montessori children are taught responsibility for their own environments, both indoor and outdoor. I loved how my son learned to put away his toys and keep his room in order at his Montessori preschool in Colorado, a concept he sadly seemed to forget once we moved to Mexico and got a cleaning lady.

If you haven’t noticed this unique architectural village tucked in just behind the bank and the recording studio, you really ought to give it a look. Kudos to all involved and thank you for adding to the educational offerings and the beauty that is Mazatlan!


History of the Lighthouse in Photos

DSC_0057Do you love the lighthouse as much as I do? Love how the seasons change, different animals and plants are at their best every couple of weeks? Do you enjoy the view of the city from up there—sometimes so clear, other times gorgeously hazy, and sometimes socked in with fog? Do you love the people who hike up, and the exercise and fresh air it provides?

This morning was a wonderful event up top of the lighthouse. The Movimiento Ciudadano Rescate al Faro group, to which I’ve belonged for a couple of years, opened a special photo exhibit. I knew about it because Irving Fregoso, the group’s organizer, asked me five or six weeks ago to translate the Spanish into English, so that the exhibit could be bilingual. It seems there was no money for the exhibition; all had to be volunteer. In addition to the historic photos, there were gorgeous photos of animals and plants donated by our own Alwin van der Heiden. It is a beautifully simple exhibit, and if you are at all interested in the history of Mazatlán or our beloved faro, you definitely should hike up and check it out. Great to know when the port was officially opened, the various stages of the lighthouse, and the old photos of the Lens are spectacular! The exhibit is along the wall of the lighthouse building, under the awning. A few photos of it are in the slideshow below, to whet your appetite and motivate you to go see the exhibit.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Prior to the ribbon cutting for the exhibit, there were dozens of young people, including students from CONALEP, cleaning up trash. Members of the Asociación de Guias, the city’s official tourist guides, were also in attendance. They were along the ocean front, on the path, and all over the top of the hill. They picked up trash, they painted over graffiti, and they made the place look great. The Rescatemos al Faro group has organized several cleanups now, but this is the most well-attended event I’ve seen. I am glad to see it growing in popularity and support. Thank you all immensely! Such cleanups are a never-ending job and we are grateful to you!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

1.DSC_0087The ribbon-cutting that opened the photo exhibit was attended by several dignitaries: a young representative of the Governor’s Office, a representative from the port authority/API, the wife of the Secretary of Tourism, a representative of the Mayor’s Office, and our Diputado and probably soon-to-be mayor, Carlos Felton. It was great to see them there; we need political support to improve our Faro recreation area.

1.DSC_0080So, what was the really great part of the ceremony? Davíd Escobar, the architect, and the Rescate al Faro team presented an official proposal to all those officials! Hooray! They took advantage of the visionary words being uttered in those speeches this morning, and came through with a concrete plan of action. Fingers crossed!

The really gorgeous morning for me was couched, however, in a mini-culture-shock. Not that it’s surprising or unusual, but it’s a side of my México lindo y querido that I just don’t like. Here were all these volunteers—kids and adults, spending hours cleaning up an area that we all enjoy. Here was the volunteer group, Rescate al Faro, which has done so much for a couple of years now to raise awareness of the importance of this recreational area in our community. And, somewhere around but no where to be seen, was Irving, a young worker in the Secretaría de Turísmo, who seemingly organized all of this. He told me later he was busy tying up trash bags at the bottom of the hill during the ceremony, and couldn’t make it up in time to see it. So, the scene is one of lots of very passionate volunteers, making a difference in their community.

Irving Fregoso with yours truly this morning

Irving Fregoso with yours truly this morning

During the speeches that preceded the ribbon cutting, the dignitaries talked and talked, sharing their vision, but no one really thanked the citizen volunteers in attendance! I know there is a Mexican dignity in not expecting acknowledgement, but it was hard for me to watch it not extended. Irving, who got this whole effort going, organized the event this morning, and then didn’t even get to see its grand opening, was not acknowledged. No one mentioned the historian who put the exhibit together, or the photographers whose works were represented. I did count four times that official remarks mentioned the difficulty of the climb. A member of the Rescate al Faro group had to interrupt the proceedings in order to be able to present their proposal, even though they’d made this all happen. Today was the Governor’s Office debut of their Agente de Cambio campaign, yet it glorified the sponsors and the politicians rather than the doers—rather than the on-the-ground agents of change. Come on, Mazatlán, we can show more appreciation than this! We are all in this together! Maybe today might serve to get some of these dignitaries more engaged in the El Faro effort; that would be fantastic. I did witness Carlos’ joy as he was able to run down in seven minutes. Ok, gringa rant finished for now. I get it’s a cultural difference. And I get that politicians everywhere are, well, politicians.

None of the usual daily lighthouse climbers were at the event this morning. Greg and I really missed seeing our cohorts. Next time perhaps the group should post signs announcing such an exhibition or event, so that the “regulars” plan to attend. We asked Carlos, the lighthouse keeper, about it a couple of times, and he had no idea it was about to happen.

It was an absolutely beautiful clear morning here. The views were spectacular. Our citizens showed up in droves to clean public areas. We have a gorgeous historical photo exhibit, done for free and open to the public for free. All in all, wonderful for Mazatlán. Be sure to hike up and take a look! Final slide show of the view, below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Link to a story on this event in the Noroeste.

A Friday Morning Walk

We take a walk, hike or bike ride most every morning. A few times a week we climb the lighthouse and the mirador. Today we wanted to do something a little bit different, check out somewhere we’re not that familiar with.

So, I had an idea: how about we climb up to that cross we see up on Cerro del Vigía? We have never been up there. I’ve heard it’s called Cerro de la Cruz, and I’ve had a few friends tell me it’s public property, that they used to celebrate the Feast of the Holy Cross there.

Well, those of you who live up on the hill may of course be very familiar with this route and can enlighten me more. For us malecón dwellers, we enjoyed a lot of cool discoveries this morning. First was a grass-filled park with a killer view of the port, bounded on the perimeter by gorgeous carved stone columns.

Anyone know how this space is used today? We feared it could be the occasional parking lot. What a perfect place for an open-air concert or public performance of some sort. I imagine in the day it hosted quite the gatherings.

The little park faces and perhaps is part of the property across the street, a very large, beautiful, and historic looking house. Neighbors told us that to see the cross we had to enter through this property; that if we rang the doorbell and asked permission they would let us through. There was no bell to ring (wires have been cut), and no one we could hail to ask, so no luck there.

From the street we could see steps and a handrail going up to the cross. Ominously we also saw a bunch of buzzards, just waiting there on top of the hill. We walked around the block, hoping that there might be an entrance there. As with so many blocks in Mazatlán, we discovered a hand painted Virgen de Guadalupe on the wall, with a lit candle and plant to complete this roadside shrine.

The old house is architecturally interesting. A neighbor told us it belongs to the Campos family, an old ship building family here in town.

The area looks pretty cool. I fell in love with the brick and stone entry steps to one of the houses across the street.

Of course right now there are so many flowers in bloom everywhere, and I had to get a photo or two of that.

We also saw tree roots that appeared to be growing right through the rock. Incredible how living things can find a way to survive and have stability even in the toughest of circumstances!

The whole top of the hill seems to be privately owned. This Noroeste article from 2010 confirms that, sadly.

Giving up on seeing the view from the cross, we decided to walk over and find that old fort that we’ve seen photos of. Years ago a pulmonía driver took us there, but that’s been decades ago.

Well, we couldn’t find the fort either. Two for two this morning. Obviously we need a local guide. We’re thinking the fort access is through a gate? We did, however, see some most gorgeous views. All in all a beautiful walk on a beautiful morning.

Soy Monumento/Recreating a Historic Building

We are blessed in this city with a wealth of incredible artists and other professionals. Last night was just one example of the wonderful events they share with us.

Recrea got together with architects and architectural students to present a multimedia spectacular just down the street from the Plazuela, on the corner of Constitución and Belisario Dominguez. It was called Soy Monumento. Take a look:

Or you can view it at: