El Recodo’s 80th Anniversary!

DSC_3357©Last night, Wednesday February 27th, Estadio Teodoro Mariscal filled with over 22,000 incredibly eager fans ready to celebrate six-time Grammy-winning music legends Banda El Recodo de Cruz Lizárraga, on their 80th anniversary. OMG was it ever a party!

What a huge gift El Recodo gave their home city! Free tickets for everyone, general admission or VIP. There were smiles on everyone’s faces, joy in their souls, dance steps in their feet and bodies. The crowd included young and old, rich and poor, united in their love of this Madre de las Bandas. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

I had expected lines at the stadium from early morning, in the vein of the coronation ticket lines, but no. We went over there about 1:00 and there were no more than 20 people in line. By 2:30 when we went, there were several hundred people in line. The doors, however, were scheduled to open at 4:00 pm and by then the crowd was more than ready to run through the door! Everyone entered, found a seat, and then started phoning one another, texting, and waving their hands to find the rest of their group. The crowd was festive and happy.

new cd

Music started at 5:00 pm and continued until about 12:30. El Recodo has always been innovative: Don Cruz’s vision to have a big band/orchestral sound for banda started that. They have long played banda music as well as jazz swing, classical and Latin dance tunes. Wednesday night’s lineup was incredible, as in addition to best-in-class banda music we had some super reggaetón, pop and ranchera. Performers included some of those on the band’s new CD: 80 Years of Music Between Friends (80 Años de Música entre Amigos). The spectacle was telecast live and internationally. The night’s lineup included:

  1. DJ Clássico
  2. Virlan García
  3. Chyno Miranda
  4. Ulices Chaidez
  5. Mau y Ricky
  6. Remmy Valenzuela
  7. Edith Marquez
  8. Reik, who showed up late supposedly due to the crowd not letting them through, and played a surprising acoustic set.
  9. Ramón Ayala
  10. Gerardo Ortíz
  11. Mario Quintero

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

I was standing in the press zone down by the Carnaval royalty when Chyno Miranda, one of my favorite Venezuelans, took the stage. You should have seen the queens, even the infant queen, go completely went nuts for him! He was happy to oblige their adoration by kneeling down to pay them full attention.

The capacity audience sang along happily to all the acts, dancing in the aisles of the stadium and ingesting huge amounts of beer and junk food. The lines for the porte-potties on the lawn were unreal—so glad I used the indoor bathrooms!

Sadly, just after 10:00 pm the crowd outside the stadium decided to break down the gates. The video I’ve seen make it look very dangerous. I do feel for people, because there were so many who had tickets, but apparently too many tickets had been given out or copied that there weren’t enough seats for everyone, so they closed entry. Thousands stormed through the gates and into the stadium, broke down the fence to the VIP area and filled the hundreds of unused seats down there. I was glad they were able to get in to enjoy things, but what an uncivilized way to go about it.

One of the remarkable realities of the night was the apparent lack of security. There were some guards and military cadets, and volunteers. But there was no metal detector to go through, no frisking, people brought in bags of refreshments—yet the night passed without any apparent incident. What a terrific testament to Mazatlecan affability and love for El Recodo.

Monitor Latino was on hand to recognize Banda El Recodo for 80 years of transcending regional music and taking it throughout Mexico and the world (five continents,  if you count the Americas as one). I wish that someone from Videorola or Bandamax would have been present to salute them as well.

One of the high spots of the evening was giving an award of recognition to German Lizárraga, Poncho and Joel’s half-brother, who was a member of El Recodo for 44 years. It was great to see the two brothers playing clarinet together on stage and putting past bad blood behind them, even if for a bit. Another favorite awardee was Julio Preciado. El Recodo was the first banda to put a singer out front and center, and it was young Julio. During his stint with the band it grew enormously in popularity. Julio went on to have his own stellar career, of course.

Thank you for such an incredible evening, El Recodo and Familia Lizárraga!!!! Mazatlán so very much appreciates your hospitality and generosity!

Palapa Mariscos Los Porteños

IMG_0868 Lots of changes these days amongst the palapas on the malecon. Many of the changes were precipitated by the storms during the summer of 2014 while other changes are just natural turnover and expansion. One of the more intriguing changes for us is the addition of Palapa Mariscos Los Porteños. Why is this intriguing to us? Well Los Porteños is one of the better known Bandas of Mazatlán (click here for video). It is an interesting concept to have the owner of a banda group open a palapa with the same name. One of the other welcome changes along the malecon is more banda music beyond the strolling musicians. More palapas are welcoming bandas to play at their restaurant, including of course, Mariscos Los Porteños. The day we ate there the band playing featured various members of local bandas. They were getting in practice time and played very well together. Their vocalist lacked a microphone, so he would sing at your table with the band remaining stationary at the end of the restaurant. A nice touch. Songs were 100 pesos each, but spread among 12 guys, that’s not a bad deal. We negotiated four for 300. IMG_0884 IMG_0908 We found Palapa Los Porteños to be excellent as far as palapas go. First, it is new, which means it is clean and a little more modern than others. It is larger than some as well with ample beach seating under umbrellas or seating under palapas. The kitchen is fast and efficient and the servers friendly and dedicated to your satisfaction. The palapa is well built with attractive supporting beams. The kitchen pick up area features a matching wood face that is unique to Mazatlán palapas. It has a very unique and deceiving floor which you can check out in the photos.

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We have long kept a tradition of dining at a palapa each Friday. Originally this was to celebrate Danny surviving another week of school, but now just a chance to remember why we live where we do and celebrate the end of a work week. We have kept a list of palapas in order north to south with our likes and dislikes and relevant comments, but it is sorely in need of updating. After the commotion of Semana Santa, I am committed to getting this done and will publish it for everyone to use and comment upon. Until then, take off your sandals, order a cold beer and some fish or shrimp and enjoy Mariscos Los Porteños. You will find more or less across from the Sands Hotel. Coming south from the acuario, it is the second palapa. Across the street are things like Qualitas Insurance and the Mara Gymnasium, Scorpio V and the road to the bus station. Provecho!

Update: The band contacted me and gave me the website for the restaurant.

Banda Baseball!!!!

tickets 3

Went to a baseball game last night. Not your average baseball game however. Those of us who have been to see the Venados de Mazatlán play are familiar with the party-like atmosphere where the game almost takes a back seat to the music, the beer and extracurricular activities taking place on and around the field. Last night however, was not a Venados game. Last night was El Juego de las Estrellas – or Game of the Stars. By stars, I mean the stars of Banda Music, the style of music popular in this region of Mexico. (See my earlier blog post on the subject here).

Last night featured such stars as members of Calibre 50, La Bandononoa Clave Nueva, La Adictiva Banda San Jose de Mesillas, Julión Alvarez y su Norteño Banda, El Komander, Roberto Junior, Diego Herrera, El Coyote, Chuy Lizarraga, El Yaqui (Banda Recodo fame), Carlos Sarabia and many more, but you get the picture. All links are to memorable YouTube videos featuring the artist.

This is an annual event although the complete history of it is unknown to me, so if you can fill me in, please leave information in the comments below. Thanks.

The event is free to the public. The event has many sponsors, but the main sponsor was radio station 102.7 who gave away the tickets. The doors were set to open around 5:00 and people were in line before 3:00 to try to get the best seat. The real best seats, the box seats and cabinas, were not available to the public. We were lucky enough to score two tickets from our niece, Vanessa, to whom we are eternally grateful. Don’t know for sure, but I believe we may have been the only two foreigners in the crowd, much like our night at Julión Alvarez, a couple of years back (blog post here). Our seats were right behind the dugout for the blue team which gave us much amusement as we watched the stars interact with fans obliging them with photos and autographs and kisses for the ladies. The volume of screaming girls was deafening at time. El Yaqui is definitely the favorite of the young girls, but Julión Alvarez was the overall fan favorite garnering much attention. He played on the yellow team, so we could only see him well when he took the field. Did I mention there was a baseball game going on?

Each team was introduced one player at a time with full name, banda affiliation and a partial recording of a song the crowd would know. The team “managers” were introduced last: both legends in the banda business. Germán Lizárraga managed the yellow team while René Camacho managed the blue team. With introductions concluded the seven-inning game finally began around 6:30. The blue team got off to an early lead and never looked back – but who cares, right? Many players were rotated out, some only playing a single inning. El Coyote was the opening pitcher for the yellow team and lasted less than an inning.

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Chuy Lizarraga amused the crowd with a slow walk towards first after making contact with the ball to the infield for an easy out. Julión struck out his first time at bat, but made up for that with a single his next time up. Governor Malova showed up midway and joined the yellow team. He walked once and popped up to the shortstop the second time. This last at bat was booed by the crowd. Not sure if it was because the guy caught the ball and put the Governor out, or if they expected more from the big guy?

During the game there was a non-stop queue at each dugout to meet and greet stars. They were all extremely accommodating and gracious. Security had to intervene at times, but overall it was quite orderly. Somebody sitting in front of me was famous. I didn’t know who he was, but have since learned that he is Amilcar Gaxiola who pitched a no-hitter for the Venados this season. Thanks to our friends at Torres Mazatlan Vacation International for recognizing him and letting us know. The mystery is solved!


Mystery Guy?

Mystery Guy: Amilcar Gaxiola

The house band was Banda La Corona Del Rey. There were in the stands in box seats just near the yellow team dugout. They played before the game started and during each change of sides. The vocals were often handled by the stars including Julión Alvarez, Roberto Junior and Eden Muñoz of Calibre 50. Before each player batted, the house music would change to one of their hits which helped remind us who was who at the plate.

Click any picture below to enlarge or view a slideshow.

And now you can watch this amazing video:

It was a great night for music fans and baseball fans alike. See you next year!

Julión Álvarez live at Culiacan’s Palenque 2012 – The Full Report!

Read this blog post and you will get:

  • A video-packed report of our attendance at a Julión Álvarez concert
  • A better understanding of what “palenque” means
  • Insight into buchones and other things Culiacán


Well, it finally happened. I got to see Julión Álvarez perform live. What a road it’s been for him and for us. Adopted by Mazatlán, Julión sang for Banda MS (MS standing for Mazatlan, Sinaloa) for three years before going solo as Julión Alvarez y su Norteño Banda. His first album was released in 2007, and sometime after that and before we moved to Mazatlan in 2008, I was introduced to and hooked by his music.


So, it was a huge opportunity when Julión Álvarez was scheduled to play outside at Sumbawa in April, 2009. How nice to be able to walk down the street and see someone who I knew was going to be huge one day, live in a small venue! What could go wrong — how hard could this be?  Well, some pigs in Asia ruined it all. In March of 2009, the H1N1 swine flu “pandemic” took off in Mexico and part of the official government reaction was to cancel all large gatherings of the general public. Click here to read our blog post from that time. Ignorantly, I assumed Julión would simply reschedule. Ha!

Fast forward 42 months. I’m reading the paper one day and see an article listing the music schedule for the Feria Ganadera in Culiacán, Sinaloa. There he is closing night — three albums, countless videos and hit singles later, Julión Alvarez y su Norteño Banda! Two hours away in the capital of Sinaloa in a city many people warn us not to travel to; Julion is going to be the closing night performer at what amounts to the State Fair. He is to play on December 1. I don’t care what else is going on (and there was a lot) —we’re going!  Somehow by going we earned some “street cred” with the locals. Looking back, part of me gets it, but not completely. Read on and see for yourself.

Buying tickets in Mazatlán for an event in Culiacán was surprisingly difficult. Searching the Internet, I could not find a Culiacán website that sold them, and Ticketmaster didn’t have them. Danny reached out to a friend there and he couldn’t help us. A local friend reached out to her friend there and she said they were not on sale yet. Not atypical. As the date got closer, she reached out again and I reached out to a friend in the state government. Both reported back that they had friends who could get tickets for us. So, our friend’s friend got us two tickets and delivered them to Mazatlan the following week.

The annual International Marathon of the Pacific was held the same weekend. This meant we would miss the annual Festival of Lights fireworks ceremony for the first time since living here, as well as have to deal with stashing our car around the block to get around because our street would be closed for two days.

These issues amounted to little more than minor speed bumps on the way to a great night.

Our tickets were 750 pesos each — or about $60 USD — very expensive by local standards.

About 22 people were on stage the entire time. Julión was performing in a cock fighting ring at the State Fair; this was not Carnegie Hall. The newspaper said there were over 5,000 in attendance. Julión was surrounded by his band and performed “in the round,” making sure to turn and see all of his fans.

Gringos in the audience: 2

When we entered the venue, we presented our tickets (after our third security check and frisking of the night) and were escorted to our seats. A young man with a rag wiped down our seats and then asked if we wanted to give a tip. Whatever, ten pesos.

Following behind us as we found our seats was mesera (waitress) number 12. She presented us a typed laminated menu and asked if we wanted anything. Bottle of water, check. One beer, check (only Tecate Light, but don’t get me started on that). The rest of the menu was for other people: bottles of whiskey, tequila or rum priced at 1,000 pesos and up. Coke was 100 pesos and served in a two liter bottle. So, we sipped and we watched. An average group would arrive of four or five people. They would order a bottle of whiskey, 12 beers packed in ice, a few Red Bulls and maybe a snack. This scene would be repeated again and again all night long with groups placing reorders constantly. Bottom-line, these folks got drunk. And, thanks to the Red Bull, they were drunk and wide awake! With each order of a bottle of whiskey, they would receive a stack of cups with napkins, two buckets of ice and their 2-liter bottle of mixer (usually mineral water). Don’t forget that amidst all of this, the bag o’ beers had to fit on or around them. You can only imagine what it was like to get up and try to reach an aisle! The meseras were not the tiniest thing on the block either, in fact most of them were old battleaxes who didn’t give a hoot if they stood in front of you for 5 seconds or 5 minutes — they were just working the tips. Drunk young people trying to impress tip well.  This, of course, is not hard to do, when one round is anywhere from 3,000 pesos on up. Ouch! But, these young people of Culiacán seemed to just print money. They all, men and women, had fat rolls of cash and were not hesitant to spend it.

There are always distractions at public events — that’s what makes people watching so much fun. This night was no exception. The only problem is where to begin.

First of all, I need to try and explain palenque to you. Essentially, it is a legal, sanctioned cock fight and “raffle” popular at ferias (fairs). In this case in Culiacán, the palenque entrance and the concert venue are one and the same, so the ticket is as well. The whole State Fair is colloquially called the “Palenque.” Want to go watch and bet on the cock fights? Then you are going to see Julión Álvarez as well. Want to see Julión Álvarez? Then you are going to watch cock fighting (or go late). Our tickets said the cock fighting starts at 7:30 and the artist will be on at 11:30. We got in around 10:00 and said goodbye to the cock fighting MC just after midnight. Anyhow, as I was saying, the stage for the performance is a cock fighting ring. Watch the change happen here, or just look at the before and after pictures, same stage:



The fashion was really interesting. Most men had nice jeans and a nice shirt. Some men wore sport coats or slacks. There were lots of nice cowboy boots and a sea of white Stetsons. The women were the real story. Sequined shorts were all the rage and when I say shorts, I mean short. Leather pants in a variety of colors, leopard prints and tiger prints, were a common sight as well. I believe that Sinaloa women have a natural beauty, but the women of Culiacán are just not sufficed with that. They add. Push-up bras and obviously augmented breasts were a constant distraction to this writer, as were fake butt cheeks (sorry, I honestly don’t know what these things are other than unnatural and unflattering). Dianne was particularly fascinated with the “hair lifts.” The women wore their hair back and in doing so concealed a plastic foundation of some sort that raises the hair off the head, forming a ridge. Sorry, we could not get any decent pictures for fear of retribution. People did NOT want their photos taken!



There was a guy two rows ahead of that I was able, or almost forced, to watch all night. He did some really strange stuff. First of all, he was dressed nice (for a cock fight) and had no trouble spending lots of money. Had he not been mixing the Red Bull with his whiskeys, he would have passed out. As the night progressed, it got crazy. There were a lot of drunken people and multiple waitresses squeezing past our knees chasing sales and tips. As a waitress would squeak by this guy with a tray full of beer, ice buckets, etc., he would occasionally lighten the tray of a beer or two. It was like a game. All I kept thinking is that the poor waitress has to pay for them. He really pushed things at around 3:30 in the morning. There was a photographer working the crowd. He takes your picture with a fancy Polaroid, puts it into a cardboard frame, gets your money, and he’s gone. Business was a little slow, but he worked hard in his attempt to cover between 5,000 and 6,000 people. This guy carried a satchel across his body on a strap that he would turn toward his backside to get by some tight spots in the crowd. So as he is attempting to get by my friend, there is a waitress coming from the other end and he is forced to stop for a few seconds. When he does, this guy two rows up deftly reaches into the photographer’s satchel and removes a package of the frames — maybe around 50 or so. This is the kind of item no average person has the use for, agree? As the photographer walks on, clueless as to what happens, my friend starts to proudly show his buddies what he has done. One of his friends appeared to have a moral compass. His body language indicated that he was not happy and he began to see if he could locate the photographer. After extended minutes of arguing, the thief grabbed the frames back from his friend. A waitress working in the row above witnessed the whole thing, and even she had the guts to come over. She tried calling out for the photographer, but with the music it was next to impossible. Finally, after the photographer had cleared the row and exited to the promenade, the thief gave the frames to the waitress, who set out in the direction of the photographer, apparently intent on returning them.  My take was this guy was a skilled thief. Every move he made was made with confidence and no fear of recrimination. He did it for pure delight. I knew enough about Culiacan to mind my own business and say nothing (until now).

There was a small opening act of sorts that played for about twenty minutes. Julión and his band came on just before one in the morning and when we left at 4:20, he was still going strong. We understand the concert ended just after 4:30. He played non-stop. His only break from singing came when his tuba player, Cheque, sang a couple of songs. Even during those times, Julión kept busy signing autographs, posing for pictures, dancing with a seemingly never-ending line of women, and being a great host.


In the first hour, Julión went through most of his biggest wide-reaching hits: La Maria, Las Mulas de Moreno, (click to view)  La Niña, Olvídame… Next, he played a series of his smaller hits and popular songs, and then switched to classic corridos, cumbias and banda songs — the same songs played by every banda group around, but with his amazing voice and incredible backing band. The crowd loved it. In fact, it was often hard to hear Julión’s voice for the sheer volume of the crowd, as they knew every word to every song and were not afraid to help out. Just watch! A few other videos for you:
For the Mazatlecos in the crowd, he sang our song!
See how into things the crowd was at 3:45 (great ad for Red Bull)
A quick shot of the crowd with some house lights on.

A few things made the night special. Julión was the consummate host. He welcomed people on stage to take pictures, dance a few turns or just high five him; it was as though he was returning to his home neighborhood to share in his good fortune. In the clips above, you will see some Down’s syndrome fans that Julión welcomed on stage to dance a few songs for the crowd and share their excitement with the world. When three kids ran on stage to dance, Julión gave clear instructions to his handlers to let them stay. It definitely made for a night that three families will never forget! For about 30 minutes straight, Julión invited all the women to line up and dance with him one at a time. Each gal got a quick spin, a smile, a kiss and if asked, a quick pose for a picture. Watch here. He never stopped making good eye contact with the audience, waving, smiling and making everyone feel welcome. He even gave a special wave to Dianne.

Culiacán — We have spent a little time in Culiacán and know the people there are different, but wow, was this an eye-opening night. Rare is it when we travel anywhere in Mexico that someone doesn’t talk to us about where we are from, were we live, how well we (Dianne) speak Spanish, etc. On this night not one person spoke one word to us. Mind you, we sat next to, in front of and behind people in very close quarters for hours, but nada!

Did we feel safe? Yes. Did we avoid trouble? Yes. Would we do it again? Yes, in a heartbeat. It was a fabulous night with great music in an awesome venue. The late night is no problem if you plan for it. We had a nearby hotel and planned on being out late. Our plans worked out well. I just need a white Stetson hat and a wad of a cash to blend in J (or not).

I was a Julión Álvarez fan before we went and I’m a bigger fan now. That’s the way it should be.

Here is a link to a YouTube playlist of all of the videos.

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Cerritos Beach, Otro Domingo Típico Mazatleco/Another Typical Mazatlecan Sunday

I know a tranquil beach where the views are spectacular,

Where rock outcroppings shelter swimmers from rough tides.

I know a beach where both the music and the food are fantastic.

The restaurants are basic, in no way luxurious…

But, they serve fish, seafood and shellfish caught just minutes earlier…

In a shady, ocean breeze-cooled environment. Along with the seafood they serve cold beers and…

Freshly squeezed, ice cold lemonade!

I know a beach where the restaurants are plenty comfortable, and you can’t beat the freshness of the food served, the spectacular views, the joy of the environment, or the price. (Greg and I had barbecued corbina, two beers, and a fresh lemonade today, and we paid 220 pesos or about US$18 for the privilege.)

I know a beach where, in addition to the music, the food, the drink, there is plenty to keep you entertained while you are relaxing, including watching families out for a Sunday afternoon picnic and swim, and fishermen putting their boats in.

If you are from Mazatlán you of course know this beach: Cerritos. Decades ago when we first started visiting Mazatlán, Cerritos was a long drive up a lonely dirt road. The beach was great, and there were a few open-air restaurants just like today.

But today the road is paved, Cerritos is right next door to the huge, world-class El Riu hotel complex, and it lies at the end of a shopping mall that caters to gringos who stay in the trailer park. It is a mere 15 minutes from the Golden Zone. And Cerritos is still, fortunately, wonderful!

If you don’t want to visit a restaurant, you can picnic on the beach. You can bring your own shade, or, even easier, bring your ceviche and shrimp paté and…

Rent some shade: 130 pesos for day use of a tent, a table and four chairs.

If you haven’t been to Cerritos in a while, you are overdue! If you’re heading down to Mazatlán, be sure to add Cerritos to your agenda!

Below I’ll add just a few random photos taken today that I thought you might enjoy.

Fishing net on the beach

Músicosready to serve

Singly or in conjuntos

Natural swimming pool

Lots of families enjoying a day in the shade

Our restaurant from the outside

Oysters for sale