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!

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!

¡Por Fiiiiin! Finally!


How many times have I posted to their Facebook wall, asking them to play at home? How many times have I joked with Joel in the elevator, telling him we need him here?

Finally, last night, we were able to see Banda El Recodo for the third time in concert. They played up at the Mazatlán International Center, as part of events leading up to tonight’s Premios Oye, the Latin American Grammy awards. Below is one of the first songs they opened with, the Corrido de Mazatlán, of course.

Their music is so tight; sound was perfect. They all danced, kicked and blowed their horns for two hours non-stop. It was an evening full of joy and life, minus my querido Poncho, of course 😦 Click on any of the photos below to enlarge it, or to view a slideshow.

Every time we see this group, we are so impressed with the event itself. It is incredibly well orchestrated, on Vegas levels. Below I’ll post a slideshow of some of the backdrops, the staging. Banda El Recodo has to employ the best graphics and stage design professionals anywhere! At the start of the concert, a huge screen on the right side got loose and blew dangerously in the wind. It took less than two minutes for a stagehand to get it down and safely secured, and maybe two songs later, it was back up, securely fastened and in working order. Most impressive! Enjoy the slideshow below.

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For those of you attending the ceremonies tonight, I can share with you a bit of what we learned last night. This applies to general admission people only (we were not VIPs). They will not let you take in any food or drink, or any sharp items that could hurt someone else. There are 3 or 4 areas where your tickets are checked and your bags/person searched, so no friends getting friends in. Tonight they are expecting 12,000 people, so get in early! Parking was of course crazy, especially when things finished, as you have all those people walking in front of cars trying to get out of the lots. Parking was on the street and in dirt lots like last year; the parking garage was not accessible. They even had the overhead walkway blocked off (you know I wanted to sit up there).

1.P1000457Tonight’s Premios Oye stars are scheduled to include: Alejandro Sanz, Emmanuel, Mijares, Sasha, Benny y Érick, Cristian Castro, Belinda, Alan Tatcher, Danna paola, Francisco Céspedes, Banda El Recodo, Banda Max, Carlos Gatica, Fey, 3Bal MTY, Chamín Correa, Monserrat Olivier, Jan, María Daniela y Sonido, M15, Fobia, Il Volo, Pedro Rivera, José Manuel Figueroa, Juan Solo, Kinky, María José. Miró, Grupo Pesado and Sofí Mayen. Carlos Gatica and Fey will be the masters of ceremony.

Red carpet starts at 7:00 pm, and the awards ceremony at 8:00. Special awards will go to four founders of Sinaloan banda music: Don Cruz Lizárraga, René Camacho, Germán Lizárraga and Salvador Lizárraga. Special tribute for their artistic career will be given to the singer Marco Antonio Muñiz and guitarist Chamín Correa. A special tribute will be offered to our dearly departed “Diva of the Banda”, Jenny Rivera.

I received an announcement today that urged people to dress comfortably, since most of us will be standing during the awards. I know lots of people will dress to the nines, and I’m looking forward to seeing that. But me, I’ll obey the advice, thank you very much!

Expat Lifestyles in Mazatlán: Cathy and Bill

One of the cool things about foreigners who move to Mazatlán is the variety of lifestyles they can adopt here. While the vast majority are retirees, more and more we see families and working people relocating to Mazatlán.

At one end of the continuum we meet extranjeros who live very Mexican lives, adopting the culture, speaking the language and, perhaps, obtaining citizenship.

On the other hand we meet those who have little desire (or sometimes ability) to learn Spanish, who socialize primarily or exclusively with non-Mexicans, and who in many ways have replicated their lives from NOB (north of the border). People at both extremes seem to live happy and fulfilling lives here, which is great to see.

And, of course, there are lifestyles representing every combination in between these two extremes, including many who volunteer ceaselessly and selflessly and many who party and sunbathe daily, living the retirement life they always dreamed of. We have artists, lifelong students, those who start small businesses, and those who remodel and restore historic homes.

Amidst so much diversity, Cathy and Bill stand out. They don’t fit into the most common expat categories, and they are one of the most interesting couples I’ve met here. Both in their fifties, Bill has recently retired and Cathy is nearing retirement. They originate from the US east coast. A few years ago they vacationed in Mazatlán, fell in love, and bought a house on their very first trip here: on a whim, so to speak. The home they bought is in a typical, centrally located Mexican neighborhood. No modern marina area or Centro Histórico, areas in which many other expats live and where perhaps things might be easier for them. Ok, plenty of other foreigners live in neighborhoods with few foreigners. But, neither Cathy nor Bill spoke Spanish when they bought their home, though they are taking lessons and learning quickly. Talk about jumping into the pool rather than checking the temperature first with your toes!

They are not like some retirees who live in the typical neighborhoods because there they can live on social security and a small pension because life is cheaper. Nor do they live in a gated community with killer views. Cathy and Bill live in a nice home a block from the beach, in a mixed-use neighborhood of small homes and businesses.

What’s remarkable to me about Cathy and Bill is how completely open they are to the culture and the people here, despite their initial lack of language and experience with Mexico. To me as an interculturalist, getting to know them has been a breath of fresh air. We witness a lot of unfortunate cross-cultural misunderstanding and negative judgment in our daily lives here, and we ourselves are not immune to it as we create our community here. But Cathy and Bill are excellent role models of how to be open minded, and how to jump into a new community wholeheartedly.

They have befriended their neighbor, an air conditioner repair guy, who has “taken them under his wing,” so to speak. He has welcomed Cathy and Bill as a member of the family and local community. Thus, the couple is invited to the kids’ baseball games, school performances, and every extended family party and event. And Cathy and Bill go. They don’t let the lack of language or cultural understanding stop them; they see these as an opportunity to learn, to build friendships, and to build community. Their circle of friends here keeps growing exponentially, as they learn local slang, how to make ceviche, or how to rehab a car Mazatleco-style.

We first got to know them in the way we first connect with many of the foreigners we know here in town: online. Greg probably answered a few questions they had about living here. He happened to mention our plans to attend a Banda El Recodo concert with our neighbors. They asked us to buy tickets for them to attend as well. The first time we met them was when we delivered the tickets to their house.

We have not had the good fortune to get to know a lot of foreigners in town who attend bandaconcerts, though I know they exist. In fact, among the thousands of people attending that concert, I honestly believe we were about the only foreigners at the event. Cathy and Bill’s excitement about attending this concert paralleled our own. They didn’t stress, as so many new immigrants would, about the hours and hours we waited for the main event to commence. Concerns about safety or violence didn’t prevent their attendance, as it does so many others. They danced and hooted with everyone else, taking photos and videotaping with sheer delight. They ate and drank the local food, with no concern about getting sick. They looked around with us to try and figure out how people were getting chairs to sit on, and together we found the way and happily sat. Till the band came on, of course! It was really refreshing to witness in someone new to town; the differences seemed to energize them rather than intimidate them.

I can count on these two for a funny, self-deprecating story. They were recently invited to a “nephew’s” birthday party. Their friends explained and explained the location of the party to them. They drew them a map. The children attempted to explain in their best school kid English. But Cathy and Bill were still confused. But they’re committed. They drove around in circles, trying to find the location, until they finally found their friends waving at them: from Burger King! Yes, they hadn’t understood the Spanish pronunciation of those well-known words, but it didn’t hinder them from enjoying the party with their friends or from making the most of the story afterwards!

It so happens that in front of where Cathy and Bill live is a large empty lot. When they bought the house, they wondered about it: whether and when it would be developed, mostly. Little did they know that this lot becomes home to major city-wide events a few times a year. While the crowds, litter, noise till all hours of the morning, and dust might bother a lot of people, instead of complaining Cathy and Bill embrace the excitement. “What a great location we have the good fortune to live in,” they say!

Their open-mindedness and enthusiasm are supplemented with a real desire to thank those they feel have made their new home such a joy to them. Each fall for the past few years, when Cathy and Bill drive south to their winter home, they pack their vehicle to the brim with bicycles and sports equipment to give to local kids, and a few adults who are now able to get to work much more easily.

It’s people like Cathy and Bill who make me really proud to be an American. Thank you, friends.

Readers, I first wrote this post a year and a half ago. Somehow the file became corrupted, and this was never posted. Now that I’ve figured out how to “rescue” the file, I’d like to give you a short update.

Cathy and Bill drive down to Mazatlán every year. They spend their summers up in the US going to garage sales and second-hand stores, buying used baseball equipment, bicycles, baby swings — you name it, but things that people here might find useful and hard to find the extra money to purchase. They fill their truck and haul it all down here every fall. They spend the first month they are here finding good homes for all these items.Parties at their home have now become an annual tradition. The neighbors block traffic on the street, one neighbor cooks tacos, another provides the DJ service, Cathy and Bill provide the tables, chairs, paper ware and beer, and fun is had by all. Last time we went there had to be 150 people there; and the four of us the only foreigners! They have far more patience, perseverance, and tolerance for ambiguity than I could ever hope to have. They give so selflessly and so joyously, and their love is returned to them multiplied many times over.

They spend every weekend cheering on their local friends’ kids at the kids’ baseball games, and they’ve been invited to many, many homes and parties. Even though they are here part-time, their lives are so intertwined and important to their Mazatleco friends. It is really wonderful to see how loved they are. Just last night, their friends here hosted a surprise going-away party for these two. Over fifty people attended.

Way to go, Cathy and Bill! Thank you for helping keep Mazatlán the multicultural mix it has always been! And for helping make our world a better place. Enjoy your NOB summer! We will miss you!

Los Tigres del Norte Banned in Chihuahua

Los Tigres del Norte, one of my favorite (and one of the world’s most popular) bands, was banned yesterday from playing in the city of Chihuahua. They were banned for playing a very popular narco-corrido based on a soap opera and book, La Reina del Sur (the city of Chihuahua has banned narco-corridos).<.div>

The Mexican press, and most Mexican people, are upset about and vocal in objecting to this cavalier censorship.

I value free speech, and do not believe in censorship. It is interesting, though, that this ban occurred because Chihuahua city is trying to change its culture. It is trying to take the narco culture out of norteña culture, to stop the glamorization of criminal activity, to restore responsibility and good citizenship to its citizens.

Northern Mexican norteña culture has become closely mixed with narco culture. That cultural mix includes a style of dress (one extreme is those tippy-toed guarachero boots), a unique vocabulary and style of speech, songs (narco-corridos are songs that glorify the life of the outlaw), and even a patron saint whose image, likeness and altars can be found in most any colonía (Jesús Malverde, so-called patron saint of the drug lords and lost causes).

Mexico is a large country, as is northern Mexico, and norteña culture as influenced by narco culture has a diversity within it. There is also spillover; many people who have nothing to do with the drug trade may build an altar or light a candle to Malverde (unwed mothers may pray to him, for example, as might people who have lost their jobs) or have his face emblazoned on the window of their pickup truck. And, MANY of them listen to what can be called narco-corridos. The particular song for which my Tigres were banned, ironically, ends with the outlaw (a woman) being punished for her crimes.

Chihuahua’s ban is personally ironic to me because last year, I posted on the Facebook page of another favorite band of mine, la Banda El Recodo, sharing with them my disappointment that they had released a song so far below the respect and esteem with which they are held by the public (the song talks about guns, arms, bulletproof vests; it encourages people to get drunk and shoot bullets into the air; the official video involves non-stop drinking, high-priced cars and watches, and ends with the lead singer pretending to shoot the viewer). In hindsight, was I censoring? I know my motivations were the same as those of the city of Chihuahua: El Recodo is at the top of their craft; people respect them. I love them, and I love Mexico. I wanted them to stand for and promote what is good about Mexico, help make it a better place, not glorify and feed the worst of our local culture.

What do you all think?