Rocio IV’s Coronation, El Buki and Combate Naval

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Queen Rocio IV and El Buki sing together on stage!

The biggest night of Carnavál 2015, Sueños de Momo/Dreams of Momo, was last night, Saturday. At what a night it was!!! The realest and most relaxed queen we’ve seen in our eight years here (did she ever enjoy her coronation!), an incredible show by Marco Antonio Solís (El Buki), and the best Combate Naval fireworks show EVER!

The coronation this year was only an hour long—a huge improvement, in my opinion. A few years ago when David Bisbal came, he was only allowed to perform in concert for an hour, because the pomp and circumstance had gone on so long. This year rocked! The dance numbers were crisp, we met the 25th and 50th anniversary queens (both of whom look unbelievably good!), Maestro Jorge González Neri was feted for his 25 years with Carnavál, and we were able to crown a queen, all in about an hour. Queen Rocio IV’s court had the theme of the Phoenix bird, and she was greeted by dancers representing Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves. Click on any photo to enlarge or view a slideshow.

After the gorgeous ceremonies and the fireworks, we were introduced to Marco Antonio Solís, who sang for a little over two hours. He seemed sincerely thrilled to be in Mazatlán, and confused when the crowd booed our Governor Malova and Mayor Felton. And they booed them twice during the evening! I was impressed that El Buki knew the names of the Queen and her four princesses, as well as the Governor, though he flubbed Mayor Carlos Felton’s name. Oops.

El Buki sang, played guitar and drums, and danced a few numbers as well—one a cowboy-type number and the other with Carnavál dancers. His voice has aged very well and is still wonderful; we truly enjoyed the concert. I have always loved his music, and that he is such a popular composer as well as performer. It is an incredible feeling to be in a stadium with 15,000 people all singing along to a performer! Many thanks to our friend Jeanette who purchased tickets for us and got us such great seats!

If you read this blog you know that our friends Cathy and Bill have a good friend who impersonates El Buki here in town. We were thrilled that last night they gave him a huge cameo on the video screens—he was sitting right up front! Very cool!

It rained on and off all evening, though it seemed to be drying up by the time we got home around 2:30. Fortunately it was just a persistent drizzle, and didn’t impact the concert or the fireworks.

You probably know as well as I do that if you want to see Combate Naval, do NOT attend Saturday night’s coronation. Unless, of course, like the Queen and other dignitaries, you have a police escort. It has always been very difficult to get through traffic and then through the security lines, in time to get into the party zone to see the fireworks after the coronation events in the stadium. With the new highway and Carnavál’s increasing popularity, however, it is next to impossible.

Last night a good friend was waiting to drive us straight to a friend’s house downtown. We were to watch the fireworks from their roof. We didn’t make it, despite our planning and best efforts. We still saw the fireworks, but not from our friend’s roof nor from inside the party zone. They were spectacular. I can only imagine how great they were on the ground in the zone!

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Here is the Noroeste video, taken from the party zone:

In my opinion the crowds and the traffic during Carnavál have really gotten overwhelming. Carnavál de Mazatlán has long been one of the world’s most terrific events, accessible to the public and family-friendly. However, it has outgrown its historical spaces and ways, and we sincerely hope it will be re-envisioned a bit in future years. Olas Altas can not hold 35,000 people comfortably or safely. Last night people entering the party zone were refused admittance several times during the night, as the crowds inside were at capacity, forcing those outside into long, long lines of waiting. The crowds got upset so the ticket booths temporarily shut down. The Plaza Machado was also very crowded, and with a distinctively young, twenty-something crowd.

We can’t wait for the parade today! As usual, we have our chairs set up on the malecón, right at street level, so we can dance with the dancers as they come by. We had a visit from the Oficialia Mayor, who wanted to make sure we weren’t renting out chairs. We showed them our rental receipt, and assured them the chairs were all for friends and family. More on the parade later. Have a wonderful first parade, everybody!

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Ready for Carnaval de Mazatlán 2014?

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Shoreline: The Skin of the Sea is the closest I can get to translating this year’s rich Carnavál theme, which will unite Mazatlán with the Mardi Gras of New Orleans, Rio de Janeiro, Santiago de Cuba, and Venice, which are all located on the water, of course. Are you getting excited? It’s hard not to, with lights already hung along the Avenida del Mar parade route, and all the great photos people keep sending me. February 27-March 4th is coming soon!

Two great pieces of personal Carnavál news for me this year! One is that our recently departed dear Maestro Rigo’s two wishes, which we reported to you last year, will be realized! This year’s float for the Queen will be 15 meters tall! Secondly, on this 400th anniversary of Japan-Mexico relations, we will have a Japanese float and comparsa/dance troupe in the parade this year! And, they will do a tequila-odori!

My friend Sandra and I with our Mayor, State Secretary of Tourism, and Esperanza Kasuga, who is organizing Mazatlán's celebration of the 400th anniversary of Japanese-Mexico relations.

My friend Sandra and I with our Mayor, State Secretary of Tourism, and Esperanza Kasuga, who is organizing Mazatlán’s celebration of the 400th anniversary of Japanese-Mexico relations.

While we have lost Maestro Rigo to this life, his two carrozas, for Queen and Child Queen, are about 60% finished. His sister, Ana Lewis Rodríguez, is continuing his legacy, at least for this year. She says that Rigo’s dream was to have the Queen’s float (with a Brazilian theme this year) crowned with 300 ostrich feathers. Since each one costs 100 pesos, there will perhaps be some fundraising involved to make that happen. The 15 meter height for the float, which Rigo dreamed of, also requires special materials, not just the standard papier maché. So, here’s hoping…

This morning I received photos of the seamstresses working on the royal costumes, which seem to get more luxurious and fantastical every year. Enjoy the sneak peek! Sodelva Rios de García and her team have been making the royal costumes for almost 40 years. You’ll remember that we showed you the King of Joy’s vestments she made last year.

Do you know that CULTURA’s costume department produces over THREE HUNDRED costumes for Carnavál each year?! Our kudos to Elisa Espinoza, head of the costume department! While the women are primarily in charge of the costuming, props are coordinated by two gentlemen: Adrián Javier Ledesma Ruíz and Jesús Julio Robles Jaramillo.

This year the Child Queen will be dressed with a French influence, in honor of New Orleans, in gold, silver, purple and green. Some of the vestments for the dancers, which have to be comfortable as well as free-moving, will be finely detailed with airbrush. The King of Joy’s theme is Cuba—the colors will be vivid, tropical colors with a lot of shine and ruffles.

Photo courtesy CULTURA Mazatlán

Photo courtesy CULTURA Mazatlán

The election of the Queen this year will take place on Saturday, February 15th, in the Angela Peralta theater. As in recent years, the candidates will model designer evening dresses and clothing designed by Jacobo Borge and Sandra Vite, and jewelry designed by Gustavo Helguera (whose designs have been worn by Naomi Campbell and Carolina Kurkova).

Are you trying to plan your trip here or your friends’ stays? Or how you’ll navigate all the Carnavál events? Check out this “Why We Love Carnavál” so you can pace yourself and your energy. Remember that this year El Recodo will play Monday night, which is traditionally the night of the fireworks on the malecón and the light parade—even more events than in a normal, very full Carnavál year.

I keep wanting to make it over to Maestro Jorge González Neri’s taller, to see what he’s up to (LOVE seeing the works in progress!), but life has just been too busy (5 sets of visitors over the holidays, the 25th anniversary of my business in 2014, and the 10th anniversary of my Cultural Detective project coming up in February, plus just so many events in town)! Here is a peek from last year at this time: Monigotes—The Making of a Giant Statue. The work these artists do for our pleasure is truly remarkable!

photo from CULTURA

photo from CULTURA

I’m excited with all the musical acts this year, and that amidst the international-caliber classical music selections we also see three major banda that originate in our hometown: El RecodoLos Recoditos, and Chuy Lizárraga. What a proud reclaiming of our roots! Say, do you recall the songs of Carnavál from recent years? While, to my knowledge, there is no annual “official” Carnavál song, each year there seems to be that song that gets played and replayed so much that it comes to represent our memories of that year. Greg wrote a post about that, read it here and test your memory.

I suppose the next thing is to wait till the monigotes or giant statues get put up, as well as the flags along the parade route. While we wait, I suggest we all get our “skin of the sea” wear in order!

Sharp Hospital Receives Prestigious National Certification (and some exciting Carnaval news)

Chairman Kuroda receiving a plaque from State Secretary of Tourism Cordova,<br />State Secretary of Health Echeverría, and Mazatlán Mayor Felton.

Chairman Kuroda receiving a plaque from State Secretary of Tourism Cordova,
State Secretary of Health Echeverría, and Mazatlán Mayor Felton.

Mexico’s General Health Council has given Mazatlán’s own Hospital Sharp an impressive 9.5 out of 10 points on a prestigious patient care accreditation, making it one of only two hospitals in Sinaloa to achieve such a ranking. The award comes after several years of painstaking work by administration and staff—from janitors, cooks and bookkeepers to doctors, nurses and technicians. Greg and I were pleased to be join the banquet on top of SECTUR’s offices on the malecón last Wednesday night, to honor those involved in this effort to better position Mazatlán in national and international medical tourism markets. It was a joy to be in the presence of so many different types of medical professionals enjoying one another’s company and accomplishments.

In attendance were Mazatlán’s Mayor Carlos Felton and the first lady, Sinaloa State Tourism Secretary Francisco Córdova and his wife, and Sinaloa State Secretary of Health Ernesto Echeverría. During the banquet 35 division heads and key staff received commemorative plaques. Ing. Juan Manuel Kuroda, who is Chairman of the Hospital’s Board of Directors and the primary investor in Hospital Sharp (yes, also owner of Kuroda tile), says, “We are very proud of our 219 dedicated employees who were instrumental in achieving this result.  In addition to serving the needs of our local population and foreign visitors, with this certification we are also able to compete on a level playing field in the Medical Tourism market worldwide.”

The accreditation centers on patient care. Each aspect of the quality of medical attention and patient safety, from evidence gathering to diagnosis and treatment as well as accurate record keeping with precise checks and balances was evaluated against international standards.

Hospital Sharp has a modern physical facility with open spaces and 41 single-bed rooms, along with constant fresh air intake to lessen the transfer of germs and illness. It is a full service, 24-7 surgical facility, has the only dialysis facility in Mazatlán, and is completely self-sufficient—equipped with powerful generators in the event of a disruption in electrical service. Construction began in 1994, and the facility was built to USA standards. Hospital Sharp Mazatlán is located at Av. Rafael Buelna y Dr. Jesús Kumate S/N Fracc, Hacienda Las Cruces C.P. 82126, Mazatlán Sinaloa, telephone (669) 986 56 78.

Mayor Felton’s speech from the event:

Judy Setrakov, who works at Sharp as a medical tourism consultant, received a special tourist ambassador award. She, Doctor Juan Fernando Barraza, and Christian Barrios form Sharp’s Medical Tourism group. They can be reached at the number above, extension 336.

On a completely different note, I also found out on Wednesday evening some extremely exciting news. Carnavál Internacional de Mazatlán will have a Japanese-themed float and dance group this year, to commemorate 400 years of Japan-Mexico diplomatic relations. The float will be a samurai ship. I have been invited to the dance troupe. Special choreography, including a “tequila o-dori,” will be performed, taught to us by a Japanese dance professional from Mexico City. That changes up our annual parade party, but it sure should be fun!

Street View: Carnavál de Mazatlán 2013, Desfile Principal

35. Velociraptors

The mechanical triceratops in the parade this year.
Photo © John Matzick, an award-winning local photographer. Used with permission.

We are blessed with wonderful friends, but somehow we have a lot more friends every year at Carnavál. Everyone we haven’t seen in months suddenly calls and wonders how we’re doing. Why? Coincidence, we’re sure, that we live on the parade route. And thank goodness, because what a terrific annual party it makes! We are blessed to have friends who are willing to make incredible homemade botanas to share, and then hike in with them because the street is closed, to join us for the fiesta.

This year was even better than usual. The theme of Carnavál was just so much fun: La Linterna Mágica, the magic of the movies. There were over 39 floats, loads of marching bands, and dozens of dance troupes. We screamed and danced till we dropped!

Below is the movie I made of the main parade this year. Thank you for watching and sharing the one I made last year; I hope you’ll enjoy this one as well. While all the floats were outstanding, and we are loving this tradition of three nights of parades, Greg’s and my favorite float this year was E.T. The Extraterrestrial. The float itself was incredible, and the kids on their bikes (lit up with 9 volt batteries taped to the frames) were just incredible.

Other family favorites were the velociraptors from Jurassic Park. We talked with the young man from Monofaber (DF) as he put the finishing touches on them. I have now forgotten his name (please contact me if you read this!), but he is so incredibly talented! He was responsible and wouldn’t let me take photos because it was before Carnavál and he didn’t want to ruin the excitement. But he had designed the mechanics for the functioning mouth, as well as designed and executed the body, teeth, etc. for VERY realistic looking and functioning velociraptors! They were powered by humans, much like a life-sized puppet. Extremely cool. Watch the movie and you’ll see one in action about halfway through.

Below is a slideshow of most of the floats in the parade (I’m missing The Little Mermaid; I have video but no photos). Involved in Carnavál since 1961, Maestro Rigoberto Lewis designed and supervised the making of the Carrozas Reales or royal floats, as he has for decades. I was heartbroken to speak with him this year and have him tell me that this, Carnavál 2013, would be his last! You can see his unique and incredibly luxurious, gorgeous float-making style in the photos below. Carnavál de Mazatlán without Maestro Rigo???!!! No!!!! He told me he had two wishes that he would love for me to pass on to our readers:

  1. Please get CULTURA and the city to remove the overhead wires so that the floats can be as tall as needed and not be impeded. While the north gate from Olas Altas and the stop light at Playa Norte are both removed to allow passage of the parade, this year, there were even wires holding up the monigotes that blocked the parade route.
  2. Please secure some real, indoor talleres or workshops for the making of the floats. Readers of this blog know that Maestro Rigo’s taller is small, old, and dark, and Maestro Neri’s taller is open air.

Come on, Mazatlecos, surely we can help make these wishes happen for Maestro Rigo, and take Carnavál to the next level!

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We hope to see you at this community-wide event next year! Carnavál Internacional de Mazatlán is scheduled to be held February 27 to March 5, 2014.