Women Artists of Fishing

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The fish scales remind me of flower petals. These bracelets look like leis.

Today I bought some gorgeous handmade jewelry at unbelievably good prices, and my purchase directly benefitted families in need in Mazatlán. This is not a story of charity but rather self-help—a terrific model of women-owned micro-business of the kind that development experts tell us builds strong and healthy communities.

Called Mujeres Artesanas de la Pesca, these twelve local women have officially registered as a cooperative of artisans dedicated to building better families, to personal development, social responsibility and environmental sustainability. They are a strong team of women who have experienced some of the worst that life has to offer yet remain hardworking and committed to helping their families and one another, as well as to growing their outreach and membership in support of our local economy. The day I visited, the women were bustling about, everyone working hard and shoulder to shoulder, so many projects at once that it was difficult to keep track. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

We all know that Mazatlán is home to Mexico’s largest shrimping fleet, an industry that employs thousands. The shrimping season, however, can be as short as four months a year. How is a fisherman to sustain a family on four months of wages? Of course, they try to find another job during the off-season, but that is challenging.

A year and a half ago this group of fishermen’s wives joined one of ANSPAC Mazatlán’s classes on personal growth to learn skills and cultivate the confidence and connections to help provide for their families, including education and healthcare for their children. During the program the group developed the idea of making jewelry out of fish scales, and after completing graduation they ran with it.  They have beautiful earrings, bracelets, necklaces and keychains available for 50 to 200 pesos, though they are contemplating increasing their prices.

Their husbands’ employer, Operadora Maritima del Pacífico, set aside a storefront and workshop space for them. The women manage the enterprise themselves; Maribel is the manager and Chabelita is in charge of sales. Jessie is disabled and works from home. They’ve furnished their workspace and sales area themselves and purchased a coffee pot and water dispenser for the kitchen. The group has sold their jewelry at the cruise ship docks, the Aquarium, and the El Cid Bazaar. They are very excited that the State Secretary of Tourism has recently begun purchasing their items—local, socially responsible and eco-friendly handicrafts—for their incoming guests.

The women hope that their project will help discourage illegal fishing and over-fishing as well as encourage others to be more responsible in putting garbage in its place and limiting the use of plastics to protect the ocean and our environment. “The ocean is the heart of our planet,” is one of their sayings.

The company has also helped by bringing in experts to teach the women what they need to know. On the day I visited the shop, Gabriel Aguilar Tiznado, an engineer, was visiting for the second time. He is from Tepic, Nayarit. He first came to teach the women how to cure and dye the fish scales for use in jewelry. This time his task is three-fold:

  1. The women want to dye the fish scales silver and gold, in addition to the bright colors they are already producing.
  2. They want to learn to tan the fish skins into leather, and have already made wallets, keychains and earrings with a gorgeous texture and color.
  3. Perhaps most interesting of all, they are learning to extract collagen from the fish scales. Collagen is the most expensive substance made from fish, costing more than the meat itself, and has been found beneficial for skin, hair, joints, internal organs and, at certain stages of cancer, can be used to inhibit tumor growth.

Soon a Mazatlecan artist who resides in Guadalajara, Tusi Partida, who recently won an award for her artisanal leather shoes, will work with the women to teach them more skills. They are currently looking for a sewing machine and leather working tools, including manual stamps, to help them with this next phase of their project. Below are a few photos that I received of her work.

Working with the wives of their employees is something that Operadora Maritima del Pacífico sees as a social responsibility. They view their enterprise as a family and want to educate everyone from the captain of the boat to the fishermen to take care of our oceans and value them. According to the women, one of the biggest joys of their venture, in addition to the income and learning, is the friendship, the fact that they’ve learned to collaborate and support each other. “Too many women spend time pulling each other down. Here we pull each other up. We are in this together,” one of the ladies told me.

The women use fish skin that is cast off at the embarcadero and even some of the markets around town—tilapia, sole, mahi… Going forward they envision that a husband could get a panga and his wife and kids could make these handicrafts with what they catch, thus producing a family-owned business. In the meantime, they’re dedicated to finding more outlets for their products and to diversifying their product line.

You can visit the Mujeres Artesanas de la Pesca shop between 9am and 1pm Monday through Saturday. It is located near the embarcadero to Stone Island—the one with the fish market, on the port side of the street right across from the Pemex station. The group’s name is on the sign out front.

Lighthouse Update & Event of the Season!

DSC_4453Readers, many of you share my love of the lighthouse. Every season of the year it has natural wonders to share, breathtaking views, and provides us a good place to exercise and breathe clean air. Do you also love :

  • Historic properties, elegantly restored, surrounded by gardens and furnished with antiques?
  • Great views of our bay and port, with the city at your feet?
  • Creative cocktails served at a modern Victor de Rueda-designed bar by a trained mixologist?
  • Getting into a private, luxurious facility that you can’t normally get into?

On Thursday, December 20th you can experience all of the above while watching a killer mazatlecan sunset with a bunch of other cool and civic-minded people—for the benefit of our beloved lighthouse.

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Noche de Luz (Night of Light) will take place at the Observatorio Histórico de Mazatlán, atop Cerro del Vigía, overlooking the lighthouse on Cerro del Crestón. Cocktails and canapés will be served from 5 pm, and a concert including classical, Mexican and Christmas music will be performed by baritone José Adán Pérez, mezzosoprano Sarah Holcombe and soprano Rebeca de Rueda, accompanied by Michiyo Morikawa on piano. The performance is scheduled to start at 6 pm, and it’s all to benefit the Patronato Parque Natural Faro de Mazatlán. The promotional video is below.

Tickets are 800 pesos and can be purchased in Centro Histórico (Plaza Machado) at La Tramoya (4-11 pm) or at Deco Designs (Camarón Sábalo 610-5, tel 669-916-5393). Raul Rico’s Vivace Producciones is in charge, so we are sure to enjoy a super show. In order to avoid use of styrofoam and other environmentally unfriendly disposables, logo’d mugs designed by Emilia Igartúa will be available for sale. Do not miss it, or your access to this incredible private property! The event site has very limited parking, so attendees are asked to park at SAT (the old aduana/customs house on Venustiano Carranza and Miguel Alemán) and take a shuttle to and from the observatory. Shuttles will start running at 4:30 pm.

The observatory where the concert will take place was built in the 1800s, according to my friend and local historian, Joaquín Hernandez, designed by Friaco Quijano when our city was still called “Mazatlán de los Mulatos.” It was constructed as a lookout for pirates, at a time when many of the tunnels around downtown were dug—as hiding places for gold and silver from the mines in the Sierras as well as escape routes for the wealthy in case of attack. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

When I first visited the Observatory a couple of decades ago it was in complete ruin, though still beautiful. Some years back Amado Guzmán purchased the property and he has both restored and significantly upgraded it, adding antique nautical furnishings, historical photos, comfortable dining and seating areas and a full bar. The bar is now staffed by a bilingual mixologist during events! My apologies for the fuzzy night shots, but I was out all day and did not have my tripod with me, so we tested my handheld abilities.

The Observatory provides nearly a 360 degree view of Mazatlán, the port and the bay. It is a private party place used only for the elite as well as family and close friends, so those attending Noche de Luz will be quite lucky.

I very much enjoyed interviewing María Esther Juarez, presidenta of the new civil organization “Patronato del Parque Natural Faro de Mazatlán” that takes care of the lighthouse. Since their formation we’ve already seen installation of three new webcams (with a fourth coming soon), funded by Javier Lizarraga Galindo, which provide a 360 degree view of our city 24/7/365. It’s kind of fun to watch the waves crash, the weather change, and the planes take off and land, via the internet. Ten of the key points Esther told me during our interview include:

  1. Public bathrooms, funded by the municipality, are being built at the bottom of the lighthouse at government expense. There is no water at the top, so no bathrooms there yet.
  2. Though Governor Quirino has scheduled the sewage plant at the foot of the lighthouse to be moved out to Stone Island within the next year, planning restaurants and tourist shops designed primarily for cruise ship passengers in its place, the new municipal government has recently vetoed the plan.
  3. Funds from Noche de Luz will be used to (properly repair and) finish the recently redone trails up the hill. The paths will be covered with a natural-looking surface called tucuruguay (you can see it at Parque Ciudades Hermanas/Sister Cities Park), which will be put over the top of the current gravel held on by the geocelda or plastic netting, assuming current tests of the product prove it appropriate.
  4. The zip line is still being planned, with the state coordinating the concession.
  5. The lighthouse keepers will soon be getting uniforms!
  6. The roundabout at the entrance to the lighthouse will be finished very nicely, and a gate installed.
  7. A fence to keep people away from the glass bridge when it is not open is planned.
  8. The patronato is currently looking into ways to make the lighthouse inclusive (accessible to the disabled, elderly, families with strollers), using the ideas and experience of Cuastecomates beach in Jalisco state.
  9. There are plans for drinking water atop the lighthouse.
  10. The patronato would like to make every November “Lighthouse Month,” as the lighthouse was first commissioned in November of 1879 (though a fire burned atop the hill and served as a lighthouse for perhaps a century before that).

The lighthouse itself is owned by API (Integral Administration of the Port), while the lighthouse hill has been thought to be federal land but may actually officially belong to the state or city; that’s part of the clarity those involved are seeking right now. The  patronato thus has to coordinate between FOUR disparate entities—federal, state, local and API—as well as listen to and involve the public. Glad that coordinating role is not mine!

So how did this new civil association come to be? There were a group of regular faro-goers who became concerned about the lack of supervision of the contractor for the lighthouse upgrades. It seems the project supervisor was a state official who only visited the site 2-3 times during the entire construction process. Thus, we have geocelda, the plastic netting on the pathways, that has already disintegrated due to a failure to install it properly. Geocelda is not intended to be used on paths with such a steep incline as we have at the faro. This same group of people was proud of the new crystal bridge and the amphitheater, but well aware how quickly and easily beautiful new installations can be trashed—witness the graffiti-covered Carpa Olivera (ocean-fed swimming pool), Glorieta Sanchez Taboada, or Parque Lineal.

Desiring to prevent neglect and vandalization, the group of civic-minded lighthouse-goers decided to form an association and went to a notario to officially register. They are all volunteer, and just last night successfully joined the much-admired JAP (Junta de asistencia privada), which is a very selective group of patronatos that ensures bookkeeping and decision making are transparent to the public.

Members of the patronato include María Esther; Elsa María López, owner of Deco; Javier Hidalgo, architect, who designed the new lighthouse installations; Alejandra Contreras (a daily visitor to the lighthouse); Balbina Herrera Medrano, who has worked for the lighthouse and API for many years); and Raquel Briseño, a researcher at UNAM. They would seem to be a group with diverse and complementary interests, and they all live locally.

I asked María Esther how our readers can help the faro. She said that soon they will have an online registry to sign up for lighthouse cleaning days (trash pickup and minor gardening). She asked that people stop feeding the feral cats at the lighthouse, as the cats have nearly eradicated the native flora and fauna. The patronato has paid to neuter most of them, but at 800 pesos per cat, they can’t afford to keep it up. Anyone interested is more than welcome to adopt one or more of the resident cats. The great news is that just yesterday the city’s Secretary of the Environment agreed they would find a solution to the problem!

I hope to see you while hiking up the lighthouse, and I also hope to see you on the 20th at the Observatory! Do NOT miss this once-in-a-lifetime event and your chance to support our beloved lighthouse!

Bless You All!

DSC_0107padreehijaOne whole chicken costs about 70 pesos. Today in the silent auction for the Desayuno de los Pollos/Chicken Breakfast YOU all helped us raise 22,500 pesos. That equals 322 chickens that will feed as many families! And that does not include the money raised by the breakfast itself, the bazaar, bake sale, gumball guessing and your donations!!! This year, for the first time ever, we added a LIVE AUCTION.

Many of the people we serve live in homes made of black garbage bags, recycled vinyl banners, or the occasional plywood. We completely make their Christmas holiday by giving them the chicken for a Christmas dinner, foodstuff/despensas for a couple of weeks, and second-hand bedding or kitchen items.

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There are SOOO many individuals we want to thank for helping us sell tickets and collect auction items. Special thanks this year to Jeanette and Emery Leraand, as always, Denise Thomson, the awe-inspiring Sue Parker, and our four goddaughters, the Hernandez sisters, among MANY more! Hundreds of people enjoyed the morning, with so many smiling, winning faces.

Please join us in thanking those businesses that supported this effort, by patronizing them and letting them know you appreciate their civic-mindedness:

  1. Athina Spa
  2. Aroma Spa
  3. Banda El Recodo
  4. Banda El Limón La Arolladora
  5. Barbie Dolls—Vintage Collectibles—from Helen James and Brenda Millirons
  6. Casa Canobbio
  7. Casa Etnika
  8. Casa Lucila
  9. Diamonds and Gem in the Pacific
  10. F.I.S.H.
  11. Gaia Bistrot
  12. Gregory Webb, art by Viejo Castro
  13. Gwen Tegart, handmade quilt
  14. Johnny Gunshots
  15. Marina Mazatlán Golf
  16. La Mona del Astillero
  17. Mazatlán Comedy Club
  18. Pedro y Lola
  19. Quince Letras Wrought Iron
  20. Sonrisas Calendar and Hand-crocheted Bag from Lynne Hopkins de Hernandez
  21. Sylvia Felix Painting
  22. Thru Di’s Eyes Photography
  23. Tippy Toes
  24. Venados de Mazatlán
  25. Villa Italia
  26. Vittore Restaurant

You can still make a donation by clicking on the “donate” button on the right side of this website, or contacting us. Join us the morning of December 24th to hand out the goodies, or the 10 days prior to pack up foodstuff. See you then!

Chicken Breakfast 2018!!!

 

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Kids charming the camera woman while they line up for candy!

I’m excited to announce the Chicken Breakfast (Desayuno de los Pollos) for 2018! Mark your calendars now for Saturday, December 8th at the API (cruise ship) dock. Help us feed 2500-300 families for two weeks during the holidays. Tickets are 200 pesos for the full breakfast, Christmas bazaar, bake sale, silent auction and raffles. We’d love it if you’d help us sell breakfast tickets! Contact Yolanda at (669) 431-4529, Jorge at (669) 110-0744, or me (dianne@vidamaz.com). We’d also love you to help collect items for the silent auction. Download a gift certificate for restaurant meals, hotel stays, airfares, or donate your artwork or cool gift item!

Also set aside the morning of December 24th to hand out the food, clothing and toys in Mazatlán’s poorest colonias! Begin collecting your items for donation now—gently used household items, sheets, towels, blankets, coats, shoes, clothes, new toys. You can also donate money, 100% of which goes to help those in need.

More details on the 29th annual event follow.

What is the “Chicken Breakfast?”
It is a two-step process to feed the neediest in our community.

First is a fundraising breakfast held in early December to raise money to buy one whole chicken and ten days’ worth of food for each family—we buy for as many families as we possibly can.

Second, on Christmas Eve morning (24 December), dozens of us gather together to load trucks and go out to the invasiones, the poorest, “squatter” areas of Mazatlán, to make people happy and hand out the goods! We give the chickens and foodstuffs, plus gently used clothing, linens, shoes, coats, and new toys and candy.

It is important to know that several of us go out to the squatter areas the week before Christmas. There we meet with area leaders and go around with them to hand out tickets, to ensure that those in need receive what they need, and that no one cheats or “double dips.” We especially want to ensure that we get food and clothes to the elderly and the disabled, so we go door to door to make sure everyone knows about the event, and to make plans to get things to those who can’t walk to the delivery site.

The history:

Yolanda Medina’s daughter, María Yolanda, was very sick. She and her husband kept vigil in the hospital, taking care of all their daughter’s needs. As Yoly’s sister-in-law Isa tells the story:

“It was Christmas Eve 1990, and María Yolanda’s days were counted. Yolanda and her late husband, Modesto, were in no mood to eat, let alone have a Christmas Dinner with all the fixings. But that night, a woman knocked on the hospital room door and peeked to see if there was someone with the patient. She came in to hand Yolanda and Modesto a box with a hot Christmas Dinner meal — and told them Merry Christmas and that God was with them. Yolanda never forgot that gesture.

After María Yolanda passed away, Yolanda got us all together and told us what had happened. So, the first couple of years, we had culinary arts students volunteer their time to prepare a Christmas Dinner meal, with donated ingredients from friends and family, and all of us volunteered to fill disposable thermal boxes with the hot dinners, load them into cars and pick-up trucks, and off we went, to hospitals, traffic intersections, parks — wherever we thought we might find people that, for one reason or another, wouldn’t be privy to a nice Christmas Dinner.

However, this was a huge effort, and very expensive, so we couldn’t cover that much ground. So we thought in terms of something more practical, something that could be cooked and prepared at home. This way, we could make sure many more families could have a Christmas Dinner. That’s when we started the Desayuno de los Pollos.”

How to help:

  1. Buy (or sell) tickets for the fundraising breakfast. Contact me at dianne@vidamaz.com, or buy them from anyone selling them around town. Post and Ship in the Golden Zone (beside Dolce Mami, across from FedEx) will have tickets also.
  2. Make crafts or baked goods to be sold at the bazaar during the breakfast.
  3. Donate (or gather) items for the silent auction (download a gift certificate, artwork, restaurant meals, hotel stays, airfares…)
  4. Help set up, cook, serve or clean up after the breakfast.
  5. Donate money (in person or click on the link), gently used clothing, diapers, lightly worn shoes, linens, blankets coats, new toys, or candy. 100% goes to those in need. Post and Ship will be happy to collect items if you drop them off there (beside Dolce Mami, across from FedEx).
  6. Help pack the food into packets—the two weeks before Christmas.
  7. Join us to go out with community leaders to deliver tickets for chickens, to ensure all receive their fair share, the weekend before Christmas.
  8. Help us load the trucks and deliver the goodies on December 24th! This is, of course, the most fun and a terrific tradition with friends and family.

When and where is the breakfast?
It’s usually the first Saturday in December, 8:30-10:30 am in the cruise ship dock/API. In 2018 the breakfast will be on Saturday December 8th. Please join us and bring all your friends! Your ticket includes a full homemade breakfast, coffee and juice, a ticket for the door prize, a ticket for the raffle, and access to the Christmas bazaar. This is a very multicultural affair, with announcements in Spanish and English and hundreds of locals and expats attending.

API dock is on Emilio Barragón nearly across from the new OXXO. Below is a map. If you can’t find it, ask any taxi driver or blue shirt/Tourism Volunteer.

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How can I get to Quince Letras on December 24th?
Come by 6:30 am if you are driving a truck, 7:00 am if you are helping us load and deliver. We usually finish by 11:30 or noon, but some years it’s taken longer (depends how many routes you participate in).

Quince Letras, corner of Tampico and Francisco Villas streets We load from either side of this

Quince Letras, corner of Tampico and Francisco Villas streets We load from either side of this “Coca Cola” store on the corner

LOCATION: 15 (QUINCE) LETRAS, corner of Francisco Villa and Tampico, just down the hill from the Church of Cristo Rey (Christ the King—photo below).

  1. From Avenida del Mar turn East at the Fisherman’s Monument.
  2. Go to the first light and turn right.
  3. Proceed one block and turn left (Francisco Villa street, just before the Pemex station).
  4. Go two blocks.
  5. If you are NOT driving a truck or transporting supplies, please park in the next block. This will give us room for loading. Once you’ve parked, walk another block down, past the iron works business called “Quince Letras.” On the corner of Francisco Villa and Tampico you will see a small store with a bright red “Coca Cola” hand painted on the outside, across from a tortillería. A door next to the Cocheras Automaticas business will be open. That’s Yolanda’s mother’s house, and it’s from there that we’ll be loading.
  6. If you are driving a truck or transporting supplies, please drive up to Tampico street (the “Coca Cola” store on your right on the corner), turn right, and park. We will be loading right there.

IMG_0669If you can’t find it, just ask someone for “Quince Letras” or “Desayuno de los Pollos/Medina family.” Everyone in the area will know.

Merry Christmas to all! And see you there!

  1. Download and view or use a PowerPoint presentation with a full explanation of the project: chicken-breakfast-presentation 
  2. Download a gift certificate to fill out, and we’ll advertise your business or service at the breakfast! Just contact us and we’ll pick it up!
  3. Download and print a poster to help advertise.

Have questions? Contact the organizers:

  • Jorge Medina (speaks English well) on his mobile, (669) 110-0744
  • Yolanda Medina (some English) at (669) 431-4529

Permanent link updated annual: https://vidamaz.com/pollos

Miss Universo Carnaval 2018

God bless you, Thalia! Last night was the BEST EVER Miss Universo Carnavál (Gay Carnaval Queen) pageant, full of trans-gendered and trans-sexual pride and pure human joy.

I was born into this world with a whole lot of privileges. I’m white, I’m straight, I’m fairly intelligent. While born into a working-class family, we had a solid home and food, and all our necessities. I’ve received a good education.

Despite these facts, I’ve had my share of identity crises, as has most anyone. I’m sensitive, so at times I’ve listened too much to what others have to say, rather than following my heart. I have worried about how I appear, how I look, that I live in Mexico as a woman and don’t regularly put on makeup or dress up. I’d like to think now, at 57, I’ve reconciled most of these identity issues. I’m happy in my own skin. But, still… that triple chin, those extra kilitos…

Thus my complete and utter admiration for these drag queens born into our hetero-centric world, many of whom have had to struggle with gaining acceptance from family and friends, say nothing about themselves. Their identity questions were so much more fundamental than my own comparatively trivial ones, and most of them seem to have come out of that challenge more beautiful, confident and resilient than I could dream of being. When we are a bit different from the dominant “norm,” we are presented with loads of possibilities for exploration, creativity, and love, if we can find the presence of mind and strength of heart to see them. Click on any photo below to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

The gowns! The dresses! The swimsuits! The makeup! The hair! The shoes! The guts! The maturity! The confidence! The strength!

We saw chubby queens and skinny queens, buff queens and those with a roll or two. We saw cross-dressers and those who have undergone reassignment and cosmetic surgeries. In the dressing room we saw queens stuffing themselves into girdles and support hose, balancing fake boobies and butts, and those who’ve survived the pain of implants. I congratulate each and every one of you. You have more joie de vivre and bravery than I could ever aspire to have (and that’s a high bar, lol)!

Last night the money collected went to pay hospital bills for a local lady who is ill in the hospital in Culiacán. Thus, this fun event is actually a labor of love by the members of “Belleza con Propósito,” “Beauty with a purpose.”

This event always takes place just prior to Carnaval. Put it on your calendar for next year. I always announce it on the VidaMaz Facebook page. The last few years it takes place at Castillo de Lulu in Playa Sur. The event is BYOB: bring your own drinks. A lady sells hibiscus tea/agua de jamaica and tostilocos (chips with ceviche), but other than that, bring your snacks. Entrance is usually 60-70 pesos and goes to a good cause, and donations are gratefully accepted.

The pageant includes self presentation, dresses, swimsuit, evening gown, and questions. In between stages of the pageant we enjoy entertainment by dance troupes and drag queen performers, this year including Cher. I’m guessing the crowd last night numbered about 150-200, a good mix of locals and internationals. The judging table always includes local celebrities and politicians as well as members of the international community.

The organizer of all this is Thalia Fedorova Chequer-Zahap. I can not imagine the work that goes into this, the details, the pressure. And she pulls it off with incredible grace and beauty.

May we all grow more tolerant, more accepting, more respectful, of ourselves and others. May we all reach out to help a fellow human, today and every day. And may we all enjoy life to its fullest!

Oh, and CONGRATS to Miss Colombia, Yeimi, our Miss Universo Carnaval 2018!