Travel through Outer Space on a Day Trip from Mazatlán

Culiacán, in general, is not my favorite getaway from Mazatlán. I’ve gone there for concerts, art exhibits, CostCo and an occasional weekend away. I do very much enjoy a long walk along Parque Las Riberas, 12 km along the rivers, especially in the evening when the bridges are lit up (cycling, pedal boats and kayaks are also popular). I love spending time in botanic gardens, and Culiacan’s is beautiful, including plants as well as modern architecture and art: well worth a visit and perhaps a picnic on the grounds. Other people gravitate to Jardines del Humaya, the world-famous narco cemetery with its lavish mausoleums (If you want to visit, I recommend you go with a local in the morning). Thus, I’ve always felt that if I needed to go to Culiacán for some reason or another, there are things to do and see, but not much to pull me there eagerly.

That opinion changed radically earlier this week when I accompanied a couple of friends there for the day. What was it that delighted my soul? The newly refurbished Sinaloa Science Center Museum, MATERIA. I would describe it as a hybrid of a science and an art museum, one in which all the interactive exhibits work and are truly astounding! Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

The building itself is a gorgeous piece of architecture, at least on the inside, with angular shapes and the light streaming in through windows on all sides. The main attraction is Sideral, a huge meteorite that fell in a small nearby pueblo in the early 1800s. The museum has the large meteorite front and center in the main gallery. Over it is a gorgeous moveable wooden pendulum that moves several times a day (we attended at 3:30 pm) and generates a song, resonating to the magnetic frequencies of the minerals in the meteorite and of the people nearby. It is magical and completely mesmerizing! HIGHLY recommended!

In several galleries surrounding Sideral are art installations that, we were told, change every six months. I very much enjoyed what was there now, with two standing out for me: an exhibition of hanging glass called “meteor shower,” and a hammock holding five or six irregularly shaped geometric pieces; the shadows of the light on the floor were hexagons for each, thus showing us the power of perspective.

Heading upstairs was another standout exhibition called “Blossoms,” a set of white ceramic-looking kinetic sculptures designed by a Stanford mathematician. They are beautiful, mostly natural forms. When you push the button, they start spinning and the human eye tells us they move in entrancing ways.

We had only been in the museum maybe thirty minutes, and I was enthralled. The docents were all young but incredibly knowledgeable; some of the most outstanding I’ve encountered in Latin America. Kudos! One of them invited us to enter the IMAX-like theater to watch the show at 4:00 pm: Cubo Negro 8K. 8K is an immersive projection of images unlike any I’ve experienced before, the only one of its kind on our continent, I was told. Again, HIGHLY recommended. This was actually my favorite part of what I saw at the museum. We experienced going into space, via projections on the large screen and the floor. We felt that we spent some time on the Space Station, and then travelled through several nebulae. Definitely not to be missed.

There was significantly more to see at MATERIA, but we needed to leave Culiacán to make it home before it got too dark. If you go, I’d recommend you plan to also spend some time in the Botanic Garden as it’s right next door. While I did not experience the James Turrell light exhibit, “Encounter,” the only one of its kind in Latin America, I have attended two other exhibits of his and can wholeheartedly recommend them. There is one show at dawn and another at dusk, Thursdays through Sundays, and you need reservations. The show lasts one hour and costs 150 pesos.

Where to Stay
Since Encounter is at dusk or dawn, it makes sense to spend the night. Culiacán offers hotels at all price ranges. One conveniently located, very nice hotel that I can recommend is the Wyndham Executive. It is very near the MASIN: the Sinaloa Art Museum and it’s GAALS (Galería Antonio López Sáenz). The MASIN is a gorgeous early 1800s building with an arched central courtyard. Permanent galleries are downstairs and temporary ones up top. GAALS usually has a main professional art exhibit downstairs, and a series of student or young professional exhibits upstairs. I thoroughly enjoyed both. While the websites say these museums are open Tuesday-Sunday, I believe that during the pandemic they are only open Thursday through Sunday. We got in, but we had special permission and a private tour.

Around the corner from the art museums is a darling little coffee shop well worth your visit—TantoGusto. They have a diverse collection of brewing devices from around the world, are very welcoming, and serve sandwiches and pastries.

Where to Eat
Restaurant-wise, I enjoy Cayenna Cocina del Mundo from the Panama group, Brasa y Masa for breakfast (or any time of day), Presidio Cocina de México, and if you are a meat lover, do not miss eating at local favorite, Palomar del Rio.

Enjoy your flight through space! Please let me know how it goes! I’m curious if they rotate the movies or change them out regularly.

Día de la Música 2013

Day of the Music is among our favorite annual events here in Mazatlán. The city sets up stages at various locations downtown, all within a few blocks of each other. The twenty performers rotate on the hour most of the night, beginning at 7:00 pm, and each stage has a theme. There is also always a visual and street arts corner, which was in a new location this year but just as much fun. In 2011 we made our first video about Day of the Music, and below is a video of this year. I hope you’ll enjoy it! Please let me know what you think.

Saturday was a gorgeous evening, as usual. Starting in daylight and quickly moving into and past sunset, the moon hung hugely over this year’s festivities. Weather was warm and comfy with a wonderful ocean breeze. There was a huge variety of music, and we met at least 30 friends as we walked and danced around. It’s such a joy to be able to see people from all walks of life, coming out with their families to enjoy this community event each year. Mouse over any photo to view the caption, click on it to enlarge or view a slideshow.

This year the themes and performers on the five stages were:

Escenario Machado (in the Plazuela)

  • Guillermo Sarabia Chorus
  • B. Smith’s Hot Jazz (Dixieland, from Culiacán)
  • Camerata Mazatlán and the Folkloric Ballet
  • Ikloo (60s classic rock)
  • Continentalísimo Mariachi Show

Escenario Fusión (Calle Venus between Sixto Osuna and Constitución)

  • Jazz Plasma
  • Honest Jon and the Truth
  • Daniel San Project
  • Lori Davidson and Rob Lamonica

Banda y Tropical (on the malecón at the end of Calle Constitución)

  • Percussion Ensemble
  • Banda La Mazatleca (played for two hours; we are the birthplace of banda, after all!)
  • La Falsa Orquesta Cubana (my personal favorite)

Escenario del Recuerdo (in front of the Art Museum)

  • Trova Cardio
  • Malamecha, Boleros and Cantantes (Municipal School of the Arts group)
  • Grupo con Cuerdas (strings playing popular music)
  • Angela Peralta Chorus (non-professional community chorus)

Rock y Tendencias (Calle Niños Heroes and Constitución)

  • Haiku (from Escuinapa)
  • Los Insane
  • Lady Munster (from Los Mochis)
  • The Oaths

LIVE VISUAL ART: A La Vuelta de Venus

  • Dhear
  • Beo Hake (from Monterrey)
  • Yurex Omazkin (from Mexico City)
  • Watchavato (from Culiacán)
  • Smithe (from Mexico City)
  • Bacse
  • Tony Delfino
  • Buque
  • Wank
  • AskoAbsurdo
  • Cusehr

Thank you, Mazatlán and CULTURA! This is a terrific event, so very pleasurable, a true gift for all Mazatlecos and those who are visiting!

A couple of things we noticed this year, that might make a difference going forward. The first is to ensure that the stages themselves don’t block the walking access between venues. If they must, please put up signage that directs people to the correct walking route. Many elderly attend this event, and to see them having to retrace their steps or go around, some in wheel chairs and scooters, was sad. Secondly, this year it seemed the theme of a couple of the stages changed more than in years past. Perhaps this was purposeful, to help ensure that people would move around? If so it definitely accomplished that purpose, creating more movement than is customary, as people who love classical would hightail it out of the vicinity as jazz came on, or people who love popular music became disappointed as a chorus took the stage. A bit more consistency of style on each stage seems to us to make for a cozier and more enjoyable evening. But, these are both incredibly minor, considering the overall quality and pleasure of this terrific event.

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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