Circo Machado


The unicyclist and a performer on stilts watch the performance in the kiosk.

I was very excited to attend one of my beloved pasacalles, or street parade performances, last night in the Plazuela. It was called “Circo Machado,” and it was the closing event of this year’s International Theater Festival, Escena Mazatlán 2016. Can you believe the festival is finished already?? We all know how crowded the Machado gets on a Saturday night, filled with local families and tourists strolling about, so the event had a great crowd.

There were two performances, the first at 7:00 pm and the second following the theatrical performance in the TAP. That last one, just after 10:00, had fireworks, too. I had a party to attend, so the first one had to do it for me. And it did not disappoint!

I entered the Plazuela just before 7:00 to find it decorated with hanging umbrellas, as is so the fashion worldwide these past few years. The umbrellas were gorgeous amidst our colonial architecture, particularly with the lights of sunset in the sky overhead. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Promptly at seven 25 of the artists from Academia Dance, directed by Agustín Martínez and Aura Patrón, emerged from the Escuela de Artes de Cultura and marched joyously around all four sides of the Plaza Machado. We saw mimes, acrobats, dancers, a unicyclist, performers on stilts, and clowns.

After they made their way around the Plaza, a young woman got up on a small stage just outside the kiosk, and twirled fire for us. I happened to have a front-row view, which was fun, and I even caught Raúl Rico in a few of the shots, looking proud and happy.

Pasacalles are wonderful because the performers mingle with the people. Those on stilts danced with the crowd, particularly engaging the children. This is part of what I so love about Mazatlán: we have incredible talent, in huge variety, and so much of it is free to the public.

After the torch dance the festivities moved to the kiosk. There, we were treated to trapeze moves and aerial acrobatics, as well as dancing.

The Circo Machado ended just before 8:00, with a colorful burst of confetti.


Baños Roma

P1050706 Coming into the Angela Peralta Theater on Saturday, October 12, the doors to the theater remained closed. I asked my girlfriend if we were late, as I wasn’t wearing a watch. I knew we were 10 minutes before curtain time. “You are fine,” said the usher. “Just walk down here and turn right.” As we walked down a long, dark hallway, I wondered if this was some sort of early Halloween or Day of the Dead prank. But, no, we were being ushered ONTO the stage!

What a feeling! I of course turned around, looked out at that gorgeous theater, and hammed it up a bit. My moment of fame on the stage! The stage was set up very simply, with several folding tables, a few props, a large television screen and video camera, and hooks hanging from the catwalks overhead. There were bleachers set up on the stage, facing this smaller performance area. Cool! We took a seat.

As we waited, a guy dressed as a painter used a roller on an extension pole to paint some very cool scenes. Then, just before the play started, he painted over it all. Heartbreak. But very interesting. (Video below) They ended up using the white wall as a projection screen during the performance. And the dog that just happened to be wandering around the stage before the play, dovetailing seamlessly with the evening’s performance—pure serendipity.

575701_1453595308199633_913620309_nThe play we were about to see was entitled, “Baños Roma,” by the internationally renowned theater troupe, Teatro Línea de Sombra. I knew it was the story of José Ángel (Mantequilla) Nápoles, the famous Cuban-Mexican boxer (career of 78 wins and 7 losses, with 55 wins by knockout), interwoven with the story of the horrible violence and cultural illness that took over Ciudad Juárez and the “Baños Roma” neighborhood. I am most interested in the latter, so was looking forward to the play. It did not disappoint. In fact, the actors and production company received a standing ovation! We were all so incredibly moved by the performance that people hung around, talking, watching. The ushers actually had to ask people to leave!

What made this performance so incredible? Of course, the narrative: both stories are incredibly powerful and emotive, and they were woven together seamlessly, dovetailing and building on one another. What really stood out to me, however, was the unbelievable creativity of the performance. With an extreme minimalism of props and sets, we were taken inside the experiences of the “lost women” of Ciudad Juárez. Sawdust on the floor served first as a dance floor, then as a map of the city on which to draw the layout of streets. A punching bag was filled with fabrics; unpacking it showed clothing and memories. Actors took turns in extreme closeup to a camera, and spoke to us via large screen projection. Scales were laid down on the floor to represent weigh-ins and weight categories for boxers. We listened to the metamorphosis of an amazingly talented throat-voice actor, and then he also played the sax. A live band came in at one point, during a drinking party on stage. A can of white spray was shot into the air to represent snow falling on a dead dog, the memory of a woman in the story. Another woman died, or was killed, in front of us, and the dramatic simplicity was heartbreaking. Punching bags hung from the catwalk transformed into poles for exotic dancing. It was the best of a Mexican performance—raw, poetic, ferocious—and the best of creative minimalism. (Photos below)

Thank you, CULTURA Mazatlán, for bringing this here! And for 120 pesos a ticket, you permitted me to pay for my friend!

Línea de la Sombra is a traveling troupe, so if you get a chance to watch them, don’t miss it!

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.

Stereotypes and Performance Art

Quick! When you think of Mexico, what comes to your mind first?

  • Sunny beaches? Happy people? Narcotrafficking?

Next, if you were to read this announcement, what might you expect to see?
Carmín: Water Experiments This performance consists of a series of actions created by observing the liquids present in the works of Frida Kahlo and Pedro Almodóvar…”

  • I imagined a single performer at a table, doing chemistry-like experiments or magic.
  • Greg imagined it would be someone throwing paint on canvas or rolling around in paint on a tarp.

Either way, along with the desire for some “Saturday special ceviche” in our mouths, it was enough to get us down to the Pino Suarez Market this morning to check it out. And the wonderful “Intervenciones Urbanas” from Escena Mazatlán 2012 did not disappoint!

It most definitely was not sunny nor happy, but perhaps a good introduction to “Day of the Dead” season. I also very much liked that this wonderfully performed street art took place amidst the vegetables, pig’s feet, fruits and fresh fish of the public market!

Many thanks to Dra. Nara Salles and the 20-odd actors for a surprising and powerful performance!