Concordia: Beautiful Town One Hour Southeast of Mazatlán

Over Christmas and New Year’s we had the pleasure of hosting five different sets of visitors to Mazatlán. It felt so incredibly wonderful to spend time with loved ones, and to be able to share the gorgeousness and warmth of our adopted home with them. It was fascinating to us how each group experienced Mazatlán differently. Our city has so many different faces, there is truly something for everyone—the beach bums, the farmers and ranchers, the culture mavens, those who love to eat, party or shop.

During this time we took several trips to our nearby mountain towns. We so love these trips, to a simpler life, a slower and more rural life. It struck me that we have not written that many posts on these day trip towns, so I aim to remedy that. Since we visited at least five, and that’s a whole lot of writing, I trust you’ll permit me to tell you their stories primarily in photos. Photos will give you a sense of the place, and let you know if you’d like to visit—whether for the first time or the 50th.

Let me begin with Concordia, about an hour southeast of Mazatlán, towards Durango. It’s easy to remember Concordia among the many beautiful small towns in southern Sinaloa, because the main plaza in town has that gigantic chair, representative of the solid wooden furniture crafted here. Sit in it, with the gorgeous church behind you, and you feel the joy of childhood again. Concordia is also the birthplace of the famous raspados, or shaved ice flavored with real fruit syrup. Founded as “Villa San Sebastián” in 1565 by Francisco de Ibarra, Concordia today has about 9000 residents. Its history is steeped in the gold, silver and copper mining of this region.

The main church, San Sebastián, is really beautiful. Built in 1785, it has an ornate baroque facade.

Concordia also has hot springs, which are on the left, down a dirt road, just before you get into town.

1.IMG_2229If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, the Féria de San Sebastián takes place over two weekends: from today (Friday January 17th) through Sunday the 26th. This Sunday the 19th is the seventh annual cabalgata or horse race, starting at 11 am and going from Mesillas to Concordia, concluding at the fairgrounds after a march around town. They are anticipating 450 participants in the cabalgata, and you’re sure to see some gorgeous charrería.

My friend Salvador Herrera made a video of Concordia for the “Un Mundo Mágico” project.

Driving Directions:

Concordia is one hour southeast of Mazatlán. Take highway 15 south to Villa Unión (about 13 miles from Mazatlán). Turn east on highway 40, the old free road to Durango, and continue about another 13 miles. The drive is beautiful and easy, as you pass plantations of coconuts, mangoes and bananas. Just don’t get on the new highway. For those traveling this way from Durango, Concordia is also a very convenient stopover.

Toma de Protesta/Our New Mayor

P1090827We have been very excited about the incoming mayor, Carlos Felton González. We first met him during the inauguration of the photo event up on top of the lighthouse. While all the other dignitaries were sweating and heaving with the effort of climbing up, Felton bounded up with energy and later ran down with great glee. He’s obviously fit. We see him in Playa Norte at many of our fair city’s athletic events, and were overjoyed this morning to hear his support for the ciclovías/bike lane plans that have been previously announced and so long in coming to fruition.

One man alone can not make change happen, so we can only hope  that his Cabildo, cabinet, committees, staff, and all ciudadanos can jump on board and make this new administration the best it can be for our beloved adopted hometown!

The swearing-in ceremony in the Angela Peralta Theater this morning began promptly at 8:00. Five key opera singers from CULTURA regaled us for 30 minutes. While that took place, the official swearing-in ceremony—oaths of office—were taking place in the Cabildo.


At 8:30 am, the dignitaries walked into the theater: the Governor of Sinaloa, Mario López Valdez; the Secretary of the Government, Gerardo Vargas Landeros; the Commander of the Third Military Region, Moisés García Melo; the Commander of the Fourth Naval Zone, Francisco Márquez; and the Governor of Durango, Jorge Herrera Caldera; and a stage filled with other prominent people. Click on any image to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Opening introductions and thanks took a full 10 minutes. What impressed me was the sincerity of those thanks—Felton mentioned so many people by name, describing his affection and respect for so many of them. He definitely seems to be a man not driven by pure ego, as is so often our political fate.


The theater was over-filled, with dozens of members of the press standing to get photos, the ground floor and all balconies standing-room-only. A viewing area with seating had also been set up in the Plazuela Machado, with a huge screen streaming events from inside.


Felton shared with us a very clear and highly motivating vision, and seems to have plans in place to get started putting those plans in action. I was sure impressed with his slate of functionaries/cabinet officials that he announced yesterday. Points in Felton’s remarks this morning that stood out for me included:

  1. Almost his very first comment was that he is a padre de familia, a parent, and that he is committed to a community in which families thrive, are valued, feel safe, and have the resources they need. Such values and priorities sure resonate with me.
  2. His commitment to reaching out to all citizens, and his commitment to serve—especially those who are poorest and most marginalized. He also talked of his commitment to the differently abled.
  3. His focus on creating a strong and sustainable economy here in Mazatlán, one in which our children, older and experienced adults—everyone—can find jobs worth having. His commitment to partnering with private industry and to retaining talent here in our port, rather than continuing the brain drain of our top talent to other cities, was music to my ears.
  4. He thanked all foreign residents for their choice to live in Mazatlán, for the affection we show for this city, and for so often setting a good example for others in how to care for and show responsibility for creating the best living conditions possible. This was remarkable—one of maybe three times people interrupted his speech with applause. Given that 95% of the audience or more were locals, this was remarkable.
  5. He had another huge round of applause thanking the police and the military leaders for all their work in securing safety here in Mazatlán. Felton pointed out that no matter how much economic or tourism success we might have, if our port experiences violence, it’s all for naught. Again, it was refreshing to hear a politician giving others credit for the work they so ably do. I attend far too many events where you’d think the only capable person present is the one speaking.
  6. He quoted Khalil Gibran in closing, while thanking his mother, and also extended thanks to his wife and children. He recognizes that his public duties will mean less of him and his time for his family. For me, it was gratifying to hear public acknowledgement of that.

After the official events (outgoing Mayor Higuera was missing from this event), Felton hosted a beautiful reception in the Plazuela, complete with empanadas, donuts, canapés, and nonalcoholic sangria/jamaica cocktails, served in champagne flutes. I was gratified to see that the public was welcome to this reception; many children and obviously lower income people were enjoying mingling with the city’s rich and famous. Playing was my favorite local band: videographer and talented singer Julio Recinos with La Falsa Orquesta Cubana Sazón. Given the perfect, sunny yet cool and pleasant morning and the gorgeous architecture of the theater and the Plazuela Machado, it all seemed auspicious, indeed! As we exited the theater, luck would have it that we crossed paths with Governor Malova, just in time for me to get a good morning kiss.

We are all skeptical of politicians these days, sadly. We hear good words and take them with a grain of salt. It is my sincere hope that someone with such deep ties to Mazatlán as Felton has, someone who has over the years shown his love for our city and its downtrodden, someone married to someone as wonderful and values-focused as Sylvia Treviño, someone who loves sports, the outdoors, the environment, and who respects history and heritage as well as diversity, might have a hope of truly making a difference.

May our city pull together and, as Felton says, truly transform itself!

One final note: We shared with you recently the gorgeous dress that the town of El Rosario had created to honor its town. Evidently Mazatlán has taken their example, as today we witnessed the unveiling of two new dresses representing our port. Photos below.

Our first trip on the Durango Mazatlán Highway and the Baluarte Bridge

About one week ago, we were fortunate to drive to Durango and back on the new Durango-Mazatlán toll road. Why were we lucky? Well, first of all the road is brand new with the key part (a.k.a. the middle) only being open for less than 10 days. Second, the road contains 63 bridges and 115 tunnels – very cool. Third, the road includes the Baluarte Bridge, the highest cable-stayed bridge in the world and the longest in North America. Fourth, two days after we returned, Tropical Storm Sonia hit hard in that area of Mexico, closing the road for 36 hours and doing damage to this beautiful new highway that will be apparent for years to come (watch video in this story to see for yourself). You can read all the facts and figures here and below is a video we recorded through the sunroof.

We were door to door in three hours. By that I mean from our door on the malecón to the door of our hotel in the historic district of Durango in three hours. This includes stopping to pay tolls and one gas station stop. I did not include stopping to take pictures of the Baluarte Bridge which you can look through by clicking on any of the photos below.

The road provides an alternative to the free road, known as El Espinazo del Diablo, or the Devil’s backbone. This road took from five to eight hours for the same journey and includes countless switchbacks and hairpin turns and numerous encounters with busses, trucks, cows, burros and bicycles all on a two lane road with little or no shoulder. It was frequently closed due to accidents and mud slides and was a nightmare when the clouds were thick enough to reduce visibility to near zero. The new road is two lane most of the way, but has ample shoulders for passing or for emergencies and is about as straight as a mountainous road can get.

The tunnels range from short and sweet to awesome. Some have natural daylight “windows” while other rely on electric lights. Only four or five were long enough to lose the satellite connection to our NAV system. The longest is called El Sinaloense and is 2.8 Km long and has such cool lighting it feels like you are passing through or participating in a video game. Here is a video:

According to my passengers, the views were incredible. Passing over the bridges provides an incredible vista and the rock formations around the tunnels are truly awesome. There are no real services on the road yet, but you can see where they are being built. They should be available soon.

I highly recommend this road. It is much safer and efficient. The tolls round trip will be about 1,000 pesos which is not chump change. You will save a lot of gas compared to the old road and arrive sooner. I understand that the high price of the tolls is an issue and the governor of Sinaloa is “looking into it.” Texas is now a one day’s daylight drive thanks to this road – well, at least in summer.

***One important note about safety. The bridge is a huge attraction and many people want to stop and take pictures. Unfortunately, the topography of the land did not allow for a viewing area. So, what people are doing, us included, is simply stopping in the right lane and walking around (the bridge does have four lanes). This is perhaps a little foolish with cars coming out of a tunnel at you going well over 60 miles per hour. But, this is the system, at least for now. Word on the street is that the cruise ships are planning excursions to “see the amazing new bridge.” I can’t wait to see dozens of tourist vans taking up the right lane while tourists pose for pictures. Drive carefully everyone.

Día de los Muertos en Durango

You may recall that last month we went to Durango, prior to the road opening. This weekend we had to go again. Thank GOODNESS the road was open! The Baluarte Bridge is incredible, and the entire drive is unbelievably gorgeous and easy (three hours door to door). Greg will write more about that in a separate post.

We were heartbroken to miss the callejoneada for Day of the Dead here in Mazatlán, but we thought we’d share with you a glimpse of what Día de los Muertos looks like elsewhere. In Durango the cemeteries were full of people, of course—flowers, cleaning, bands, praying and partying. The city also hosted a hot air balloon festival. In the main plaza, in front of the cathedral, there was a large “Day of the Dead” display set up. It contained a dozen or more life-sized papier maché katrinas and other scenes, plus a few stages for performances.

Durango was completely different this time, primarily because last time we were there it was the height of their major annual cultural festival. Streets, plazas and restaurants were much less crowded this time around. Below are some photos we took this trip—a favorite new restaurant, some street scenes, and the plaza display. Click any photo to enlarge or view a slide show.

On Friday night Greg and I wandered back down to the plaza while Danny studied for his test, and there was a children’s folkloric dance group performing. What was out of the ordinary about this one was that the kids all dressed up as calacas—skeletons—and in glow-in-the-dark costumes. The stage was lit with black lights, so it was a pretty cool effect. We enjoyed it a lot.

Just prior to the performance, the little kids had fun posing for my camera. During the performance, shots were of course very challenging, as it was very dark and the kids were constantly moving. They danced to some songs you’d expect—Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” for example—and they also took us on a tour around México.

I put together a short (three minute) video of the performance. I trust you’ll enjoy watching it. The kids had soooo much fun in their costumes. They knew they looked great.

On the pedestrian street to the left of the cathedral, just down from Hostal de las Monjas and across the street from our favorite little cenaduría, El Parcero Tacos Bar, is a large funeral home, Funerales Hernández. They had an altar to Jenni Rivera that was larger and more superb than ANY I have EVER laid my eyes on. They called it a “Monumental Altar de Muertos.” It contained dozens of life-sized katrinas, ceramic and sugar skulls, antique and artesenal chachkes, Jenni Rivera music playing (not too loud), a mini disco ball for effect, and gorgeous paper work. Just take a look:

On our way back to the hotel, we walked by the old Palacio Municipal. It was all decorated for Day of the Dead, too. Those photos are below.


This Weekend in Durango

Well, since the SATs (college entrance exam for many schools in the USA) are held in Mazatlán only in the springtime, we drove to Durango this weekend so Danny could take the test. The last two times we drove that route, it took 3 and 3 1/2 hours for us to get from Mazatlán to Durango. This time, on Friday, it took 5 1/2! Granted, it was raining and foggy, and there was a whole lot of truck traffic. But we counted only 18 tunnels and 12 bridges that we crossed. We would swear that more of the new highway was open the last times we went. Perhaps more has closed due to damage from the recent heavy rains?

Needless to say, we arrived on Friday evening much later than we would have preferred, since we had to get up at the crack of dawn to get Danny to the test. But we had a great weekend! Unbeknownst to us, Durango is celebrating its 450th birthday (since summer), and right now is the Festival Cultural Revueltas—music, literature, dancing, theater. The streets were packed and all were having a grand time. While we have seen a lot of folkloric dancing in our day, it was the first time we’d witnessed ballet folkloric danced to banda music!  (I post a short video below, if you’d care to see.)

We stayed in a beautiful hotel very near the American School, where the test was held—the Hotel Gobernador.  Click on any photo below to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

While Danny took the test, Greg and I spent a whopping 20 pesos to go round-trip on the teleférico, or gondola, one of four in Mexico. What a gorgeous day we had, and such incredible views! At the top of the route is the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, a beautiful, small, and very old church, dating back to the founding of the city itself (and worship at the site by native Mexicans even earlier). (Click on any photo below to view it larger or view a slideshow.)

At the top of the gondola, a group of folkloric dancers were performing. Many of them were the same dancers that we’d happen to see again that evening in the Plaza de Armas. (Click on any photo below to view it larger or view a slideshow.)

Once Danny was finished with the test, we ate lunch at an incredible restaurant, Esquilón (Hidalgo #411, tel 618-811-1632). The space was awesome, the food was very, very good, and they have loads of private party areas. We  highly recommend it. (Click on any photo below to view it larger or view a slideshow.)

As part of the festival there was a handicraft market going on. As always, I was interested in the native peoples. There was a lovely Huichol couple doing beadwork, and several Tepehuanos sewing barbasca de pino/pine needle basketry. While we weren’t able to make it this trip, there is an Artesanías Tepehuana (O’dam) at Tuxpan 227, cel. 618-151-9862 or 618-116-8849. We also learned that there is an Indigenous Art and Culture of Durango Cooperative at Isla Acerralvo 211, cel. 618-171-9661 that sounds well worth visiting. Danny was able to buy a nice birthday gift for his friend, made of animal skin, so he was also quite happy. (Click on any photo below to view it larger or view a slideshow.)

Our favorite part of Durango, always, has been the beautiful architecture. The climate there seems to be so much more forgiving than ours here in Mazatlán, and they light the buildings up so gorgeously at night! It is breathtaking.

Finally, let me share with you some various shots of children playing and other city scenes.

Once the highway and the Puente Baluarte are truly open, they are predicting that the trip to Durango will take 2 1/2 hours. Even at 4 hours, it is well worth a visit!