History of the Lighthouse in Photos

DSC_0057Do you love the lighthouse as much as I do? Love how the seasons change, different animals and plants are at their best every couple of weeks? Do you enjoy the view of the city from up there—sometimes so clear, other times gorgeously hazy, and sometimes socked in with fog? Do you love the people who hike up, and the exercise and fresh air it provides?

This morning was a wonderful event up top of the lighthouse. The Movimiento Ciudadano Rescate al Faro group, to which I’ve belonged for a couple of years, opened a special photo exhibit. I knew about it because Irving Fregoso, the group’s organizer, asked me five or six weeks ago to translate the Spanish into English, so that the exhibit could be bilingual. It seems there was no money for the exhibition; all had to be volunteer. In addition to the historic photos, there were gorgeous photos of animals and plants donated by our own Alwin van der Heiden. It is a beautifully simple exhibit, and if you are at all interested in the history of Mazatlán or our beloved faro, you definitely should hike up and check it out. Great to know when the port was officially opened, the various stages of the lighthouse, and the old photos of the Lens are spectacular! The exhibit is along the wall of the lighthouse building, under the awning. A few photos of it are in the slideshow below, to whet your appetite and motivate you to go see the exhibit.

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Prior to the ribbon cutting for the exhibit, there were dozens of young people, including students from CONALEP, cleaning up trash. Members of the Asociación de Guias, the city’s official tourist guides, were also in attendance. They were along the ocean front, on the path, and all over the top of the hill. They picked up trash, they painted over graffiti, and they made the place look great. The Rescatemos al Faro group has organized several cleanups now, but this is the most well-attended event I’ve seen. I am glad to see it growing in popularity and support. Thank you all immensely! Such cleanups are a never-ending job and we are grateful to you!

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1.DSC_0087The ribbon-cutting that opened the photo exhibit was attended by several dignitaries: a young representative of the Governor’s Office, a representative from the port authority/API, the wife of the Secretary of Tourism, a representative of the Mayor’s Office, and our Diputado and probably soon-to-be mayor, Carlos Felton. It was great to see them there; we need political support to improve our Faro recreation area.

1.DSC_0080So, what was the really great part of the ceremony? Davíd Escobar, the architect, and the Rescate al Faro team presented an official proposal to all those officials! Hooray! They took advantage of the visionary words being uttered in those speeches this morning, and came through with a concrete plan of action. Fingers crossed!

The really gorgeous morning for me was couched, however, in a mini-culture-shock. Not that it’s surprising or unusual, but it’s a side of my México lindo y querido that I just don’t like. Here were all these volunteers—kids and adults, spending hours cleaning up an area that we all enjoy. Here was the volunteer group, Rescate al Faro, which has done so much for a couple of years now to raise awareness of the importance of this recreational area in our community. And, somewhere around but no where to be seen, was Irving, a young worker in the Secretaría de Turísmo, who seemingly organized all of this. He told me later he was busy tying up trash bags at the bottom of the hill during the ceremony, and couldn’t make it up in time to see it. So, the scene is one of lots of very passionate volunteers, making a difference in their community.

Irving Fregoso with yours truly this morning

Irving Fregoso with yours truly this morning

During the speeches that preceded the ribbon cutting, the dignitaries talked and talked, sharing their vision, but no one really thanked the citizen volunteers in attendance! I know there is a Mexican dignity in not expecting acknowledgement, but it was hard for me to watch it not extended. Irving, who got this whole effort going, organized the event this morning, and then didn’t even get to see its grand opening, was not acknowledged. No one mentioned the historian who put the exhibit together, or the photographers whose works were represented. I did count four times that official remarks mentioned the difficulty of the climb. A member of the Rescate al Faro group had to interrupt the proceedings in order to be able to present their proposal, even though they’d made this all happen. Today was the Governor’s Office debut of their Agente de Cambio campaign, yet it glorified the sponsors and the politicians rather than the doers—rather than the on-the-ground agents of change. Come on, Mazatlán, we can show more appreciation than this! We are all in this together! Maybe today might serve to get some of these dignitaries more engaged in the El Faro effort; that would be fantastic. I did witness Carlos’ joy as he was able to run down in seven minutes. Ok, gringa rant finished for now. I get it’s a cultural difference. And I get that politicians everywhere are, well, politicians.

None of the usual daily lighthouse climbers were at the event this morning. Greg and I really missed seeing our cohorts. Next time perhaps the group should post signs announcing such an exhibition or event, so that the “regulars” plan to attend. We asked Carlos, the lighthouse keeper, about it a couple of times, and he had no idea it was about to happen.

It was an absolutely beautiful clear morning here. The views were spectacular. Our citizens showed up in droves to clean public areas. We have a gorgeous historical photo exhibit, done for free and open to the public for free. All in all, wonderful for Mazatlán. Be sure to hike up and take a look! Final slide show of the view, below.

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Link to a story on this event in the Noroeste.

A Hike on a Foggy Morning/El Faro Dentro de la Niebla

I’ve told you before about the wonderful lighthouse we have here in Mazatlán. We hike it once or twice a week, and we so enjoy the families, young couples, exercise groups, and elderly people, too, who make the climb up one of the ways they stay healthy. It’s a gorgeous view, and a terrific group of young Mazatlecos has been working hard to keep the area clean and maintained. I’ve heard the lighthouse is owned by API, the port authority. If so, Mis Estimados Señores del API, sure would be a wonderful community service for you to invest a bit of money in making this a better tourist attraction and community gathering area….. It’s so beautiful, it wouldn’t cost much… Just an idea 🙂

Anyway, yesterday morning was pretty foggy here. As we made our way down the malecón toward the faro there were lots of oyster divers and panga fishermen out, despite the foggy conditions. We are so spoiled here with clear, sunny weather, that seeing a bit of fog once in a while seems so absolutely gorgeous!

We wondered as we approached the lighthouse hill if we would be able to see anything as we made our climb. It sure did seem to be heavy fog.

The harbor had more boats than usual, it seemed. We guessed that perhaps people had brought their boats out in preparation for Semana Santa.

As we started our climb it seemed we weren’t going to be able to see much of anything. It was pretty cool, sort of like walking in a spook house. In the photo at left, we SHOULD be seeing, or are used to seeing, all of Isla de la Piedra/Stone Island. Not today!

The cacti and vegetation, which are so gorgeous this time of year, were shrouded in veils of fog, making for a very mysterious feeling. There were way more hikers, bikers and runners on the trail than is normal, however. Again, we guessed that people are getting in a holiday mood.

As we reached the top of the lighthouse hill the fog had moved a bit. We couldn’t see much of anything of the city, but the teeny-top of the hill on Stone Island that I showed you above, much more of it was now visible. Kind of a nice change of pace to have changing scenery, when we’re spoiled with consistently perfect views…

Despite the fact that the view from the top was still foggy, the weather at the top was very clear and bright. I took a shot up, through a tree. You can see there was no fog whatsoever up high.

And one of the lighthouse’s many resident iguanas was more than happy to sun himself, more than ready for the R&R and hopefully increased sales that Semana Santa will bring for our local economy.

Another Beautiful Mazatlan Sunday Bike Ride

I ride my bike a lot in Mazatlan. It is a great town for bike riding, at least as far as I’m concerned. Some people are put off by the traffic (pedestrian and vehicular), but I think it adds to the excitement and challenge.

Most people do what I used to do and go up and down the malecon (or boardwalk) along the ocean. It is relatively flat, very scenic and overall very safe. However, it is not very challenging and if you are trying to get in some good cardio or burn a few extra calories, you either tow a bag of bricks behind you or seek a tougher ride.

I started seeking tougher rides nearly two years ago. I started going north to the far end of town, but that involved too much street time and too many crazy drivers. It was all flat other than the two bridges that are more of a workout due to the speeding traffic then the incline or distance. I also have experimented with riding downtown and do still enjoy it from time to time. It is best to go really early and realize that for a great workout, you will be going up and down the same small  hills over and over.

Mazatlan has two big hills – both in the southern part of town, called Olas Altas. Mazatlan also has the second tallest natural lighthouse in the world. So, about six months ago, I decided to combine the challenge of an up and over a good sized hill with a climb to the top of the lighthouse for a good cardio workout.

If you do not know Mazatlan, you can’t imagine what a wonderful ride this is. So today I packed along my camera and took a few pictures in an attempt to show at least some of what I like about this ride. As for the hill, well, I admit it doesn’t look like much in these pictures, but it is a moderate challenge for me and of course is getting easier the more times I go. Try it and see.

Here is the malecon looking south from in front of our house:

Here you can see the curve of the bay and how flat most of the malecon is:


The curve and flatness continue as we go past the Fisherman’s Monument:

Once we get past the fishing boats, there is a small incline, but not much of a challenge:

Are you digging the view as much as I am? Can you see why so many people choose to just stay on the malecon? At this point we are directly across from where we live and have gone around the bay. Our building is circled:

Now, there is another incline in the road to make for a little challenge:

After we round the corner and go past some vendors and the huge flagpole, we begin to see the hill to the right of the statue in the picture below and the lighthouse on the far right:

As we get a little closer, we can zoom in on the first part of the hill that we will need to climb. Today, Sunday, is the easiest day. During the week the school (blue and white building) at the elbow in the road is very busy. The turn is extremely tight and there are cars and kids everywhere. The hill is essentially three little hills in one. We will go straight up towards the school, turn left away from the ocean and then turn right and rise up above and behind the school, before eventually turning right and enjoying the downhill ride to the road to the lighthouse.

Here we are ascending the hill towards the school and a shot looking back from the school:

Next we turn left and parallel the school (hill 2):

From the next corner we pause to look behind us:

And in front of us (hill 3):

It’s at this time that my heart is usually working the hardest. With an allowed maximum heart rate of 170, I am happy to see that I have not overdone myself today:

If you look closely, you can see that we have only been at this for 28 minutes. It’s taking longer to type this than to ride it!

Looking back down hill 3:

And ahead to the downhill ride the awaiting lighthouse:

The approaching lighthouse and a look back at the fun downhill ride we just had:

The road to the lighthouse – water on both sides. The lighthouse used to be an island, but a road was built over the rocks to accommodate traffic.

We have written about the lighthouse. You can read that entry here. Some people actually ride their bike up the switch back dirt path and then carry the bike up the stairs (or turn around). What I like to do is tie up my bike at the bottom. Fast walk up the path and 300+ steps, spend two minutes at the top, hurry down the stairs and then run down the path and jump back on my bike. It keeps my heart pounding and takes about 30 minutes depending on how many people I have to get around on the stairs. It is a great workout. My final picture is my bike tied up to a telephone pole waiting for me as I complete my trek down the hill. To get home, I go back the way I came. Total time is usually around 90 minutes, give or take as the wind and stopping to talk to friends often makes a difference.

A note about the picture. If you look to the right, you see three people sitting in the middle of the roundabout–one with a guitar. These three guys were sitting there when I got there and when I left just playing music and singing old Mexican ballads (quite well too). Just one of those little treats here in Mazatlan that helps me remember why we moved here.

If you ride a bike here, please be safe. It takes a little getting used to. Most of all be careful and have fun. Enjoy your ride!

El Faro/The Lighthouse

At 160 meters above sea level, the El Faro de Mazatlán is said to be the highest naturally located lighthouse in the world. I don’t know for sure that this is true, but neither can I find evidence to contradict it (see my notes on Gibraltar at the end of this post). What I do know is that a hike up our beloved El Faro hill is WELL worth it. In every season of the year it is gorgeous!

The view from the top of the hill is of course SPECTACULAR. You can look west to the Sierras, out over the city and waterways of Mazatlán, or east to the vast expanse of the Pacific. It’s a great place to sit and have a picnic, and take some panoramic photos of the pristine beaches of Isla de la Piedra while they remain undeveloped.

Your hike up the hill will only take 15-20 minutes. There are plenty of people who run the route. It starts out as a dirt path, and higher up turns into about 300 concrete steps which wind their way around a few switchbacks. Each turn and each elevation provides you a different vantage, and all are delightful. It’s as pretty on a clear day as on the rare cloudy or rainy one.

You’ll see ferries, cargo ships, shrimping boats, fishing boats, party boats, sailboats, and pangas.

You start your hike on the east side of the port. This is where many of the fishing excursions and party boats load their passengers, and there are a few dry docks and boat repair facilities to catch your interest.

At the entrance to the lighthouse walk, at the base in front of the port, is a coconut seller. You might want to join him for some refreshment on the way up or down.

The flora and fauna on your hike will delight your senses. In the early spring the cacti bloom. The green contrasting with the brilliant blue of the ocean will make you so glad you came! In just about any season of the year you’ll see something flowering.

We climb the lighthouse hill at least once a week, we enjoy it that much. Two weeks ago I told everyone we were “Wasting Away Again in I-gu-a-na-ville,” because we saw at least eight different iguanas sunning themselves during our climb to the top. We saw lime green, deep green, yellow, orange, brown and black iguanas.

This week I had to change that to “Arañaville,” as the spiders were out spinning their webs in whatever direction you cared to look. It was incredibly gorgeous!

Along the route people have graffitied the stairs. Near the top of the stairs is one of my favorites: a Spanish lesson. It teaches the difference between “top” and “abyss,” which sound similar in Spanish (or at least the Mexican version of the language).

Once you reach the top, and after you take in the view to your heart’s desire, there is also a trail that takes you down behind the lighthouse, on the other side. There are several resting places, and a steep climb involving rope at one point that leads down to the water.

Here you can see our much-worshipped cervecería, the Modelo beer brewery, from lighthouse hill.

NOTE: The highest lighthouse in the world, some have told me, is the Europa Point lighthouse on Gibraltar. However, though the Rock of Gibraltar is 426 meters high, the lighthouse is located on the waterfront, not the top. There is only an aviation beacon at the top of the Rock of Gibraltar. Thus, I’m not sure how our local El Faro ranks globally. It may indeed be the highest.

Via Crucis/Climb to Calvary (up the hill to El Faro)

We were very, very fortunate today to be able to join a group of terrific young Mazatlecos, climbing up the hill to the lighthouse. It was a warm, clear, glorious day, with flowers in full spring bloom.

A few weeks ago a gentleman named Pepe Zataraín had commented on our blog, telling us about PAJUMA Mazatlán (Pascua Juveníl de Mazatlán) and inviting Danny to join him. We joined their Facebook group, and from there we ended up at the blog of the Diocesís de Mazatlán, which is written by Father Francisco Javier Huizar Ibarra. At this blog we saw that there was a Vía Crucis at 1:00 today, Saturday. We were not sure what to expect: a costumed reenactment, a lot of older ladies from the Diocese climbing El Faro hill? We were curious, so, we dropped Danny off for his Scout event at the Red Cross Hospital and Greg and I went over to the lighthouse, not quite knowing what to expect.

We arrived about 12:40, and took a seat at the foot of the path. We climbed up the path a bit and found a hand-painted canvas: the first Station of the Cross. That was reassuring. We walked up to find a second, and then back down to wait for others to arrive. Two separate groups of young people showed up, gathered around the coconut seller and the taco cart, and we figured they were there for the Via Crucis. But there was no priest, no apparent adult leader. Hmmm… Then, about 1:30 or so, down the hill come walking (and sweating) our neighbor Judith with Father Francisco. They had been hanging the canvases and setting things up for our journey. They both seemed very pleased to see us, and eager to have us join the group. Judith was especially happy to see that I had brought a camera, so I primarily do this blog so quickly for her.

We all gathered by the coconut seller’s at the base of the hill for a commencement prayer and a song. One young man had a battery-powered acoustic guitar, and Father Francisco had a battery-powered microphone with speaker. Immediately we felt blessed, as Fr. Francisco’s prayers were so topical and practical: promoting peace in society, strengthening our families, treating others with dignity and respect. We began with an Act of Contrition.

Regardless of your religion, or (this is for you, Eric) even if you feel religion is the root of most all evil, it was a sacred journey in which we were able to join. It was also a peek into a side of society and culture here that is not as visible as I would like: the people in our community who are constantly behind the scenes doing good. Not as sensational as violence, but definitely more constructive.

We began our climb. It turns out this was an event for the team of young adults that organizes and conducts the PAJUMA. They had hand-painted the Stations of the Cross the previous week. Members of the group took turns reading the prayers at each Station. After each Station’s prayer Father Francisco gave us a short sermon, which were all quite powerful. Then we would repeat the pattern of saying several prayers: the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, and Hail Holy Queen. Then between Stations we meditated as we walked.

Station #1: Jesus is Condemned to Death
This station was positioned inside the archway, at the first turn in the path. Basically we were overlooking the water treatment facility, but also Olas Altas rocks and the port. For those of you who have not climbed to the lighthouse before, I trust my photo log will give you an idea of the climb, from near sea level to high on the hill overlooking the city.

Station #2: Jesus is Given his Cross
In this photo you can see on the right that the ocean is getting a little farther away…

Station #3: Jesus Falls the First Time
The paintings the young people had done were simple but quite powerful, I felt. It felt so good to be making this journey with young adults who were so passionate, and who we know will be devoting a week of their lives to teaching younger kids during Semana Santa in the stadium. If you have children and you are going to be here during Holy Week, be sure to sign your kids up to attend!

Station #4:  Jesus Meets His Mother
Here the short sermon was about how we treat our parents, and how that is the fundamental relationship in society. The idea that if we maintain the strength of families it echoes out in waves strengthening the rest of society.

Many of the cactuses were in full bloom, and their green contrasted so beautifully with the blue of the ocean. It was definitely an afternoon filled with awe and wonder.

Station #5:  Simon of Cyrene Carries the Cross
Here the short sermon was about how we help others; when do we take it upon ourselves to do what is not required of us, to reach out and love others, show them mercy?

Station #6:  Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus
Building on the idea of random acts of kindness, we reflected on when we reach out to wipe the brow of another, to lessen or ease their load.

Station #7: Jesus Falls the Second Time
You can see how the vegetation has changed, indicating the change in elevation already. We started with cactus, and now we see trees.

Station #8: Jesus Meets the Daughters of Jerusalem

Station #9: Jesus Falls the Third Time

Station #10: Jesus is Stripped of His Garments

Station #11: Crucifixion: Jesus is Nailed to the Cross

Station #12: Jesus Dies on the Cross

The climb gets steeper and steeper. In most places it’s just dirt with rocks peeking through, but in a few of the steeper places there are stairs, or cement, and thankfully a rock wall beside you against the drop off.

Station #13: Jesus’ body is removed from the cross (Deposition or Lamentation)

Station #14: Jesus is laid in the tomb and covered in incense. We entered the upper gate, nearing the lighthouse proper. As we walked into the open space where the view is so beautiful, we saw an incredibly gorgeous sight: a very large handcarved and painted crucifix, mounted looking over our city of Mazatlán.

For this Station we celebrated the Eucharist. It was such an honor and a thrill to be able to celebrate a Mass in the open air, and particularly on such a gorgeous day, with a spectacular view, in the presence of so many incredible young people. An added bonus for us was that as we waited at the top a few minutes for Fr. Francisco to finish preparing for Mass, our friend Trini showed up. It seems she climbs the lighthouse every week for exercise and relaxation. So, she was able to join in the Mass as well. There were quite a few tourists at the top, and one young boy about seven who was just fascinated with everything going on.

The first reading.

The second reading.

The Gospel.

The sign of the peace.