Social Services’ (DIF) Annual Report


Sylvia Treviño de Felton giving her first “State of DIF Mazatlán” report in the Angela Peralta Theater

This morning the Presidenta del Systema DIF de Mazatlán, Sylvia Treviño de Felton, gave her first annual report to a full house in our gorgeous Angela Peralta Theater. I attended with a group of girlfriends, and walked out of today’s event amazed at the amount of work Ms. Treviño and her team have been able to achieve. Congratulations and thank you to all!

I’ve long been fascinated with the incredible work done by Mexico’s DIF, the national system for the Development of the Family (Desarrollo Integral de la Familia). DIF’s services target children, women, the handicapped, and families in need. Its broad range of services includes, among many more:
  • Healthcare, including basic services, eye care and physical therapy
  • Education to prevent teenage pregnancy and domestic violence, and on topics such as human rights
  • Occupational training
  • Free breakfasts for school children
  • Food, blankets, and coats for the needy
  • Scholarships
  • Early childhood education and eldercare
  • Drug rehab
  • Community centers
  • Dances, balls, sports events, and parties
  • Help for unwed mothers
  • The improvement of parks and public spaces

DIF’s is a much different system than those I’m familiar with from my previous residences: the USA, where the Department of Health and Human Services seems to me far removed from daily life, and churches, non-profits and other civic organizations play a major role in feeding the homeless or aiding victims of domestic violence; or in Japan, where government-provided social services seem primarily to involve health care and pensions.

When I’ve been disappointed by municipal administrations, somehow our local DIF still shines through. How much better, then, under a first couple who seem to truly and honestly care about the welfare of our people and the city?

This morning’s event kicked off with two songs sung by a selection of adorable girls from the local DIF chorus, and a dance performance done in silhouette and demonstrating some of the various services provided by DIF.

Instead of the usual long and detailed verbal report, Ms. Treviño instead showed us a ten-minute video summarizing DIF Mazatlán’s major activities during the first year of the Felton administration. It was much more impactful to see photos and watch video as the facts and figures were shared.

Sylvia followed the video with a short and heartfelt presentation, and shared copies of the official 2014 printed report with the Mayor and the Director of DIF Mazatlán.

If you regularly read this blog, you know that I am frequently disappointed by government officials who so frequently grab the limelight and the credit away from staff and volunteers who do the day-to-day heavy lifting. Such was not the case today. Ms. Treviño de Felton showed a second video, one she had created especially to thank DIF staff—the team that helps realize all the good work on behalf of children, women, the elderly, the handicapped, and families in need in our municipality. It was a wonderful feeling to be amongst the cheering, hooting and hollering coming from the DIF staff and volunteers present in the theater, as they saw photos of their favorite colleagues appear on screen.

If you are not familiar with the activities in which DIF Mazatlán is engaged, I urge you to watch the video below, subtitled in English. Unfortunately the video that was shown this morning, summarizing the first year, does not yet appear on DIF Mazatlán’s YouTube channel. I’m confident it will in a few days, so if you’re interested, be sure to check the link.

The Transience of Friendships in Mazatlán


I’ve lived a lot of places: Wisconsin, the San Francisco Bay area, Tokyo, Kyoto, Hamamatsu, Salamanca, Mexico City, Kansas City… What has been a defining factor of friendships in Mazatlán for me has been transience. Maybe I’m unique, or maybe you’ve had similar experiences?

Many of the most interesting Mazatlecos I’ve met have been world travelers; their children often leave for school, marry and have children abroad, and the parents are then split between worlds. Quite a few of the expats we have met and grown to love here, even though full-timers, have gone home, moved nearer their grandchildren, or moved on to a new location; wanderlust is in their blood. Nationals love it here, but several of those we’ve become most fond of have been called to another city, transferred by their employers or moving because life here has gotten tough or taken a new turn.

In Tokyo or Mexico City, the people I met and loved, Japanese or foreign, tended to be settled there for life. Yes, there are plenty of born and bred Mazatlecos, or people who have lived here 30 years or more. But, somehow, I am able to quite easily count two hands’ worth of fingers of people I’ve loved and lost to moving in the mere eight years I’ve lived here.

There’s sadness in that, of course, but there are upsides as well. We can travel to visit these friends. We can stay in touch over the distance, and share glimpses into life in other areas. And, to me, it’s proof we are blessed here in Mazatlán with friendships with people who are intelligent, interesting and vibrant, people who embrace life fully and who see the world as their home.

One such beloved family we met through our son, Danny. Danny went to secundaria at Colegio Andes with another US American girl, Sierra, and her little brother, Kelton. Her father, Brian, taught there. Heidi, the Mom, works at El Cid, so we still get to see her occasionally, though she splits her time between here and her family in Portland. They moved because they wanted a different, better in their opinion, education for their kids. We miss them dearly. They were fun. They are fun. Adventurous. Curious. Crazy. Global minded. Outdoorsy. They were just a whole lot more fun when they lived here, close by, and we were able to join them for an adventure or to create some memories.

We saw the Samore family on a recent trip to Portland, and of course they come to Mazatlán to visit every once in a while. They’ll be here soon. You may know them and miss them, too.

This morning we were fortunate to receive a copy of an article in the school newspaper of the high school where Brian currently works. I want to share it with you, because it is a testament to the caliber of the people, the kind of weirdness and passion, we are privileged to be able to share space and time with here in Mazatlán. Although we miss them, we are so privileged to be able to call them friends. Whether you live here in Mazatlán, spend part of the year here, or are hoping to move here, we wish you wonderful friendships!


“Minority Boy” Nears High School Graduation


My oh my oh my! Time most definitely does fly. This morning, as I was sitting in the Rigodanza Auditorium at ICO, looking out on the nearly 300-strong “Generación 59” graduating class, I just kept seeing them as youngsters! What a journey this has been.

Six years ago, after our son Danny graduated primary school, we moved here to Mazatlán, Sinaloa, México, where he would start junior high. He didn’t speak Spanish, though he’d worked with a tutor twice a week for a year. So many people told us how crazy we were.

  • “Why in the world would you leave a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence for a Mexican school?”
  • “How dare you neglect your kid in this way! It is irresponsible parenting to move with a child to such a dangerous place.”
  • “We are from here. If we had any way to educate our kids anywhere else, we would. I can’t believe you’ve purposefully brought your son to Mazatlán.”

Well, we did purposefully bring our kid here. We wanted him to grow up as a member of a minority, to know how that feels—to build empathy, and to develop skills for living as a minority—a skill any global nomad needs, a valuable life skill, and one he may very well be needing soon as a “white boy” in his birth country (USA). So we had a passion and commitment in our choice to move here. But, really, with so many people, locals and foreigners, scolding us with such abandon for the past six years, what parent wouldn’t second-guess herself?

The past six years have not always been easy. Watch what you wish for! As a minority, Danny was (inadvertently) excluded from so many important communications about school, social gatherings, and sports practices. It was hard not to feel left out. He is a good actor, and was given one of the starring roles in a school play—unfortunately it was that of the ugly American boss who treats immigrants poorly and is only out for money. Really? Give me a break!


The first six months of our stay here were painful. As the person in our household with the best Spanish, it fell on me to tutor our son every night. Remember that in the eyes of a 13 year old boy, Moms know NOTHING. It was so frustrating, such a test of my patience, which is way too thin. Then, one night about six months into our lives here, he went to bed, and the next morning he understood Spanish. It was like a light switch flipped on. He didn’t understand everything, he didn’t speak or write perfectly, but I no longer needed to help him understand what his homework was.

The past few weeks this same young man, 18 now, has been interviewing local business and community leaders about our city’s future, what skills they feel our city needs, and how he might craft his studies and internships during university so that he can come back to Mazatlán and obtain a worthwhile position here. He loves this city as much as we do. He’s Mazatleco now; there is very often a culture gap between his immigrant parents and the Mexican, Blended Culture young man he’s become. Those interviewees are all telling him that his complete fluency in English and Spanish, his fluency with both cultures, is a huge asset that he must not lose when he goes to the US for school. He must find a way to retain and amplify it, ideally by adding Chinese language and culture. Wow.


He’s definitely not the same little boy who celebrated his 13th birthday at our pool with his brand-new school friends here, and was shocked as all get out when they gleefully shoved his face into the cake! What a surprise that was for him, especially when they all laughed. But he is much more flexible than his mother, and he took it all in stride, laughing and vamping for the crowd with frosting covering his face.


To those naysayers, who told us our son would not get a good education here, I am very relieved to have your prognostications proven wrong. Danny received an award from a Mexican university, and has fielded quite a few recruiting calls from other schools in Mexico. He also received six scholarships, several over US$80k, to well-respected US universities. He’s chosen a terrific small liberal arts college with an international focus, located in an ethnically rich metro area. I believe his incredible scholarship success is due, in major part, to the fact that he’s grown up abroad, and that he is able to demonstrate his biculturality and cultural bridging abilities. And the SAT scores show that, indeed, he received a very strong education here at local Mazatlán schools, both in junior high at Andes and in high school at ICO. He sure had a high school curriculum that put mine to shame—law, ecology, philosophy, ethics. My most heartfelt THANK YOUs to all his teachers—elementary, secondary and high school. Bless you for your patience and talent!


Today I had the huge privilege of speaking to Danny’s graduating class. I was part of a panel of six parents, given the opportunity to share with the kids what life has taught us. What an incredible gift for a gringa Mom to feel included in this way! To me it is a testament to the open-mindedness of the Xaverian education at ICO. Our panel included business owners and housewives, parents who graduated from name universities and those who attended technical school, locals as well as those from outside Mazatlán. I loved sitting up front, looking out and seeing the young men and women who have frequented our pool, our home, our beach, my son’s life. I felt distracted as I spoke, so hoping that those kids who are staying in town to study will stay in touch with us, despite the fact that Danny is leaving. Several of them feel like my own children, and I kept getting teary eyed.

For those of you who have followed our family on this journey, thank you for your companionship. I am very happy to report that, so far, the experiment has been a success. As Danny, who did not want to move to Mazatlán in 2008, said to us on our first anniversary here, “One year since the best decision we ever made!”

The next journey will be reentry: learning how to live happily, productively, and multiculturally, in the US of A. And, of course, learning how to do those same things in college!

Linked to the My Global Life Link-Up at

Primera CicloNoche Mazatlán/First Mazatlán Bicycle Night

180 bicyclists showed up this evening at 8:00 pm for the very first CicloNoche Mazatlán!

We pedaled only about seven kilometers, but oh was it gorgeous!

The event was organized by SEMARNAT—Secretaria de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (Brenda Garcia) and CiclosUrbanos, who have been coordinating Cycle Nights in Culiacán since 2009.

Starting at the Aquarium, we pedaled south on Avenida del Mar to Belisario Dominguez, then turned up the road, around the block, and back down to Avenida del Mar. We were escorted by Mazatlán’s finest tránsitos, and we were instructed to stay in the right lane so that traffic could pass us easily.

Our route started with the sunset, and ended with the starlight. Along the way we were cheered on and joined by ever-more cyclists.

You’ll remember that a couple of years ago a group of active citizens organized a couple of months’ worth of Sunday morning closures of Avenida del Mar for bicycle riding.

The “United for Health” group was led by the very kind and energetic Dr. Angel Eduardo Olivera Sandoval, a local homeopath. Sunday morning street closures to traffic, so that families can walk and ride bikes, are common throughout Mexico and most of Latin America.

Here in Mazatlán we had good crowds turn out, but unfortunately the municipal government didn’t seem to support continuation of the activity.

Nor have we thus far seen positive outcomes from citizen-led efforts to build bike lanes here in our port, despite having extensive ciclovías planning for some time now.

The event this evening was held in conjunction with the International and National Congresses of Environmental Science, which has had events at the Mazatlán International Center and the Aquarium.

We were told that the first CicloNoche Culiacán only had 90 bicyclists show up (compared to the 180 who showed up here tonight), so there is obviously a passion for it here in Mazatlán. These days in Culiacán about 1600 people show up for the once-a-month CicloNoches.

It is our sincere hope that this terrific activity can take hold and gain a place in the hearts of Mazatlecos.

Bicycling promotes a cleaner environment, healthier bodies, enjoyment of the outdoors, time together with friends and family. It’s good for locals and out-of-town visitors.

Thank you to CiclosUrbanos, SEMARNAT, and all the organizers of bicycling events and programs in Mazatlán past, present and future!

Lets all turn out and show our support for bicycling! For our health and the health of our city!


Children’s Day at Deportivas Juarez

The other really terrific Children’s Day event in which we participated last weekend was a huge festival for local kids from the more marginalized neighborhoods of town. It was held at the Canchas Juarez on Sunday. (I already posted about the terrific opening of the Marco Polo Park last Monday, which was Children’s Day here in Mexico.)

The festival at the Deportivas Juarez was very well organized: well-publicized, a published schedule, lots of organizers wearing colored shirts, Scouts present to help out. There were people at the park collecting donations of toys and gifts all week leading up to the event. They had a clown as a Master of Ceremonies who was just terrific, and the mayor and his wife and the full Cabildo Infantil 2012 showed up. The whole Juarez complex, by the way, is amazingly state-of-the-art: green grass on the fields, covered bleachers, large clean toilet facilities. Kudos to the city and the local business sponsors for building this new park for our kids!

The children on Sunday had so many terrific activities in which they could participate! There were sports events such as running races on the track, baseball games, soccer and American football games. There were carnaval-type games and face painting. There was music and dancing. There were gifts and prizes, from new bicycles and soccer balls to dolls and toys and books. We made a human fish and a helicopter arrived to take photos, to the delight of the kids. But the biggest hit of this party, hands-down, were the half dozen or so swimming pools that they had brought in and filled on-site. Some of the kids didn’t want to get out of those pools even to run and wave at the helicopter (though the helicopter was a HUGE hit)!

The event was organized by a long list of local grassroots organizations, and sponsored by a large number of local businesses. About 1500 kids had a really terrific time; an amazing turnout for a first-time-ever event, I thought. I was so proud to be involved. There were so many giggles and delighted faces.

Take a look and enjoy the slideshow above! If you’d rather see larger photos, click through to SmugMug. Some videos I took of the event have also been posted to YouTube, if you are curious. I’m sure they’ll be edited together in time; right now they are just raw footage. First one is here, and you can see there are about a dozen more if you’re trying to find something in particular. Enjoy!