Lighthouse Update & Event of the Season!

DSC_4453Readers, many of you share my love of the lighthouse. Every season of the year it has natural wonders to share, breathtaking views, and provides us a good place to exercise and breathe clean air. Do you also love :

  • Historic properties, elegantly restored, surrounded by gardens and furnished with antiques?
  • Great views of our bay and port, with the city at your feet?
  • Creative cocktails served at a modern Victor de Rueda-designed bar by a trained mixologist?
  • Getting into a private, luxurious facility that you can’t normally get into?

On Thursday, December 20th you can experience all of the above while watching a killer mazatlecan sunset with a bunch of other cool and civic-minded people—for the benefit of our beloved lighthouse.

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Noche de Luz (Night of Light) will take place at the Observatorio Histórico de Mazatlán, atop Cerro del Vigía, overlooking the lighthouse on Cerro del Crestón. Cocktails and canapés will be served from 5 pm, and a concert including classical, Mexican and Christmas music will be performed by baritone José Adán Pérez, mezzosoprano Sarah Holcombe and soprano Rebeca de Rueda, accompanied by Michiyo Morikawa on piano. The performance is scheduled to start at 6 pm, and it’s all to benefit the Patronato Parque Natural Faro de Mazatlán. The promotional video is below.

Tickets are 800 pesos and can be purchased in Centro Histórico (Plaza Machado) at La Tramoya (4-11 pm) or at Deco Designs (Camarón Sábalo 610-5, tel 669-916-5393). Raul Rico’s Vivace Producciones is in charge, so we are sure to enjoy a super show. In order to avoid use of styrofoam and other environmentally unfriendly disposables, logo’d mugs designed by Emilia Igartúa will be available for sale. Do not miss it, or your access to this incredible private property! The event site has very limited parking, so attendees are asked to park at SAT (the old aduana/customs house on Venustiano Carranza and Miguel Alemán) and take a shuttle to and from the observatory. Shuttles will start running at 4:30 pm.

The observatory where the concert will take place was built in the 1800s, according to my friend and local historian, Joaquín Hernandez, designed by Friaco Quijano when our city was still called “Mazatlán de los Mulatos.” It was constructed as a lookout for pirates, at a time when many of the tunnels around downtown were dug—as hiding places for gold and silver from the mines in the Sierras as well as escape routes for the wealthy in case of attack. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

When I first visited the Observatory a couple of decades ago it was in complete ruin, though still beautiful. Some years back Amado Guzmán purchased the property and he has both restored and significantly upgraded it, adding antique nautical furnishings, historical photos, comfortable dining and seating areas and a full bar. The bar is now staffed by a bilingual mixologist during events! My apologies for the fuzzy night shots, but I was out all day and did not have my tripod with me, so we tested my handheld abilities.

The Observatory provides nearly a 360 degree view of Mazatlán, the port and the bay. It is a private party place used only for the elite as well as family and close friends, so those attending Noche de Luz will be quite lucky.

I very much enjoyed interviewing María Esther Juarez, presidenta of the new civil organization “Patronato del Parque Natural Faro de Mazatlán” that takes care of the lighthouse. Since their formation we’ve already seen installation of three new webcams (with a fourth coming soon), funded by Javier Lizarraga Galindo, which provide a 360 degree view of our city 24/7/365. It’s kind of fun to watch the waves crash, the weather change, and the planes take off and land, via the internet. Ten of the key points Esther told me during our interview include:

  1. Public bathrooms, funded by the municipality, are being built at the bottom of the lighthouse at government expense. There is no water at the top, so no bathrooms there yet.
  2. Though Governor Quirino has scheduled the sewage plant at the foot of the lighthouse to be moved out to Stone Island within the next year, planning restaurants and tourist shops designed primarily for cruise ship passengers in its place, the new municipal government has recently vetoed the plan.
  3. Funds from Noche de Luz will be used to (properly repair and) finish the recently redone trails up the hill. The paths will be covered with a natural-looking surface called tucuruguay (you can see it at Parque Ciudades Hermanas/Sister Cities Park), which will be put over the top of the current gravel held on by the geocelda or plastic netting, assuming current tests of the product prove it appropriate.
  4. The zip line is still being planned, with the state coordinating the concession.
  5. The lighthouse keepers will soon be getting uniforms!
  6. The roundabout at the entrance to the lighthouse will be finished very nicely, and a gate installed.
  7. A fence to keep people away from the glass bridge when it is not open is planned.
  8. The patronato is currently looking into ways to make the lighthouse inclusive (accessible to the disabled, elderly, families with strollers), using the ideas and experience of Cuastecomates beach in Jalisco state.
  9. There are plans for drinking water atop the lighthouse.
  10. The patronato would like to make every November “Lighthouse Month,” as the lighthouse was first commissioned in November of 1879 (though a fire burned atop the hill and served as a lighthouse for perhaps a century before that).

The lighthouse itself is owned by API (Integral Administration of the Port), while the lighthouse hill has been thought to be federal land but may actually officially belong to the state or city; that’s part of the clarity those involved are seeking right now. The  patronato thus has to coordinate between FOUR disparate entities—federal, state, local and API—as well as listen to and involve the public. Glad that coordinating role is not mine!

So how did this new civil association come to be? There were a group of regular faro-goers who became concerned about the lack of supervision of the contractor for the lighthouse upgrades. It seems the project supervisor was a state official who only visited the site 2-3 times during the entire construction process. Thus, we have geocelda, the plastic netting on the pathways, that has already disintegrated due to a failure to install it properly. Geocelda is not intended to be used on paths with such a steep incline as we have at the faro. This same group of people was proud of the new crystal bridge and the amphitheater, but well aware how quickly and easily beautiful new installations can be trashed—witness the graffiti-covered Carpa Olivera (ocean-fed swimming pool), Glorieta Sanchez Taboada, or Parque Lineal.

Desiring to prevent neglect and vandalization, the group of civic-minded lighthouse-goers decided to form an association and went to a notario to officially register. They are all volunteer, and just last night successfully joined the much-admired JAP (Junta de asistencia privada), which is a very selective group of patronatos that ensures bookkeeping and decision making are transparent to the public.

Members of the patronato include María Esther; Elsa María López, owner of Deco; Javier Hidalgo, architect, who designed the new lighthouse installations; Alejandra Contreras (a daily visitor to the lighthouse); Balbina Herrera Medrano, who has worked for the lighthouse and API for many years); and Raquel Briseño, a researcher at UNAM. They would seem to be a group with diverse and complementary interests, and they all live locally.

I asked María Esther how our readers can help the faro. She said that soon they will have an online registry to sign up for lighthouse cleaning days (trash pickup and minor gardening). She asked that people stop feeding the feral cats at the lighthouse, as the cats have nearly eradicated the native flora and fauna. The patronato has paid to neuter most of them, but at 800 pesos per cat, they can’t afford to keep it up. Anyone interested is more than welcome to adopt one or more of the resident cats. The great news is that just yesterday the city’s Secretary of the Environment agreed they would find a solution to the problem!

I hope to see you while hiking up the lighthouse, and I also hope to see you on the 20th at the Observatory! Do NOT miss this once-in-a-lifetime event and your chance to support our beloved lighthouse!

Our Renovated Faro

_DSC8045©The glass walkway atop the lighthouse is, indeed, a reality. The glass for the walls is there and ready for install; the glass floor is scheduled to arrive and be installed next week. I walked to the edge of the solid surface and looked down, and it is truly a thrill! Long, long, long drop down! Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

The new paved walkways and lookouts are beautiful and have been very well received. Nearly all the walkways are now paved; I’d say there are three main sections that has concrete but are in need of paving stones still.

Our beloved faro has been so long overdue for a makeover; thank goodness tianguis has brought it on! There are far fewer workers up there now, but the ones who remain are working hard. The letters that I showed you being built are now assembled and in place at the bottom of the hill. Yesterday the sewage facility had empty pools; let us hope it just might be true that they plan to decommission this one!

Despite its on-again/off-again status, I was told yesterday that the zip line will be a reality. It will go from the site atop the faro photographed below to the corazoncito or little heart-shaped pull-out on Paseo del Centenario, according to the workers. Here’s the view from top and looking up from the bottom. The good news is it won’t go over the sewage treatment facility, but, rather, to its west. I did not see any building happening yet, however.

The top of the lighthouse is going to become a very crowded place if all this comes to fruition, I fear. With the new museum, the glass walkway, the round observatory, and the zip line, it’s very little space up there for so many activities, IMHO.

The other thing I noticed yesterday morning is that they are building on Paseo del Centenario just below the old fort that’s atop the cerro. I thought it was for the zip line, but the workers told me it’s for a small train to take tourists up to the old fort. They have already installed the stairs and are building the lower platform. Years ago there was a similar train on the other hill, near the antique bridge, you may recall. I guess we’ll know for sure once it’s more near completion.

If you haven’t visited the lighthouse in a while, you might want to check it out! Although, in a couple more weeks it should look a whole lot better.

Lighthouse Renovations

IMG_4320-1A welcome investment of over 14 million pesos of federal and state funds have gone towards the renovation of our long neglected yet incredibly wonderful lighthouse, a major tourist attraction as well as a popular workout space for residents here in Mazatlán. The design plans included a transparent, cantilevered overlook, and there was talk about a zip line to Paseo del Centenario as well.

While the lighthouse walk was closed for a while, it is again open and just as crowded as ever with happy people out for a walk in the fresh air. Most of the way up the formerly dirt path is now covered with concrete and faced with rock—it looks really nice. I feel for the workers who have to haul their equipment plus the sand for the concrete up the hill. I guess they will be in shape once this project finishes!

In most areas there is a two to three foot wall protecting visitors from falling; in one key area, at the last major turn to the right up the hill, the wall has not yet been built. At the bottom, before the stairs, there is still a lot of walkway that remains concrete and has not yet been faced. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

 

At the bottom of the trail they have installed a rock wall in the roundabout and are in the process of building a nice sign. At the top, they have completed a round viewing platform, with stepped seating for visitors to take in the view. Supposedly they will install a statue of a whale in that space, which I find a bit confusing as it will block the view.

 

The lighthouse keepers will be moving to a new building just to the west of the lighthouse; the lighthouse building itself is scheduled to be turned into a museum. I have noticed a whole lot of trash from the renovation project. Hopefully workers will be cleaning all that up before they finish the job.

What I don’t see any sign of, yet at least, is a transparent, cantilevered overlook. Likewise there has been talk that the zip line is history. If you haven’t climbed up in a while, now is a good time. I find it interesting to watch projects as they progress, and adding some safety and beauty to the natural beauty of Cerro del Crestón is very welcome.

4 Cruise Ships and a Lighthouse Walk

Fisheye view

Some fun with the “fisheye” setting on my little Canon PowerShot.

Sunday was so clear after the rain, but I hadn’t taken a camera. Today I took my little PowerShot, and then wished I’d taken my good Nikon. On today’s trip up the lighthouse we saw butterflies and birds galore! And, of course, four cruise ships and loads of passengers out for a stretch.

I was fascinated watching the final cruise ship come in and have to “parallel park”—the other three were already moored, and this final one had to work sideways to squeeze its way into the berth. Pretty cool. I felt really sorry for all the tugboats idly standing by waiting to help. It hurts my soul to think we have this much ship traffic and the tugboats aren’t getting paid.

I’m not adept enough with the little camera to catch butterflies or birds, but I was able to photograph a couple. They are below. Enjoy!

Here’s wishing you’re able to stay out of traffic today—10,000 extra people in town. And, if you service tourists, may you earn a lot today! Have a great one.

Back Up Our Beloved Lighthouse Hill

IMG_3269Readers of this blog know how much Greg and I enjoy hiking up, or, in Greg’s case, running up, lighthouse hill. You can read many posts on this blog about the lighthouse, the hike, the flora and fauna in different seasons, and events held there. After he broke his leg last April, however, the resultant nerve damage meant that Greg could barely walk for months, say nothing about running or hiking. We stopped going to the lighthouse. I could have gone alone or with a friend, but instead I immersed myself in zumba classes and the new girlfriends I met there. Our friend Carlos, who works at the top, got worried.

Finally, just in the past month, Greg is BACK. And, our hikes up the lighthouse are back. He’s run up a couple of times now, but he’s done it on Sundays while I’m in church. Today, the two of us made the first of our now-resumed twice-weekly treks. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

And what better day could there be to hike up the lighthouse? Clear, blue, warm but not humid. Oh, how I missed those views! Today we had a clear view to the bay, the Golden Zone all the way up to the marina, downtown, the port, and the length of Stone Island.

The sign at the bottom of the hill that rated your physical prowess against the number of minutes it took you to summit the hill is gone, replaced by an ugly yet I suppose functional bar code sign.

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There were many more hikers than usual, due to the holiday weekend. Lots of families and small children, which I always find encouraging. No better way to build strong families than enjoying the outdoors together.

We had three large ships anchored just outside the port today. Just look at how gorgeously clean and blue that water is!

An iguana enjoyed posing for my camera while he was sunning—at least until the kids behind me came running and shouting down the hill.

Great to be back, El Faro! We missed you!