Be Sure to Plan to Attend!

dsc_0421This post is for all of you who complain that you only hear about things after the fact. Last year, one of the best trips we made was right here in Sinaloa: our visit to El Konti, the Lenten celebrations of the Mayo-Yoreme, which take place in northern Sinaloa and southern Sonora. I wrote extensively about this event last year. The Lenten Konti processions are a fascinating juxtaposition of native Mexican/pre-hispanic tradition, mixed with the Catholicism that came with the Spanish conquistadores. El Konti is a terrific example of a community rescuing its traditions, making conscious, concerted efforts to educate its youth and involve them in community life, rather than losing them to alcohol, drugs or petty crimes.

Well, Ash Wednesday was this past week, the 18th; Easter is April 5th; and every Friday from today till March 27th, the Yoreme communities will be celebrating Konti. Then, on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday—the high days of Holy Week—there will be extra special activities to witness. Why don’t you check it out?

I put some of my video footage together into an 11 minute movie, and I’d like to invite you to pour a cup of something, sit back, put it on full screen, and take a look. I find these people such great role models. Watch how they involve and educate their kids, rarely needing to correct them. Most of these kids are dancing for seven to eight hours straight—all day long, under the hot sun. They are wearing hand-carved wooden masks, heavy carrilleras or bamboo skirt-like percussion instruments, and tenabaris or pebble-stuffed butterfly cocoons wrapped around their legs. They wear handprinted or embroidered white manta clothing and cape, and simple huaraches on their feet. Some boys may not have all these things, and may have to improvise: I saw several tenabaris made out of recycled soda cans, for example, and some kids wearing jeans.

You can witness or participate in El Konti any Friday during Lent, or join in Holy Week festivities, in any of the Mayo-Yoreme ceremonial centers. Locations in Sinaloa include:

Municipio de El Fuerte: Mochicahui, Charay, Sivirijoa, Tehueco, Los Capomos, Jahuara II

Municipio de Ahome: Bacorehuis, San Miguel, La Florida, San Isidro, El Colorado, Ohuira, Lazaro Cardenas

Municipio de Choix: San Javier, Baca, Baymena y Choix (Colonia Huites)

Municipio de Sinaloa de Leyva: La Playa

Yoreme mapSan Miguel Zapotitlán is just a four-hour drive north of Mazatlán, 15 km north of Los Mochis on highway 15. It has a large procession bringing together 30 Yoreme communities in the municipality of Ahome. Mochicahui, which we visited, is located at km. 15 on the highway between Los Mochis and El Fuerte. We spent the night there, at a hotel we found right on the highway: the Hotel Doux.

If you’re planning a more extensive trip, you will be right at the starting point of El Chepe train, the transportation through the Copper Canyon. That was the first trip we took once we moved to Mexico, and one I very much want to repeat!

Día de la Música 2013

Day of the Music is among our favorite annual events here in Mazatlán. The city sets up stages at various locations downtown, all within a few blocks of each other. The twenty performers rotate on the hour most of the night, beginning at 7:00 pm, and each stage has a theme. There is also always a visual and street arts corner, which was in a new location this year but just as much fun. In 2011 we made our first video about Day of the Music, and below is a video of this year. I hope you’ll enjoy it! Please let me know what you think.

Saturday was a gorgeous evening, as usual. Starting in daylight and quickly moving into and past sunset, the moon hung hugely over this year’s festivities. Weather was warm and comfy with a wonderful ocean breeze. There was a huge variety of music, and we met at least 30 friends as we walked and danced around. It’s such a joy to be able to see people from all walks of life, coming out with their families to enjoy this community event each year. Mouse over any photo to view the caption, click on it to enlarge or view a slideshow.

This year the themes and performers on the five stages were:

Escenario Machado (in the Plazuela)

  • Guillermo Sarabia Chorus
  • B. Smith’s Hot Jazz (Dixieland, from Culiacán)
  • Camerata Mazatlán and the Folkloric Ballet
  • Ikloo (60s classic rock)
  • Continentalísimo Mariachi Show

Escenario Fusión (Calle Venus between Sixto Osuna and Constitución)

  • Jazz Plasma
  • Honest Jon and the Truth
  • Daniel San Project
  • Lori Davidson and Rob Lamonica

Banda y Tropical (on the malecón at the end of Calle Constitución)

  • Percussion Ensemble
  • Banda La Mazatleca (played for two hours; we are the birthplace of banda, after all!)
  • La Falsa Orquesta Cubana (my personal favorite)

Escenario del Recuerdo (in front of the Art Museum)

  • Trova Cardio
  • Malamecha, Boleros and Cantantes (Municipal School of the Arts group)
  • Grupo con Cuerdas (strings playing popular music)
  • Angela Peralta Chorus (non-professional community chorus)

Rock y Tendencias (Calle Niños Heroes and Constitución)

  • Haiku (from Escuinapa)
  • Los Insane
  • Lady Munster (from Los Mochis)
  • The Oaths

LIVE VISUAL ART: A La Vuelta de Venus

  • Dhear
  • Beo Hake (from Monterrey)
  • Yurex Omazkin (from Mexico City)
  • Watchavato (from Culiacán)
  • Smithe (from Mexico City)
  • Bacse
  • Tony Delfino
  • Buque
  • Wank
  • AskoAbsurdo
  • Cusehr

Thank you, Mazatlán and CULTURA! This is a terrific event, so very pleasurable, a true gift for all Mazatlecos and those who are visiting!

A couple of things we noticed this year, that might make a difference going forward. The first is to ensure that the stages themselves don’t block the walking access between venues. If they must, please put up signage that directs people to the correct walking route. Many elderly attend this event, and to see them having to retrace their steps or go around, some in wheel chairs and scooters, was sad. Secondly, this year it seemed the theme of a couple of the stages changed more than in years past. Perhaps this was purposeful, to help ensure that people would move around? If so it definitely accomplished that purpose, creating more movement than is customary, as people who love classical would hightail it out of the vicinity as jazz came on, or people who love popular music became disappointed as a chorus took the stage. A bit more consistency of style on each stage seems to us to make for a cozier and more enjoyable evening. But, these are both incredibly minor, considering the overall quality and pleasure of this terrific event.

Taking the SAT in Mazatlán, Plus College Planning

cbLogo-globalMany of you follow this blog because of the school information we have posted over the years. Posts on how to choose a school, how to know how schools rank, or how to navigate the day-to-day challenges of schools here in Mazatlán have tended to be our most popular.

Our son is a junior this year, and thus he’s thinking about and planning for university. Here in Mexico college planning seems to start a lot later than it does in the USA where we’re originally from. Next year, as a senior, Danny will accompany one of his teachers to five or so universities in Guadalajara. Some friends in his “generation,” as they call it here, have toured a few universities already this year, but that seems pretty rare. Mostly such tours occur senior year (if ever).

Danny may go to university here, or anywhere else on the planet—he’s considering lots of options—and he’s looking at universities in the US as well. Most US-bound foreign and domestic students need to take the SAT, a standardized college entrance exam, as part of the entrance application process. Most of those students based in the USA are also fortunate enough to be able to participate in study sessions to prepare for the test. Here we have a double whammy: Mexican schools of course do not teach for the SAT, and live prep courses are few and far between, especially here on the coast.

We were disappointingly told by several high school directors here in town that Danny would need to travel to Tucson or Phoenix, Guadalajara or Mexico City, to take the SAT. We found this incredibly hard to believe, when there are so many international students here in Mazatlán, as well as so many talented local students with international ambitions.

prepaI am very happy to report that, after much searching and legwork, we found that Instituto Anglo Moderno right here in Mazatlán is a certified SAT testing center! Claudia Ortuso there helped us out. She speaks wonderful English and was very kind. She tells us that normally there are two SAT test dates per year at Anglo: one in the fall and another in the spring (it was today, Saturday May 4th).

Normally they also hold a prep course in the spring, though this year they did not. I suppose that is because no Anglo students were taking the test. They were four exam takers today: two from ICO, one who came from Los Mochis, and a fourth who flew with her mother from Los Cabos. There is most obviously a demand for testing sites here in Northwestern Mexico!

So, how to register, if you have a child who wants to keep his or her options open for university in the USA? First, go to the College Board site. There you can check test sites and schedules, and register for tests. Instituto Anglo Moderno is test center #69213. While on the College Board site, you can also create an account and set up an Organizer that your student will use to study and practice for the test, sign up for daily emails to help them gain familiarity with test question types, and monthly emails reminding parents how we can best support and guide our kids through college planning. To me it was a godsend, and it was all (minus the test itself) free.

I would highly recommend that your son or daughter spend a few months actively preparing for the SAT. Engaging the online curriculum, and getting a practice SAT booklet from Claudia, will help. Danny also signed up for a few mock tests online via Kaplan. He didn’t pay for any of their courses, but he did find the mock tests with the scoring very helpful to guide his studying. There seem to be loads of online study courses accessible to those of us here.

The other thing I really recommend is getting a couple of good college prep books while you are in a major city with English language bookstores; Kindle versions just don’t work like dog-earring pages of a paper book. Danny’s currently enjoying one called The Best Colleges by the Princeton Review, and there was another one called the College Board Book of Majors which helped him immensely. The majors and options up north are just so much more extensive than most of the kids here are exposed to.

We aren’t there yet. The college selection and application process is only just beginning for us. We thank Anglo Moderno for helping us with this first hurdle!!!