Altata: A Charming Weekend Trip

23004765_1891872064462693_1458402486241907964_oJust three hours north of Mazatlán is a quaint fishing village on a cove, protected by a peninsula that faces the sea. It has an older part of the town, and a newer, high-rent district with a marina and upscale condominiums. That place is called Altata, and it is just to the coast from Culiacán.

I recommend it as a nice weekend getaway. The seafood is delectable, the views are incredible, while there is only one hotel, it is new and nicely decorated, there are condos for rent, and it’s just a different vibe than Mazatlán. If you go, you can relax, take a boat ride, go sport fishing… just about anything you’d do here in Mazatlán, but on a smaller scale and minus the insane night life. Altata nightlife is more like party on the malecón or in a restaurant, at least from what I’ve seen.

Anyway, last October a group of photographers of which I’m a member, Grupo Sinaloa, was invited to spend a long and enjoyable day in Altata, to take photos and share some of them with the Department of Tourism there. We had an incredible time, eating three great meals, enjoying boat rides and bus tours, hiking and beach combing. We witnessed small planes buzz us on the beach, jet skis with parents and kids zoom by us, and dune buggies jump around incredibly scenic sand dunes. We enjoyed a marvelous sunset, a few drinks, and several bands serenading us on Altata’s malecón  before heading back to Culiacán about 9 pm. It was a beautiful day spent in wonderful company. Click any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Yesterday, Saturday May 5th, the exhibition from the day of photography opened on the malecón of Altata. It is entitled Altata: Para todos, para siempre, and was officially inaugurated by the Mayor, the state Secretary of Tourism, other political dignitaries and Grupo Sinaloa’s founders: Marcopolo Amarillas, Liduvina Vargas Romero and Juan Santana. Photos are displayed outdoors on the malecón of Altata and will be there through May 21st.

I am so glad we attended yesterday’s events. We hesitated, as we leave for our son’s college graduation in the morning, so traveling just before more traveling isn’t the smartest thing we’ve ever done. But to see the joy in the eyes of so many photographers who had their first-ever exhibition, the excitement of seeing their photos printed in large scale, having the locals tell them how much it means that people from outside Altata see the beauty in their local community and want to express it to the world… it was just a really terrific evening. We were once again treated like royalty, with a terrific dinner and open bar after the opening ceremony.

So, if you are looking for something to do this month that is a bit out of the norm, try a visit to Altata! The hotel is called Altata Bay, and you will find loads and loads of restaurants in the town along the lovely malecón. Nuevo Altata, with the marina and scenic lighthouse, is about a 15 minute drive north.

Festival of Lights 2018

DSC_0726©You know I love fireworks, and my favorites of the year here in Mazatlán tend to be the Festival de la Luz, because TEN THOUSAND fireworks are launched 300 meters into the air from FIFTEEN locations over FOUR KILOMETERS along the malecón, lighting up the city’s boardwalk. These fireworks normally take place during Maratón del Pacífico, but they were delayed this year. This tenth annual event included 2-1/2 TONS of 20 different kinds of fireworks at a cost of 1,300,000 pesos, and lasted a full thirty minutes. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

This year was a challenge photographically. High tide during launch meant the beach was off limits. Brisk wind meant that shooting from the south was out of the question—that is where the smoke headed. So, I set up north of the viewing area, which was less than ideal for a good view.

I was blessed to be joined by a good friend and three visiting Colombian artists, so we enjoyed a good time. I set up both my cameras, though my intervalometer decided not to work, so having two cameras made for a busy viewing. I won’t be repeating that anytime soon.

I trust you were able to enjoy the show. Many, many thanks to José Ramón Manguart Sánchez, Tres Islas Hotel Association, Secretaria de Turismo Sinaloa, and the municipal authorities!

 

 

 

Focus on Responsible Tourism

Three cruise lines, new air connections, 12,000 rooms in 180 hotels… We greet hundreds of thousands of national and international visitors each year in Mazatlán. Any chance I’ve gotten over the past eight years I’ve tried to encourage travelers to get beyond the stereotypical but wonderful beer and beaches to experience a bit of the “real Mexico,” be it a visit to a small town, witnessing the shrimp or mango harvest, or admiring the Mayo-Yoreme traditions.

Recently, however, I’ve been working with a colleague in Milan, Maura di Mauro, on a project, and she cautioned me about how the culture of Mursi villagers in Ethiopia was changing due to tourism. Thanks to an influx of camera-toting tourists willing to pay for photos, the villagers increasingly exaggerate their traditional practices and even falsely embellish them, to make them more attractive to visitors. Lord knows I’ve witnessed this sort of thing happening in and around Mazatlán. She also told me about Chinese tourists descending en masse on a small village in The Netherlands. Many of the Dutch residents welcome the added economic boost such international tourism provides, but they have also experienced downsides to such tourism and, again, changes to their culture. We in Mazatlán sure experience the ups and the downs of tourism, and know how important it is to our economy.

Maura said there were documentaries about both of these topics, made by the same Dutch cinematographer. She got me excited and I can not WAIT to view the two films!

The first documentary Maura told me about is called Framing the Other” by Ilja Kok and Willem Timmers  (25 min, English and Mursi with English subtitles).

The Mursi tribe lives in the basin of the Omo River in the south of the east African state of Ethiopia. The women are known for placing large plates in their lower lips and wearing enormous, richly decorated earrings. Every year hundreds of Western tourists come to see the unusually adorned natives; posing for camera-toting visitors has become the main source of income for the Mursi. To make more money, they embellish their “costumes” and finery in such a manner that less of their original authentic culture remains. The film contrasts the views of Mursi women and those of Dutch tourists preparing for a meeting. This humorous and at the same time chilling film shows the destructive impact tourism has on traditional communities. A preview is below:

 

The second film is called Ni Hao Holland: The Chinese are coming” by Willem Timmers (25 min, Mandarin and Dutch with English subtitles).

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It is a documentary about Chinese tourists and their quest for the authentic Dutch experience. Cherry, the main character, has long dreamt of swapping her home city Beijing for the Dutch village Giethoorn. She has heard and read a lot about this mythical place. The day arrives that she and her friend hop on the plane in search of adventure. In the meantime, entrepreneurs from Giethoorn work hard behind the scenes to cater to this “Holland experience.” They want to make the most of the fast-growing flow of Chinese tourists to their village. How is this authenticity created by some and experienced by others? A preview follows:

 

While I’ve yet to watch either of these movies, it sure sounds like there’s a lot to think about for tourism in Mazatlán and Sinaloa. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!