Living and Working with Mexicans

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Many in the VidaMaz community are bilingual and bicultural, and many others aspire to be. Francisco Santana has a new Udemy course entitled, This is Mexico: Living and Working with Mexicans that he has offered to give to VidaMaz readers for free if you click this link in the next 72 hours. Once you register, you can complete the course at your leisure. As payment he requests you to rate the course.

I have just taken the course and believe it is a very worthwhile way to spend an hour or two. It communicates to the learner some of the fundamental concepts of intercultural communication in a simple, clear, affordable and easy way. Francisco covers a lot of territory, summarizing key things to remember concisely. He is careful to say things like, “generally speaking” or “Mexicans have a tendency,” in order to avoid stereotyping and overgeneralizing the huge diversity that is this country.

The course contains some outdated constructs, such as the use of the iceberg as a metaphor for culture—which its creator Bob Kohls himself hated in his later career, and the overly-used and overly-conceptual “dimensions of culture”— which are useful as pieces of knowledge but aren’t especially helpful at improving skill. It’s at this point the course started to feel like a lecture and became quite slow for me.

The “Living with Mexicans” section will be the most helpful to most VidaMaz readers, I believe. There are some very salient points that can go unnoticed if you’re not careful, such as this line, “Mexicans have never been obsessed with planning for the future,” or Francisco’s contention that Mexican friendships tend to be based on mutual need—a very different dynamic than friendship elsewhere in the world. I found it particularly interesting and valuable to look at friendship in a historical context. Francisco’s explanations of Mexican humor, the “mañana” mentality and use of excuses to avoid disappointing people will also be salient and helpful for many; there are many gems in this section, from which we could learn more deeply for hours.

I fully support expats integrating into and participating in the local community as much as we can, and I hope this short course, available to you now for free, might help you. It is well presented and very accurate, in my experience. Here is Francisco’s course description:

By knowing where people’s values and beliefs come from you can learn to expect and predict their behavior, and then, you will be on your way to a successful cultural adjustment. The Mexican culture is rich in customs, traditions and intriguing behavioral patterns; and this one-of-its-kind course offers you the opportunity to dive into the very roots of the Mexican way of life.

The curriculum and practical activities are carefully designed for:

  • Expats (retirees, executives, foreign service employees)
  • Foreign students
  • Foreign investors and import/export professionals
  • Travelers
  • Enthusiasts of the Mexican culture

What you’ll learn

  • The fundamentals of culture
  • Key values and attitudes of the Mexicans
  • The roots of the Mexicans behavioral patterns
  • Mexicans communication patterns
  • Social and business manners in Mexico
  • Management and negotiation style in Mexico

Are there any course requirements or prerequisites?

  • Interest in learning more about Mexico and the Mexicans

Who this course is for:

  • Executives in an international assignment in Mexico
  • Expats retired or considering retiring in Mexico
  • Leisure and business travelers
  • Current or future foreign exchange students
  • Entrepreneurs and business seeking to negotiate with Mexicans
  • Current or future foreign service officers assigned in Mexico

Content is comprised of six sections, each with a video, activity and quiz:

  1. Introduction
  2. Culture and human behavior
  3. Roots of Mexican cultural identity (history of Mexico)
  4. Living with Mexicans: Traditions, values and attitudes (family, friendship, courtesy, helping others, humor, Day of the Dead, concept of mañana, excuses, bribery)
  5. Working with Mexicans: Management and negotiation (leadership and management, perception of time and space, communication patters, negotiation and meetings)
  6. Case analysis (interviews with four young adult expatriates living in Mexico—a Dane, a German, a Finn and a Czech)

Enjoy, and please let me know what you think! Kudos to Francisco for creating this method for helping expats and visitors to better understand and partner with our Mexican hosts!

Custom Hats and Jewelry

IMG_5501 (1)I have fallen in love. Again. Yes, it happens every so often when a gorgeous smile and a beautiful soul cross my path. This time it is with Andrea Salas Pinedo.

Andrea is a sculptor and painter from Durango, 22 years old and the mother of two small children. She is a delight—a talented young lady with a huge warm smile and a soul that radiates joy. She has been painting for ten years, and for the last four months she has been here in Mazatlán with her husband and children selling hats on the beach and in the foreign craft markets.

I love her hats! She charges 300 pesos for each one, and you can choose from those she has on hand, or you can order one special. I just ordered one for a certification event I am hosting this week. It will be one of the prizes during the workshop. I believe it will be very popular. Click on any photo to enlarge or view a slideshow.

Andrea also molds earrings that are so very cute! I bought a few of those for gifts as well. At only 50 pesos they are a bargain. If you’d like to see Andrea’s work, look for her on the beach in the Golden Zone, or at the market at La Catrina restaurant on Wednesdays from 9 am till noon. Easier yet, message her through her Facebook page.

Her Oaxacan family sells embroidered shirts, blouses and dresses, so if you’re looking for those, you can get them through Andrea also. Have a beautiful week!

Behind the Scenes of the 9th Temporada Campbell

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The 9th Temporada Gordon Campbell brings us loads of live music with first-rate global performers. Concerts are generally at noon on Sundays in Mazatlán’s gorgeously restored, historic Angela Peralta Theater.

As usual, Maestro Campbell and his wife, Guianeya Román, joined me to give the VidaMaz.com community a “behind the scenes” peak into each concert this season. You can enjoy their commentaries in the short videos below.

Bach’s Magnificat, Sunday January 12, 2020 at noon in the TAP
This next Sunday in the Angela Peralta Theater you can enjoy Bach’s “Magnificat” as sung by the Culiacán Community Chorus with a solo performed by the marvelous tenor from Mexico City, Leonardo Villeda. We are privileged to have Leonardo perform here. In addition to his voice talent, he is director of the well regarded Ad Hominem Chorus in the capital. He and Gordon are such good friends that his 150 person chorus sang at Gordon and Guia’s 50-person wedding! Hear this behind-the-scenes story in the video below.

The soprano will be Perla Orrantia, and second soprano Jessica Toledo, the nineteen year old who started singing with the chorus as a ten-year-old girl. We are so blessed in Mazatlán to watch terrifically talented singers of international caliber grow up before our eyes and in our ears! Susan Sanga will be the mezzo—first time as a soloist in Mexico. Baritone Alejandro Hernandez, soloist in the cathedral concert recently, will also sing.

Mozart and His Women, Sunday 19 January, 2020 at noon in the TAP
The letters between Mozart, his wife, daughter, sister and friends are harvested to create this highly innovative, heart-touching show that provides the story behind some of the best music he composed. Narrated by Angelica Aragón (daughter of local music and film legend Ferrusquilla) while the Camerata Campbell plays, and featuring soprano Perla Orrantia. Below Gordon and his wife, Guia, share the story.

American Quartet by Dvořák, Sunday 26 January, 2020 at noon in the TAP
Antonín Dvořák wrote this piece in 1893 while he was director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York—while spending the summer in, of all places, Spillville, Iowa. In Spillville, Dvořák found an active Czech immigrant community in which he was able to speak his native language and enjoy the feel of home. He finished the chamber piece in less than a month. According to music critic Betsy Schwarm, the composer set out to capture “the spirit of America music in its melodic flow and harmonic construction.” The Marketo String Quartet returns to Mazatlán to perform the four string movements.

Mozart’s Gran Partita, Sunday 2 February, 2020 at noon and 5 pm in Casa Haas
The Sinfonietta Philomúsica Juventus, a group of young people in Culiacán who have asked Maestro Campbell to direct a youth orchestra in addition to the adult Camerata Campbell. Many of them are children or students of the musicians in the camera. In this program 13 wind players will perform Mozart’s best wind music, Serenade No. 10.

Corky Siegel Sings the Blues, Sunday 9 February, 2020 at noon in the TAP
Mazatlán’s beloved, international acclaimed, Corky Siegel returns, playing harmonica and piano while he sings the blues! What a treat this will be! The maestro promises that Corky is living proof leprechauns exist.

3 Centuries of Chamber Music, Sunday 16 Feb, 2020 at noon and 5 pm in Casa Haas
The talented string musicians of the new Sinfonietta Philamúsica Juventus join us this time for the group’s second performance during this 9th Season Gordon Campbell. They will play more than three centuries of music, starting with Renaissance music through 20th century sounds. Gordon’s introduction of the concert below:

The post-Carnaval portion fo the season will include three performances in March, including the Maestro’s personal favorite: his first time ever performance with his son!

Father & Son: Gordon & Alexander Campbell, Sunday 1 Mar, 2020 at noon in the TAP
It was a huge pleasure to meet Gordon’s long-lost and very talented son, and to see the love and joy between these two men now that they are reconnected. I for one can not wait for this concert!

Please forgive the fuzziness of the video; perhaps my concussion is still playing with my brain. I do think the stories are very worth the listen.

The Romantic Music of America, Sunday March 8 at noon in the TAP
The Rondalla will return to their welcoming Mazatlecan crowd

Looking Out for Number 1, Sunday March 15 at noon in the TAP
For the final concert of the 2020 season we will enjoy the young piano prodigy, Hermann Valdez Fregoso, with both the adult Camerata Campbell and the youth orchestra, playing Beethovens Symphony No. 1 and Piano Concerto No. 1.

Buy your tickets at the Angela Peralta box office, either for individual performances or with terrific discounts on season tickets. The Camerata and the Youth Orchestra (this latter completely volunteer) are labors of love. Your donations to support the musical mission are gratefully accepted and are tax deductible.

Randy Noojin as Pete Seeger Sunday!

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This year’s edition of Gordon Campbell’s Camerata looks to be outstanding! I will write more about the full season in a subsequent post, but I want to get this out to you so hopefully you do not miss the first concert date which is tomorrow, Sunday 5th January at noon in the Angela Peralta.

Randy Noojin, who performed that incredible Woody Guthrie show for us, will be back with an award-winning show on the life and music of Pete Seeger. As Gordon tells us in the video below, we wouldn’t have had Bob Dillon, Joan Baez or many other folk singer activists without Pete Seeger showing the way. Today Maestro Campbell and his wife, Guianeya, stopped by my house to tell us a bit about the show tomorrow.

Buy your tickets at the Angela Peralta Theater. Better yet, purchase the entire season and don’t miss out. Below shows you the season lineup. Every show is at noon, and a couple have  a second performance at 5 pm. Two concerts are in Casa Haas with the majority in the Angela Peralta.

Season calendar

Noche de Luz

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The premier of Noche de Luz was THE event of the season last year, showcasing to many in Mazatlán for the first time ever the inside of the old Observatory, as well as sharing with us a joyful amalgam of international music and talent. This year’s second edition of the outstanding event—put together by Raul Rico’s crew at Vivace Productions—made Christmas for many of us attending.

The view from the Observatory atop Lookout Hill is the whole of Mazatlán: south beyond Stone Island to north beyond Cerritos, including the entire city and port to the east and the best view of the lighthouse and the Pacific to the west. This is precisely why the conquistadores used this location as a lookout for English pirate ships approaching and intending to sack the city, and why the hill is called Cerro del Vigía. To me it’s the premier location in Mazatlán, and an incredibly gorgeously restored and decorated venue. Thus, I am over the moon to  know that it will soon open to the public as a museum! Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Cocktails started on the back patio at 5:00 pm. The wine was free flowing; there were a good variety of canapés. The concert started promptly at 6:00 pm on the front terrace, facing the lighthouse. The weather was perfect—fresh, not cold or warm—and the performers were more relaxed and joy-filled than last year. They seemed to feed off the energy of the sold-out audience. Those of us in attendance thoroughly enjoyed their animated emotions, vamping, and changes of accessories to suit the song. While we were not treated to one of Mazatlán’s signature jaw-dropping sunsets, it was THE best Christmas event one could ask for! My girlfriend and I came home singing and dancing, filled with the spirit of the season (and a bit of the wine).

Principal performers included internationally acclaimed baritone José Adán Pérez, Mazatlecan currently residing in New York City; soprano Marysol Calles, the very talented Tapatía, mazatleca by adoption, who currently resides in Madrid; mezzo soprano Sarah Holcombe, our Mazatlán-born, blue-eyed beauty; and pianist Michiyo Morikawa, Japanese by birth and Mexican by adoption.

The performance was in four parts: Opera, perfect for these three incredible voices; Broadway and Hollywood, a terrific sing-along; Boleros, with much swinging and swaying in the audience; and Christmas songs, which served as the cherry on top of a perfect evening.

The boleros section of the evening was a magnificent tribute to three internationally famous Mexican composers with connections to Mazatlán on the 100th anniversary of their births. The singers delivered outstandingly animated and emotive performances of:

  1. Sabor a Mí (my personal favorite), La Mentira, Luz de Luna by Álvaro Carrillo—composer and singer born 1921 in Oaxaca and died 1969, a good friend of local singer Antonio Pérez Meza.
  2. La Ley del Monte and Échame a Mí la Culpa by Ferrusquilla—José Ángel Espinoza Aragón, composer, singer and actor from the Golden Age of Mexican cinema, born 1919 in  Choix and who lived and died here in Mazatlán in 2015. He has a statue on the malecón—the man with the guitar holding his hat in the air.
  3. El Diccionario, a lovely song by jazz composer, pianist and singer Fernando Teodoro Valadés Lejarza—born in Mazatlán in 1920 and died in Mexico City in 1978. Valadés also has a statue on the malecón—sitting at a piano.

History of the Observatory
Mazatlán was named the first high port of the Pacific by the Court of Cadiz in 1821, and functioned as the largest and busiest Pacific coast port for decades, connecting the Americas with Europe and Asia. 52 years later, in 1873, the observatory was built primarily as a weather station and, until 1892, also operated as a lighthouse. The weather station’s first director was the engineer P. Acosta León. The building was designed by Friaco Quijano and originally had two cupolas—one on each side. In the latest restoration of the observatory, the cupolas have not been rebuilt.

Much of the history of the observatory has, sadly, been lost. I have read that ours was an astronomical observatory as well, the second such facility in Mexico—built just one year after the National Astronomic Observatory in Chapultepec castle. In 1882 astronomic observation around the world gained huge popularity, as Venus passed in front of the sun. Having spoken with Joaquín Hernández, local historian, our guess is that the astronomy aspect may have come in to teach the cadets at the merchant marine academy—also the oldest academy of its kind in Latin America.

The building was destroyed by a hurricane in 1887. In the 1940s state-of-the-art meteorological observation equipment was installed. For most of its functioning history it was staffed by the military. In 1967 the weather station tools were moved to Juan Carrasco, in order to consolidate equipment from various locations. The observatory was abandoned. I remember visiting it as a tourist when it was accessible to the public, but very much in ruin—probably in the 1980s. It was a highly scenic abandoned structure perfect for photo ops! I absolutely loved going in there.

Nearly one hundred years after the observatory was built, Neto Coppel (owner of the Pueblo Bonito chain) bought four or so of the properties atop the hill and combined them, building a huge mansion and sealing off the observatory from public access. You could still get in on a private tour or if you knew someone, but the site was not generally accessible to the public for over a decade.

The old observatory remained private, and Amado and Karla Guzmán (owners of Red Petroil) purchased the entire property from Coppel, spending years fully restoring the antique observatory and planting beautiful gardens from which to enjoy those incredible views. The facility’s original bell, used to announce inclement weather to the surrounding city, still functions at the base of the stairs. The couple have added antique nautical furnishings, historical photos, comfortable dining and seating areas and a full bar; it is absolutely beautifully done and by far the premier location in Mazatlán, if you ask me!

For the past few years, if you knew the family you could arrange to hold an event in this amazing location. This past year the Guzman’s have built a tram or funicular from sea level to the top of the hill, to carry passengers and things more easily than does the winding road. It was used for the first time on Thursday evening and functioned perfectly. It will not quite yet open to the public, however, as there is a bit more construction of the building below to do.

The great news is that the Guzmán’s are planning to open the now-named Observatory 1873 as a museum! Access will be via the new tram. It will include information and items detailing the nautical history of Mazatlán as well as information on the history of the facility itself, as the first observatory and lighthouse in Mazatlán. There is no firm date yet, but we have another exciting new attraction to look forward to!