House of Good Vibrations!

Today we handed over the keys to the “House of Good Vibrations,” as I now call it, thanks to the love and generosity of over 80 individuals, couples and families who built and furnished the small blue “Home for Juan Manuel!”

18 people attended an appreciation ceremony this morning, during which the new owners, Don Rodolfo and Juan Manuel, expressed their thanks to the VidaMaz community. Juan Manuel and Don Rodolfo both were completely overwhelmed with your generosity. They both cried several different times and were at a complete loss for words. You truly have changed their lives and filled them with hope! They plan to move in tomorrow. Many people arrived today bearing food and gifts to help the men settle into their new home.

One of the attendees recorded the “giving of the keys” ceremony on her cell phone. Sadly the wind was rather gusty at times, but I believe  you can hear most of it. The full video is below:

We first announced this project to build a small house on November 25, 2020. Initially it was to be a 3 x 4 meter home with an outdoor bathroom and kitchen. Since Juan Manuel is on crutches (he has only one leg) and blind, we felt the home needed indoor plumbing, and you agreed. We ended up building a home that is 4 x 6 meters, so still very small, but very livable and much better than anything they would have dreamed possible. You even helped us install hot water! You all donated kitchen sink, cupboards, refrigerator, microwave, utensils, bathroom sink, toilet, shower, mirror, a shelf, a trundle bed, two tables, four chairs, a ceiling fan, boiler, a tinaco, concrete, gravel, doors, windows, septic tank… you truly rocked this! You gave monetary donations of 20 to 32,000 pesos. Thank you!

Every step of the way, if we had difficulties, you came through to help. We had been searching for weeks for a trundle bed. Two men will live here, but there is not enough room in the house for two single beds and a user of crutches to move around. Last week we kindly received the donation of the donor’s grandson’s beloved, solid wood trundle bed with two mattresses AND handmade quilts! Juan Manuel and Don Rodolfo were over the moon when they saw it. Zata installed the front walkway this week, but, of course, most of Mazatlán has been without water this week. How to make concrete for the stairs? No worries; we figured it out.

In the end, we came in exactly with the money needed. Greg and I personally paid for a bonus to thank Zata, our albañil; without his honesty and dedication I can only imagine how difficult this project might have been.

Total Spent: 130,795 pesos or US$6507

Construction: 94,886
Refrigerator: 1225
Boiler, install and protection: 7784
Walkway and yard work: 14,300
Electrical from street: 12,600

The amount above is significantly higher than our original estimate for this project, but that estimate was for a basic structure only: no windows, doors, plumbing, electrical nor interior furnishings. Even with the ease with which it functioned—your generous donations, no theft, an honest and dependable builder—it was way more work than any of us imagined it would be. Feeling the joy and happiness of these two men today, however, made it more than worthwile. I trust you are happy to have participated.

The full story of the building of this house is right here. You can read it from the beginning if you are interested:

  1. Nov 25: My introduction of Juan Manuel and his father, plus asking you to help with the project
  2. Dec 1: An initial budget plus 22 donations
  3. Dec 8: Our first hiccups: re-examining the initial plans and having to find a new builder
  4. Dec 13: Architectural plans and a wonderful new builder
  5. Dec 16: Ground breaking!
  6. Dec 21: Foundation and plumbing during the second week of construction
  7. Dec 24: A Christmas Message from Juan Manuel plus thank you’s to the new neighbors
  8. Jan 2: Don Rodolfo’s first glimpse of his new home
  9. Jan 10: The roof is up!
  10. Jan 18: 87,000 pesos collected, but trouble paying our builder
  11. Jan 26: Exterior is plastered
  12. Feb 1: Interior plaster, delays on the windows and doors prevent us proceeding
  13. Feb 18: House is painted; videos of interior, exterior and the view from the roof
  14. Feb 25: Kitchen is in!
  15. Mar 8: Refrigerator, boiler and an invitation to donors

Bless you all! I trust your heart is bursting with joy! Pretty much everyone who attended the ceremony this morning remarked at how moved they felt, how honored they were to be able to make a difference in someone’s lives, and how wonderful it is to be in the company of people committed to making this world a bit sweeter.

Travel through Outer Space on a Day Trip from Mazatlán

Culiacán, in general, is not my favorite getaway from Mazatlán. I’ve gone there for concerts, art exhibits, CostCo and an occasional weekend away. I do very much enjoy a long walk along Parque Las Riberas, 12 km along the rivers, especially in the evening when the bridges are lit up (cycling, pedal boats and kayaks are also popular). I love spending time in botanic gardens, and Culiacan’s is beautiful, including plants as well as modern architecture and art: well worth a visit and perhaps a picnic on the grounds. Other people gravitate to Jardines del Humaya, the world-famous narco cemetery with its lavish mausoleums (If you want to visit, I recommend you go with a local in the morning). Thus, I’ve always felt that if I needed to go to Culiacán for some reason or another, there are things to do and see, but not much to pull me there eagerly.

That opinion changed radically earlier this week when I accompanied a couple of friends there for the day. What was it that delighted my soul? The newly refurbished Sinaloa Science Center Museum, MATERIA. I would describe it as a hybrid of a science and an art museum, one in which all the interactive exhibits work and are truly astounding! Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

The building itself is a gorgeous piece of architecture, at least on the inside, with angular shapes and the light streaming in through windows on all sides. The main attraction is Sideral, a huge meteorite that fell in a small nearby pueblo in the early 1800s. The museum has the large meteorite front and center in the main gallery. Over it is a gorgeous moveable wooden pendulum that moves several times a day (we attended at 3:30 pm) and generates a song, resonating to the magnetic frequencies of the minerals in the meteorite and of the people nearby. It is magical and completely mesmerizing! HIGHLY recommended!

In several galleries surrounding Sideral are art installations that, we were told, change every six months. I very much enjoyed what was there now, with two standing out for me: an exhibition of hanging glass called “meteor shower,” and a hammock holding five or six irregularly shaped geometric pieces; the shadows of the light on the floor were hexagons for each, thus showing us the power of perspective.

Heading upstairs was another standout exhibition called “Blossoms,” a set of white ceramic-looking kinetic sculptures designed by a Stanford mathematician. They are beautiful, mostly natural forms. When you push the button, they start spinning and the human eye tells us they move in entrancing ways.

We had only been in the museum maybe thirty minutes, and I was enthralled. The docents were all young but incredibly knowledgeable; some of the most outstanding I’ve encountered in Latin America. Kudos! One of them invited us to enter the IMAX-like theater to watch the show at 4:00 pm: Cubo Negro 8K. 8K is an immersive projection of images unlike any I’ve experienced before, the only one of its kind on our continent, I was told. Again, HIGHLY recommended. This was actually my favorite part of what I saw at the museum. We experienced going into space, via projections on the large screen and the floor. We felt that we spent some time on the Space Station, and then travelled through several nebulae. Definitely not to be missed.

There was significantly more to see at MATERIA, but we needed to leave Culiacán to make it home before it got too dark. If you go, I’d recommend you plan to also spend some time in the Botanic Garden as it’s right next door. While I did not experience the James Turrell light exhibit, “Encounter,” the only one of its kind in Latin America, I have attended two other exhibits of his and can wholeheartedly recommend them. There is one show at dawn and another at dusk, Thursdays through Sundays, and you need reservations. The show lasts one hour and costs 150 pesos.

Where to Stay
Since Encounter is at dusk or dawn, it makes sense to spend the night. Culiacán offers hotels at all price ranges. One conveniently located, very nice hotel that I can recommend is the Wyndham Executive. It is very near the MASIN: the Sinaloa Art Museum and it’s GAALS (Galería Antonio López Sáenz). The MASIN is a gorgeous early 1800s building with an arched central courtyard. Permanent galleries are downstairs and temporary ones up top. GAALS usually has a main professional art exhibit downstairs, and a series of student or young professional exhibits upstairs. I thoroughly enjoyed both. While the websites say these museums are open Tuesday-Sunday, I believe that during the pandemic they are only open Thursday through Sunday. We got in, but we had special permission and a private tour.

Around the corner from the art museums is a darling little coffee shop well worth your visit—TantoGusto. They have a diverse collection of brewing devices from around the world, are very welcoming, and serve sandwiches and pastries.

If you do spend the night, don’t miss out on a visit to Mirador La Lomita, the church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, with its panoramic view of the city. Day and night the view is very good. The cathedral is also worth a visit, as is Tomateros stadium. I have never visited the MIA Museum, but it is the world’s only museum dedicated to addictions.

Where to Eat
Restaurant-wise, I enjoy Cayenna Cocina del Mundo from the Panama group, Brasa y Masa for breakfast (or any time of day), Presidio Cocina de México, and if you are a meat lover, do not miss eating at local favorite, Palomar del Rio.

Enjoy your flight through space! Please let me know how it goes! I’m curious if they rotate the movies or change them out regularly.

The Kitchen is In!

You all are absolutely the BEST! Thank you for your generosity in making it possible for us to build a Home for Juan Manuel!

In our last post to you we showed you the newly painted outside of the house with its doors and windows in place, including several videos. Today I am happy to report that we have a working kitchen installed, using donated wooden cabinet doors and a steel sink and building a base around them for kitchen storage and a counter to cook on. Woot woot! We also have water and electricity functioning in the house! Zata has built a very basic back patio using extra block and gravel, where a hose bib and donated washboard will be installed so Juan Manuel and Don Rodolfo can wash their clothes and the water will run off or soak in rather than make mud. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

A good friend of mine has offered to donate a brand new refrigerator. Fingers crossed! So, all we seem to be missing are:

  •  A small boiler for hot water—might you know someone who has one???
  • And two single beds (a trundle bed would be ideal) or at least single mattresses, as anything larger will not fit in this very small home.

Please help if you can. Ways to donate to support this project are listed at the bottom of the very first post in the series.

Once the above projects are finished, we still need to paint the interior. Some work remains on the septic tank as well.

My hope is that next time I write to you it will be to invite you to the masked and socially distanced celebration at which we hand over the keys to the home’s new owners! Bless you all!!!

Fresh New Images of Mazatlán Landmarks

Karly B, or Karla Susana Becerra Salazar’s eye-catching designs of the monuments of Mazatlán originally caught my eye on Instagram. She  came to our home for an interview—we met with masks and safe social distancing—and I’m happy to say I am the proud purchaser of several sets of eight stickers with images of the Landmarks of Mazatlán, ready for my gifting pleasure.

The stickers are her very first product and cost only 50 pesos a pack. They are colorful, thin and light—easy to mail to friends and relatives out of town or keep in a purse for easy gifting. Karly made a second series of Valentine’s designs that I also love, and is working on a whole bunch of designs that she animatedly explains to me, “are filling my head and demanding to get out!” Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Karly is a 32 year old mother of two young sons, seven years and seven months old. Mazatlecan-born, she graduated from Instituto Anglo Moderno so speaks English well, then studied graphic design at the University of Guadalajara. There she worked for international and domestic clients at One Simple Idea, a creative agency. She missed home greatly, and the family returned here late last year due to the pandemic. Her husband is also a graphic designer, from La Paz, who currently works in video game design.

KarlyB Illustration is out to upgrade the caliber of tourist souvenirs in our fair city. She wants to put her designs on stickers, wall papers, mugs and t-shirts as well as framed prints. She is currently working for private clients as well, including our friend Ocean Rodriguez, who has commissioned her to do a series of his Carnaval floats from last year. “The only thing holding  me back is time. I need more of it!” she jokes.

For the past six years Karly has been envisioning a set of lotería (Mexican bingo) cards specific to Mazatlán, but she didn’t follow through and the Mazatleco has now beat her to that idea. He actually contacted her about a pulmonía image she designed back in 2012. She felt she had learned so much in the years since that original design that she took the opportunity to create what she feels is a much-improved version this year, with smoother lines and better design.

She described to me how she works in Illustrator or PhotoShop on a large tablet with a stylus. She creates everything from start to finish digitally, from composition and draft sketches to drawing line art, coloring, adding detail and exporting. She tells me she does quite a bit of research, particularly reviewing photos, prior to beginning her designs. “I have to exaggerate to get perspective. I made our little heart plaza look more like a heart. The malecón is so long that I shrink it in my designs, and the angle of the Hotel Hacienda isn’t the best from the street so I change it up,” she explains.

“Mazatlecos love Mazatlán; we love our city perhaps more than any other people I can think of,” Karly says. I shared my hope that her designs might leverage the pride residents feel for our city and teach them the value of preserving our history, heritage, values and environment—preserving landmarks such as Valentino’s rather than razing it, caring for our waterways rather than littering them, and showing more community responsibility.

I am often saddened that our local souvenir offerings are so stale and repetitive. It’s great to see a vibrant series of modern designs based on iconic images of our beloved Mazatlán. Karly’s work is perfect for tourists and visitors as well as local residents. And I love to support a woman entrepreneur! You can purchase prints, stickers or any of her upcoming work by contacting Karly via WhatsApp: 669-289-3375 or email.

The Duality of the Cosmos: Water and its Landscapes

Interview of Guadalupe Aguilar by Ernestina Yépiz, translation by Dianne Hofner Saphiere

This article first appeared in Spanish in the online magazine Fogones: La poética del paladarI share this translation here because Guadalupe is a terrific local artist whose work I much admire. I encourage VidaMaz readers to get to know her work. Guadalupe also makes and sells kombucha here in town.

The installation in Culiacán Photos by the artist

The work of Guadalupe Aguilar, together with and in each of the creations that compose it—which in each one is complete also—establish a dialogue, almost an intimate conversation, with the landscape, poetry, writing, the creative process and creation itself. In this context her artistic vision is to permit yourself to be touched by the subtle, experiment the sublime and get a hold of the ungraspable: that which is so fleeting that we can only feel it and make it our own at the instant or sum of moments of the aesthetic experience.

Guadalupe Aguilar holds a PhD in Fine Arts from the Polytechnic University of Valencia and a Master’s in Art History from the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters of UNAM. Her creative production has been exhibited nationally and internationally. In her work as a contemporary artist she explore the relationship between art and nature; she does the same with philosophy and poetry. In her work she uses forms of expression and manifestation including installations, video, weaving, writing, drawing and sculpture.

Several exhibitions stand out in her artistic career: Über das gluck or The way of the possible, at the Cultural Institute of Mexico in Austria in 2005; The water in a thread in the Kunsthalle Krems, Austria in 2006; Words in flight, in La sala Naranja in Valencia, Spain in 2007; in 2008 Agudeza or Acuity at the Huuto Gallery in Helsinski, Finland; Inverted shipwreck in Culiacán, in 2011; Filiform Suns in the Contemporary Gallery at the University of the Cloister of Sor Juana in Mexico City in 2012; Armonía or Harmony in the Gaals, in Culiacán, Sinaloa in 2016; Rangoli-Solitaire in Mysore, India in 2016.

Currently, in one of the galleries of the Museum of Art of Sinaloa, Guadalupe Aguilar is exhibiting Azul profundo or Deep Blue, a sculptural piece in which she dialogues with the marine watercolors and drawings of Maestro Edgardo Coghlan. That very intimate conversation is the theme of this interview. Click any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

What sparked the idea of creating Deep Blue?
It all started with my reflections and readings on our inner consciousness of time, precepts taken from the philosophy of Edmund Hüsserl, primarily. The idea initially was to make a cut in the surface of the sea, with the aim of detaining the incessant coming and going of the sea’s dermis, but not it an image but rather in an object, and that is how the piece came to be. I now live so close to the ocean that these past two years I have reflected on the infinity of its surface and all it holds.

The environment and the landscape always influence.
Yes, although if I go a bit further back, I believe this idea began to germinate in my mind in 2006 or 2007, when I lived in front of a mighty river. The movement of the current got me to thinking about the fleetingness of nature and its ephemeral forms. So, I captured these thoughts in a video and sculpture. The project was titled, El agua en un hiloThe water in a thread, and it was comprised of two reticular cuts in the flow of the current, where the common thread between the two pieces, the video and the sculpture, is the Danube, in a cube and in pixels.

Certainly, contemplating the water in a thread leads us to the abstraction of thinking about the flow of time.
Yes, both pieces pose an exercise around the idea of time and invite us to think about the present, the result equates the internal weight of the past and the future. The here and now.

Why did you choose the Masin (Museum of Art of Sinaloa) for the Deep Blue exhibition?
In 2011 I exhibited the Otra forma or Other Form there, a piece measuring two square meters and consisting of a grid of pins as a support for geometric parts of the plant world. There I saw for the first time the marinas that Master Edgardo Coghlan made, which tour part of the Sinaloan landscape and geography. Since then, I have dialogued with his work and Deep Blue is the result of that conversation. I consider, moreover, that it is important to explore the Sinaloan landscape, which during this long confinement has been denied to us. It is a good moment to revalue our environment and promote its care.

Does Deep Blue mark a distance from your previous work? I ask not in a conceptual or thematic way, but rather for the type of materials you utilized: paraffin, crystal, metal, steels cables and LED lamps.
Distance in the sense of moving away from, no. I actually think that I always repeat myself, including with the type of materials. In addition to the piece described in question one, that corresponds to an installation exhibited in Kunsthalle de Krems, Austria in 2006, I’ve also made drops of resin and clung to the idea of stopping the path of the water drops. Once I made rain with needles and other times sculptures of resin or paraffin. The drops of resin were never exhibited, but the persistent rain of needles was part of the Soles filiformes exhibition which took place in the Contemporary Gallery of the Cloister of Sor Juana.

I had the opportunity to see your poetic-conceptual, visual and auditory proposal. I remember you used paraffin. A lot of time has passed since then.
Yes, quite a bit, I believe; it was in 2012.

What was the last exhibition you had prior to Deep Blue?
I believe Deep Blue is an obvious continuation of the exhibition mounted just a few months ago in Bauprés Gallery in Mazatlán, which included objects that detain the fugitive forms of the landscape surrounding my Mazatlecan habitat. That exhibit was entitled The Permanence of the Ephemeral.

What artistic projects are you currently working on?
A huge imprint of the tormented sea and on stopping the mind.