The mayor, El Químico Benítez, has been planning a Plaza de la Banda for Mazatlán, inspired in Guadalajara’s Plaza del Mariachi and Mexico City’s Plaza Garibaldi. Those plans were put on hold during the COVID pandemic, but activity seems to have resumed in recent weeks.
While nothing is yet firm, locations discussed for the plaza include the empty lot in front of the aquarium, where buses and tourists now park, as well as possibly building an extension of the malecón out into the ocean.
When I recently saw an incredibly Instagram-friendly projection of a five-meter-tall public artwork intended for the new plaza, El Pedro Infante Besador (Kissing Pedro Infante), I was motivated to interview the artist. He is one of the best muralists in Mexico today, widely exhibited internationally, and a native-born Sinaloense from Mocorito (1968): Ernesto Rios Rocha. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.
Maestro Rios told me that in 2019 the mayor called to request him to draw up the initial plans for the plaza. He worked on them for four months, and the plans he presented included kinetic sculptures with illumination and music. One of them was the Pedro Infante, and another a sculpture of Don Cruz Lizárraga with a 30 meter tuba!
Ernesto Rios is the artist who spent three years (2008-2011) living in Mazatlán, and with a crew of 28 built the Guinness-record-holding large mural on the outside wall of the convention center. He and his helpers also painted the striking figurative-surrealist murals inside. He has works displayed in the national palace in Mexico City and was commissioned for AMLO’s presidential portrait.
Maestro Ernesto is quite a Renaissance man: he paints, sculpts and composes music. He studied with the Fridos, those well-respected students of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo: Arturo García Bustos, Rina Lazo and Enrique Estrada. He has campaigned for the past five years or so for the opening of a School of Muralism and Monumental Art in Mexico City. Such an endeavor sounds smart to me; Mexico is so well known for its tradition and artists in that vein.
During my interview Rios Rocha made two main points that he’d love for me to share with our readers:
Murals need maintenance every five to seven years. Properly cleaning them will double their lifespan. He urges everyone in Mazatlán and Sinaloa to campaign to have Mazatlán’s convention center mural properly cleaned and restored.
There is a beautiful Byzantine-style mural by the artist Rolando Arjona Amabilis (the same artist who made Mazatlán’s escudo in Olas Altas) in Culiacan’s Parque Constitución, on Obregón Street, that is badly in need of restoration. This is a valuable piece of art and heritage that he strongly urges us to preserve.
Most every one of us has felt marginalized, left out, misunderstood, bullied or abused in one way or another in our lives. For those who find themselves outside traditional binary gender categories or whose sexual attraction isn’t hetero, life can come with way too many challenges at way too young an age. I believe this is why Pride celebrations are so incredibly important; they give us permission to celebrate love, acceptance, visibility and justice.
As a Mazatlán resident, I am delighted that we have a vibrant, vocal and talented LGBTQQIAAP (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexuual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersexual, Allies, Asexual, Pansexual) community. This past Saturday, though our city is again under “red light” for the pandemic, both a Pride parade and a major Pride event in the Angela Peralta Theater took place. Many complained it was dangerous and bad timing to gather. While I agree, it surely was a better reason congregating than was the banda concert on Friday night at the new football stadium.
Performances included classical ballet, modern dance, comedy, impersonation and drag. The juxtaposition of complex emotions that often accompany these events was there.
Attendees’ hearts soared; love and joy ruled.
It felt great to shower attention on people and issues that are so often kept in the shadows.
Though I no longer frequent night clubs, I am proud to know that our town has such high caliber performers and that I know I can go enjoy them anytime.
It is discomfiting to see a man looking much more voluptuous and sexier as a woman than I’ve ever looked in my life.
Knowing how it feels to struggle with an ill-fitting bra, high-heeled shoes or other item of clothing, I feel tons of empathy for those in drag struggling to keep their rubber hips and padded breasts in place while moving around on stage.
I am saddened that people whose gender is not what their birth bodies indicate have to struggle so. Life is so not fair.
I realize how many LGBTQ+ individuals do not enjoy these sorts of events, for various reasons; it shows the diversity within any community of people.
There were so many communities of support in the theater on Saturday night! Performers’ families and friends showed up to hoot, holler and generally encourage them, multi-generational families in the audience all gleefully enjoyed the show, and the children in the audience learned to embrace difference rather than fear it.
So many attendees dressed up, cross-dressed, or wore Pride gear. They carried signs and flags. There was shared purpose.
It was incredible to see love expressed in so many different ways and combinations.
In the theater everyone wore masks and seats were socially distanced. However, it was very crowded. As a member of the press, it was hard to get close enough to get good photos. That’s where I admire the newspaper photographers; they do this all the time and know exactly what gear to bring and what settings to use. In this post I’ve included a few of my favorites from Saturday night. I trust you’ll enjoy them.
Click any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.
The Angela Peralta was decked out for the event. The façades of the Municipal School of the Arts and the opera house were lit with rainbow-colored lights. The lobby of the theater had a huge rainbow carpet, rainbow wall, tall statues lit in rainbow colors, and an altar in tribute to a departed friend. The stage lighting transported the theater to Broadway; everyone present knew we were part of something big.
They say one in every ten people is LGBTQ+. My guess is it’s higher than that. In celebration of justice, love and inclusion, how about each of us reach out to a friend or neighbor and have a real conversation? Ask if they wouldn’t mind sharing with us a bit of their life journey, their joys and challenges. Find out what we all have in common, and what we don’t. And how we can all live in this world in ways that bring out the best of each and every one of us, while minimizing the struggle. Amidst all the social distancing and isolation, such conversations can surely do a world of good.
I don’t know about you, but Greg and I have been really feeling Mazatlán’s growing pains lately. The traffic has gotten horrendous, especially on the weekends. Remember when we used to say you could go anywhere in town in 20 minutes? Not anymore. Yes, if you live downtown and just walk around there, you’re ok. But there is much more to Mazatlán than those dozen blocks. The noise has also gotten nearly untenable. I LOVE parties, music, and people having fun. It’s one of the best things about this beautiful town: the joy of its people. But when a motorcycle, RAZR or auriga blaring awakens you from deep slumber at 3 or 4 am every night of the week, and your dinner guests can’t have a decent conversation on your terrace, well, not so much.
So, for our anniversary, I was looking around for a quiet, romantic place the two of us could celebrate and enjoy some peace and quiet—something close to home. Boy did I ever find it! We have fallen in love with Toninas Ecological Boutique Hotel.
Toninas is on the beach in Celestino Gasca, just over an hour north of Mazatlán on the toll road (just north of Las Labradas and south of Cruz de Elota). What attracted me to make the reservation were its proximity, apparent serenity, the modernity of its finishes (I’ve stayed in eco-lodges that were glorified campsites), and the beauty of its architecture and environment. Each of these surpassed our expectations. And, a big bonus, we feel we have found new and extremely interesting friends in Camila and Enrique, the owner/managers. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.
Arriving at the resort, we unpacked our luggage into Bungalow Cardenal and of course headed straight to the beach. Yes, we live on the beach, but we couldn’t wait to see this one. To our delight, even though it was 3:00 in the afternoon, there were two oyster divers just leaving the water and packing up to go home. Sell us some oysters? Sure! Saul was happy to shuck us a dozen. OMG! They were HUGE and oh so sweet!!!! I paid him 100 pesos for the pleasure and enjoyed them raw that evening and again the next day in an omelet.
Heading back into our home for the next three days and two nights, we took our time to check it out. What first jumped out at me were the wonderful lamps made my local artist Luis Valenzuela. These absolutely gorgeous light fixtures are made with recycled materials—driftwood and rope! I also very much enjoyed the international artwork on the walls. I learned that Enrique and Camilla both worked in the foreign service and were stationed in such places as Paris, Beirut, Beijing,Bogotá, London and Hanoi. They met and fell in love in Rabat, Morocco. No wonder the artwork in the cabañas is so eclectic!
The architecture of the cabañas and the main communal palapa that I had admired online did not disappoint. Our one-bedroom rock and stucco bungalow with terrace had a direct view of the ocean and sunset from the sliding doors in the living room and the window in the bedroom. It was very well built by local contractor, Manuel Valenzuela. Comfy couches lined the natural wood walls. The kitchen is part of the great room with the living and dining area; our dining table was bar-height with stools. Our bedroom had two double beds and plenty of room to put luggage and our things. The best part of the cabaña, however, is the bathroom! Unlike so many eco-hotels, this one has running water (hot and cold – both with great pressure) and a flush toilet right there, in your unit. Best of all? You open the glass shower door to step outside into your own private rear patio garden, where you can shower amongst the flowers and under the sun or stars! Your excess shower water irrigates the plants.
While our cabaña had an awesome dining area, we ate both our breakfasts out in the palapa. The large central palapa has quite a few seating areas, including easy chairs and cocktail tables, dining tables and chairs, hammocks and hammock chairs. It overlooks the pool and jacuzzi as well as the beach. There is a walkway leading down from the pool and palapa area to another couple of smaller palapas also overlooking the beach (where we enjoyed sunset drinks), and a short staircase from them down to the beach itself. From the property it is an easy walk to restaurants, to the fishing boats or into town. Restaurants are also more than happy to deliver.
Below is a video of our interview with Enrique and Camila, the two terrifically talented and interesting young people who run Toninas. If you’re wondering if they enjoy what they do, just look at their smiles!
AMENITIES Toninas is an ecological resort. The toiletries are all high quality, eco-friendly products from Däki Natural. There is a huge garrafón of drinking water in every cabaña, so no need to use those horribly polluting plastic water bottles. Each cabaña has a compost box, which delighted my soul. The three-part swimming pool is absolutely gorgeous, with a jacuzzi, wading pool and lap pool. The two of us put it to very good use! Water for the saltwater swimming pool is taken from the ocean, filtered to purify it, and eventually returned back to the ocean cleaner than it left; a win-win for everyone! Before construction of the pool began, Enrique and Camilla met with the local fishermen and received their blessings. In a nod to creature comforts, there is wifi throughout the property, mini-split air conditioners in the living and bedrooms, a Smart TV in the bedroom, a generous refrigerator and terrific induction stove in the kitchen, and as mentioned above, very hot running water.
MEALS Toninas supplies pool towels as well as a stocked kitchen: coffee, the coffee maker, a blender, dishes, cutlery, glasses and cups, pots and pans, bowls, knives. Greg and I took ingredients for our breakfasts that we prepared there and very much enjoyed leisurely mornings. While Enrique has plans to have a restaurant on site, currently you need to order in, go out or cook. Thus, be sure to take the food, snacks and drinks that you want. Celestino has quite a few markets and of course sells beer, but if, like us, you want some special wine, champagne or whiskey, best to bring it with.
Our bungalow did not have wine glasses or a bottle opener; I’m confident that Enrique and Camila will happily supply both if you need them. They have scoped out the good restaurants in town and are happy to share their recommendations with you; be sure to ask. Greg and I do not recommend La Esmeralda, which, sadly, is right on the beach north of the property. Pescado zarandeado is popular here, as are ceviche, shrimp, aguachile, and oysters. Just a note, though: here they make zarandeado with mayonnaise and mustard, quite different than what we are used to in Mazatlán.
The couple is intent on promoting local talent and ecologically sustainable development. They told us all about the wonderful couple who have formed a marine turtle sanctuary, and the awesome group of empowered, joyous women who run the restaurant Celestina.
ACTIVITIES We spent three days and two nights just chilling: beach walks, morning and evening swims, leisurely conversations, reading, sunset cocktails, and some wildlife and astrophotography, of course. The beaches here are very nice. Toninas is on a bay, but a very open one, so the surf is strong. I took some photos of the cool dunes and rock formations on the beach, as we don’t see that here in Mazatlán. If we had stayed longer, I would have hired a panga to take us down to Las Labradas. I’ve always disliked that bumpy road leading to this world heritage zone and arriving by boat would be quite enjoyable. If you like to mountain bike, I’d urge you take your bicycles as Enrique has mapped a few wonderful routes. Greg wished his knee was healed as there’s a lot of good place to run. I’m guessing you could also go horseback riding; we saw quite a few horses. In season the Celestino community releases baby turtles, thanks to the turtle sanctuary. You can also arrange to go fishing, there is incredible bird watching, and Toninas has a couple of stand-up paddle boards (SUPs) and kayaking.
The first night of our stay was the lunar eclipse, the so-called “Super Flower Blood Moon Eclipse” of 2021. We were very grateful to set our alarms to wake us up at 2:30 am, as it was a thrill to watch the moon gradually darken, until it turned red and the Milky Way splashed brightly and completely across the sky from west to east! As the morning dawned, the Milky Way dimmed, and the moon regained her sheen. What a night to remember! And of course, being as it is so quiet there, we had no problem sleeping a few hours after the celestial show was finished. A few days later I had the pleasure to see that the astronomers at NASA published my lunar eclipse with Milky Way shot! Bless you, Toninas!
DETAILS AND PRICING
One Bedroom Bungalow (4 people maximum)
Two double beds, wifi, smart tv, stocked kitchen, dining area, living room, terrace, garden bathroom, air conditioning.
• 2499 pesos/night during the week, 3094 weekends with 2 night minimum
• High season Jul 15-Aug 22 and holidays: 3094 pesos/night during the week, 3500 weekends
Two Bedroom Bungalow (8 people maximum)
Same as the above but each bedroom has two double beds and there are two private bathrooms.
• 4700 pesos/night during the week, 5794 weekends with 2 night minimum
• High season Jul 15-Aug 22 and holidays: 5794 pesos/night during the week, 6700 weekends
Double Room (4 people maximum)
Toninas also has an option of a simple room for 4 people maximum with mini fridge, stovetop, coffee maker, bathroom, terrace and ocean view. You will be renting just one of the rooms of the two-bedroom bungalow.
• 2200 pesos/night during the week, 2800 weekends with 2 night minimum
• High season Jul 15-Aug 22 and holidays: 2800 pesos/night during the week, 3200 weekends
I’ve written you before about cosplay in our fair city. Dressing up as anime or movie characters, and even acting the part, has become a huge worldwide industry, from Japan, Korea and China to the Americas and Europe. We’ve had several conventions in town, and this past Sunday evening La Mona downtown hosted an event by Carlos Reyes and his Copa Cosplay Pacífico.
The event included participants walking the cat walk much like a fashion show, and the judges choosing the best characters. First we got the top seven, then the top two. In between there was singing and some awesomely cool movies of cosplayers (locally called “freakies”) doing their thing on the beach and around time.
I love events like this. It’s wonderful to see people enjoying themselves and acting silly. I fell in love with the tiniest cosplayer, whose Mom also dressed up, though Dad sat to take care of her. Poison Ivy was my personal favorite—so much energy and joy of life infused into that character! She definitely stole the show. She took second place, while the giant machine-cat guy (please tell me the character’s name) placed first. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.
One of the most enjoyable local fishing traditions in Mazatlán is when the pajaritos run. In English these delicious fish, normally fried up whole here, are called ballyhoos, flying halfbeaks or spipefish, closely related to needlefish. They are called “flying fish” in our local parlance because they glide over the surface of the water at up to 60 kph/37 mph.
Last night the boats were all fortunately very close in fishing, and you could easily watch them come in to unload and sell. The energy was palpable and festive; the fishermen make good money for just a few hours’ work. It was a fun family scene, far tamer than in non-pandemic times but still a lot of excitement. You can maintain your social distance and get down to the boats to buy your fish. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.
In May of 2019 I took my tripod and good camera down to Playa Norte to capture the joy and excitement of this event. You can see those photos and read an in-depth story here. This year of course we have a pandemic, and I was not comfortable to take more than a quick masked walk through the area and photos with my cell phone.
Pajarito season can last just a few days or, if we’re lucky, a few weeks. So, head down to your nearest fishing boat mooring and get yours! You can find them on Stone Island, at the embarcadero to Stone Island, and in Playa Norte. It’s best to take your own container—a big bucket or smaller bowl or Tupperware will do. They were again selling for 40 pesos per kg and cleaned ones for 100 pesos per kg. If you don’t want to cook your own, local seafood places have them on the menu now. They are delicious! If you haven’t tried this local tradition, don’t miss it. If you have, I’m sure you’re happy to know the pajaritos are back.