Terrific Long Weekend from MZT

A couple of blue-footed boobies. They love to touch beaks; could it be a boobie kiss?

I recently had the enormous pleasure of spending two nights of rustic camping at an unbelievably gorgeous spot: Isla Isabel, Nayarit. It is a mini Galapagos three hours’ boat ride from San Blas, which is about a three hour drive south of Mazatlán. I went with a few biologists, an astronomer, an ornithologist and a few friends; eight people in all. The trip was incredible!

Watch till the end: a family of blue-footed boobies will greet you.

On the boat on the ride to the island we were able to jump into the Pacific with our snorkels and masks and swim with whale sharks! We were cautioned not to touch them, but mine came right up to me and stayed beside me, touching me, for a good 30 seconds while she ate from the plankton in the channel. Heaven on earth!!! Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow. All photos are available as prints; contact me privately and thank you for supporting my efforts!

Also on the journey to the island we saw dozens of humpback whales, either courting, which is when you see the males hitting each other with their fins, or with their babies. While my long-held dream of catching one fully breaching went unfulfilled, I took many photos of them spewing and of that wonderful tail in the air pose.

Arriving to the island I was struck by the clear blue water and the volcanic rock. The first thing we did after setting up our tents was put on our swim suits and jump into the “pozos,” naturally occurring swimming holes that surround the island. They were terrific! The waves crash into them keeping things fresh, and if you have a mask and snorkel you can see loads of fish, star fish, crabs, etc.

The island is well known for “Las Monas” or nearby rock outcroppings. We were able to snorkel around them from our boat. There are also a couple of nice sandy beaches.

We chose to go in March as the boobies are nesting then. And boy, did we see boobies! Loads of my favorite blue-footed variety, as well as the brown- and red-footed boobies. The babies are cute and fluffy, with blue eyes to match their feet. Mom and Dad both tend to the nest and the offspring. On the whole the boobies were very friendly and curious. I suppose because Isla Isabel is a nature preserve, they do not seem to feel threatened by human presence. I kept my distance from the nests, however, using a long lens to get the close-up shots.

I especially loved to watch the boobies fly. Their wings are apparently jointed in the middle, and as they fly they bend them vertically in the center, up and down. When they come in for a landing it is downright comical: their big round eyes look surprised or scared, their huge blue feet stick out in front of them as if to say, “Watch out! I’m coming in! Aaaahhhh!” The folding of their wings up and down at ninety degree angles is a sight to behold. In addition to my photos, I will share with you a beautiful video filmed by my dear friend Omar Calvario.

Wait for it! It’s worth watching the landing! Video by Omar Calvario.

During our stay the frigate birds were also nesting. As with the boobies, both parents take care of the nest and the babies. Sadly, we witnessed at least three babies fall from their nests. The biologists told us that once the baby falls to the ground, the parents abandon it. It was heart-wrenching to refrain from giving these fallen birds food or water, to preserve the natural order. They were soooo cute and very forlorn. The male frigate birds develop bright red gullets during mating season, which they inflate like balloons. They then release the air in those inflated red gullets slowly to make their mating call, which sounds like a guttural vibration or “tap tap tap.” At first I thought they were snapping their beaks together.

Isla Isabel is also covered with iguanas; they are everywhere. Between the huge quantity of birds, the smell of guano, and having to watch your step to avoid iguanas, I really felt that we were visiting the Land that Time Forgot. It seemed to me to be the time of the dinosaurs—a time long ago before humans ruined the natural environment of Pachamama. Below are photos of a couple of tropic birds.

A final blessing of our trip were clear, cloudless skies! We went during the new moon, hoping to photograph the Milky Way. We were blessed with two nights for photography. My only disappointment was that there was a sailboat off the island, exactly toward the galactic center, and it had a bright light on top of its mast. As it was inevitable, I choose to think it adds to the beauty of the photographs. I was also able to capture photos of the nesting frigates, who nest in the trees, with the Milky Way overhead. My dream had been to capture nesting boobies with the galactic center, but as they nest on the ground this was a bit more problematic. I guess I’ll just have to make another trip.

I came home with numerous cuts, scratches, bruises and splinters. Ten days later I am still removing splinters from various spots on my body. Isla Isabel is not high-end luxury travel. I fell in love with the place and can’t wait to return. I am fearful, however, because the Mexican government is building a terminal in San Blas that will have daily ferry service to Isla Isabel as well as the Islas Marías. While they say the trips offered will be eco-touristic, it frightens me that these gorgeous nature preserves may soon be ruined. I am guessing that ferry service may make the islands more accessible as day trips, which could be nice. If you want to go, I urge you to do so soon, before it’s too late. We went with:
SARTIAGUIN TOURS Y EXPEDICIONES, Calle Valentín Canalizo, 63740 San Blas, México, Tel. 311 117 1123, e-mail: emiliosartiaguinc@hotmail.com.

If you enjoy my reporting and the photography, please help us continue it by purchasing a print. They make terrific gifts and look great in your home or office. Contact me at thrudiseyes@gmail.com or via WhatsApp +52-669-122-8962.

Winds of Change

Photo from the fourth and final choreography

Unbelievably, the Angela Peralta theater was nowhere near COVID-capacity Friday night for Delfos Contemporary Dance’s Vientos de Cambio (Winds of Change), which kicked off the 2022 Spring Season for Cultura Mazatlán. If you weren’t there, you lost out on an incredible performance! Each of the four pieces presented from the Delfos repertoire were stellar, sharing with us the emotionality, power, and drama we are privileged to expect from them.

The third dance, with only the women on stage, was what stuck with me. It hit my heart and soul hard. Each woman’s mouth was taped shut with what looked like electrical tape. They all wore ponytails and hauled and pulled one another around by the hair in disgustingly realistic ways. The performance was way too close to home. Any woman of my age has lived through the experiences portrayed in the dance. The piece culminated with the women removing their tops; their body movements and lighting were reminiscent of the best fine art nudes. At its conclusion, the audience was heard to openly gasp for air; it obviously moved most everyone the way it did me. To me the piece illustrated the pull of our patriarchal systems: how we are all victims when power is not shared; how cruel women can be to each other—something we’ve sadly absorbed from an inequitable, unjust system; and the crucial importance of sorority, equity and social justice. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

I also loved the piece with the origami boats. The light on the white paper made them absolutely glow on the stage; I’m not sure if my photography was able to capture the wonder of the moment that the audience experienced, with dozens of origami pieces lining the stage.

Choreographers of the night’s works were Xitlali Piña and the company’s co-founder and director, Victor Manuel Ruíz. The dancers included Surasi Lavalle, Johnny Millán, Xitlali Piña, Luisa Escobosa, Diego Alcalá and Rodrigo Agraz, plus two special guests, Vanya Saavedra and Katia Rivera.

When I think of Delfos I think emotionality, power, and darkness; their lighting has a theme that, while dramatic, is very challenging to photographers. Friday night’s scenography was an event in itself, as usual; the graphic and powerful lighting, minimalist set and creative costuming were contributing stars of the show.

During the performance and as I write this article, I want to shout out how much I MISS THE PROGRAMS that for years were handed out at every performance in our theaters!!! I know they ostensibly were stopped because of COVID, but then couldn’t we perhaps be told the content by the announcer pre-performance, or read it online? I for one was eager to understand the title of and intention behind each piece, and I love knowing for sure who choreographed and performed what.
EDIT: Having published this, Johnny Millán kindly sent me the program that I had been unable to locate; it had been posted on Facebook. Here it is:


The public here in Mazatlán has a lot to look forward to coming November, when Delfos will celebrate their 30th anniversary with a series of performances including Minimal, which debuted last year. The company will also perform at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City with a new piece.

Carnaval 2022

Above is a calendar I have assembled so you can print it out —
whether you are attending or avoiding the festivities.

So many of you have written in to ask me about the specifics of this year’s Carnaval. There are a few major changes from tradition, primarily due to COVID. The biggest is that Saturday night’s fireworks will NOT be in Olas Altas but will be launched from a dozen different locations around our bay—from Valentino’s in the north to Casa del Marino in the south. There will be quite a few barges launching fireworks to represent the French side of the battle. CULTURA has confirmed with me the 11 pm time, even though the newspapers and other outlets say 10 pm. Tradition is at 11 to give time for the queen to arrive from her coronation. The map CULTURA MZT gave me of the launch locations is below.

Map of fireworks launch locations

If you are wanting to watch the fireworks or one of the two parades, PLEASE NOTE that there are specific entry points to the malecón/oceanfront promenade. A map of those locations is below. NOTE that the first parade will go north PAST RAFAEL BUELNA (last minute change) to Gaviotas this year! Please also note that CULTURA is telling us that vaccination certificates will be required for entry. I can’t imagine that in practice with such huge crowds, but such is the official notice and you will be wise to take it along in case.

Map of access points for the two parades and the fireworks.

Secondly, the coronation of the King this year has moved to the baseball stadium; all the coronation events and concerts will be there. Remember that for the coronations you do need to purchase a ticket at CULTURA offices on Aleman street or at the Angela Peralta Theater ticket office.

Thirdly, the “fair” or carnival rides that normally are in the vacant lot by Sam’s Club have moved to Avenida de la Bahía, now officially called Avenida Quirino Ordaz Coppel, one block off the malecón in front of Parque Central.

Fourth, CULTURA tells me the Burning of Bad Humor will take place before Saturday’s fireworks, but they have not yet decided where exactly or what time. Thus, it is not included in my calendar.

Many of you have been complaining that this year it has been very hard to find locations and start times of events. Thus, I have confirmed and reconfirmed with CULTURA and made you a the calendar to print out, whether you want to be sure to enjoy the events or you want to stay as far away from the crowds as possible.

I’ve also received questions about the theme: “LANAO: The journey continues.” “Lanao,” to my knowledge, is a made-up word, a place of fantasy and magic. The theme thus far seems to be heavily reliant on steam punk, and involves inward journeys as well as those to fantastical places and outer space. It’s the most gorgeous and fun theme we’ve seen in a long time, so even if you’re staying away from crowds, get out and enjoy it! One way to do that is to walk or bicycle down the malecón and view the monigotes or giant statues. You can view a few photos I’ve taken of those statues by clicking here. Some of them are lit at night; so be sure to see them during daylight as well as at night.

Finally, I am offering a special edition Carnaval fantasy print for sale, “Stargazing Carnavalesco.” You can purchase it beautifully printed and mounted on marcocel (fiber board), 24 x 16 inches, for just 1000 pesos! Easy to pack in luggage as it has a hard coating and won’t mark easily. Alternatively, it can be giclée printed on archival paper, 18 x 12 inches, for 1800 pesos. Proceeds help me keep you as informed as I can and help me keep creating photographs. I appreciate your support if possible. WhatsApp +52-669-122-8962 for payment information and delivery.

“Stargazing Carnavalesco” is available printed and mounted for just 1000 pesos!
WhatsApp +52-669-122-8962 for payment information and delivery.

UPDATE 24 February: CULTURA has said that the Burning of Bad Humor will be at 10:30 pm on Saturday, just prior to the fireworks. They have not specified a location but if you are interested, it’ll be on the malecón and you can follow the bottle rockets.
Also they have scheduled a free street concert on Monday night with El Coyote. I’ve added this latter concert to the calendar.

Finally, I’m happy to say that the Mazatlán Tourism Board has called mine the “official” calendar, see email below.

Mazatlán Tourism Board’s link to our Carnaval calendar

Enjoy Carnaval, everyone and please, stay safe! And remember to purchase your special Carnaval print at a special price today! It helps me to continue sharing updates with you and taking the photos that gratefully so many of you love. Just WhatsApp me at 669-122-8962.

Update One Year On: A Home for Juan Manuel

You ROCK! Your generosity has made a tremendous difference in the lives of two wonderful Mazatleco men in need. Thank you very, very much!

Juan Manuel, Don Rodolfo, Dianne and Greg

Last Christmas 85 families contributed to building a small but precious “little blue house” for Juan Manuel and Don Rodolfo. The building and furnishing process took several months and loads of love, but I want to report to you that the two gentlemen are living in their new home happily and healthily! 

Thank you and bless you!!! Your year-end love for others and gifting to those less fortunate has made a huge difference in their lives. Rodolfo and Manuel are incredibly proud to own their own home. Below I share with you a video message from them, thanking the donors from the bottom of their hearts and wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

After we began the house project, Don Rodolfo suffered a cerebral hemorrhage that caused partial paralysis in his face and left arm. He suffers great pain, on and off, in the damaged hand. Juan Manuel, his son, was blind and had lost a leg when we started. Shortly after we gave them the home in March 2021, Manuel had to go on dialysis twice a week for 4-5 hours each time. These were major health setbacks for each of these two gentlemen, yet they continue joyful, grateful and optimistic. The gigantic key we gave them when we handed over the keys to the house, engraved with their names, still proudly hangs on the front door. Inside the home is very much a home: family photographs, books, and daily necessities all have a place in the tiny yet comfortable space.

Just last week Rodolfo used the leftover blue paint to redo the exterior of the “little blue house” (Adolfo’s dream color, a play on Frida Kahlo’s beautiful home in Coyoacán). He added a white line around the perimeter, which is a very charming addition; it really makes the periwinkle jump out. Our son’s girlfriend’s father gifted them a couple of papaya trees and a guava, which have grown strong and born them much fruit. They are now very proud gardeners who were recently gifted a lime tree as well. The trees provide shade to the house and back patio, which Rodolfo has covered with a tarp to provide additional shade. Someone generously donated a used washing machine to them, which they located on the rear patio, but it does not work properly, so Rodolfo washes clothes and bedding by hand on the exterior washboard we installed. With his paralyzed and painful hand that is far from easy. They’ve strung clotheslines on the back patio and have a chair on the front porch. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

You may remember that we received a solid wood trundle bed, which has proven to be absolutely perfect for the space and their lives. Juan Manuel sleeps on top, and Don Rodolfo folds up a plastic chaise lounge and once that is out of the way he pulls out the trundle in order to sleep at night. 

The younger son gifted them a beautiful large wooden armoire that locks; that is where they now keep their clothing and valuables. They received a donated, used television and miraculously have SKY TV! The television is invaluable to Juan Manuel, as he listens to news shows throughout the day. It seems the 350 pesos-every-two-months that they pay for electricity includes the television signal as well. The sad thing to me is that we didn’t install a conduit for the cable, so Rodolfo had to drill a hole through the previously water-tight concrete wall. Live and learn.

While we installed a water heater in the home, deeming it a necessity given Manuel’s health needs, they have been using cold water only. Rodolfo told me they have only the one propane tank, and it currently supplies the cooking stove; the tank doesn’t have a splitter valve. With the cold temperatures having arrived, it would be so nice to get the water heater working. They have not been using the microwave we bought them back when they still lived in their rental home, because the electrical current in the invasion/squatter colony is not strong enough to power the oven. Manuel’s brother is keeping the microwave until they are ready to have it. 

Over the summer Juan Manuel and Rodolfo had to move out of the little blue house to live with the younger son and his family for six weeks or so. It made for extremely crowded and uncomfortable living conditions for everyone involved. Manuel’s doctor said it was imperative that he not sweat, or the dialysis port would become infected. We had installed a ceiling fan and gifted them a floor fan, plus the windows and doors all open, but our efforts weren’t enough to keep the home cool. There is insufficient electrical current to power an air conditioner. This is a problem that will arise again next summer. Though by then the area may have official metered electrical service, making an A/C and microwave possible.

Each time I visit, both men are warm, smiling and welcoming. They struggle to pay for dialysis, which costs 700 pesos each session plus the 200-peso cab fare to get to the General Hospital and back (1800/week total). They are overjoyed when we bring them despensas/food stuffs. This Christmas they are hoping for some new clothes and a few toys for Rodolfo’s two grandchildren/Juan Manuel’s niece and nephew; Rodolfo told us that his younger son, Manuel’s brother, lost his job four months ago and is now working at one that pays only half what he made previously. Brandon Giovani is nine years old and love to play with toy cars and pistols.

Sofia Beatriz is four and enjoys dolls, jigsaw puzzles and coloring books.

My main purpose with this article is to thank you for your generosity. We truly have a wonderful community here in Mazatlán. Thank you! Should you wish to again help Juan Manuel or Rodolfo in some way (donation towards dialysis, help with propane tank splitter or washing machine, toys for the grandkids or clothes, shoes or food for the two men), please let me know (dianne@vidamaz.com, What’sApp 669-122-8962). I can help you get it to them or pick it up and get it to them for you. 

Here’s wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a blessings-filled 2022! Stay healthy and happy.

Tenth Anniversary Gala of the Mazatlán Ballet

Oh, what a night! Saturday evening, November 13 in the Angela Peralta Theater our beloved and incredibly talented professional ballet company celebrated its tenth anniversary with a gala performance. The entrance to the theater was decked out in draped red velvet, there was a gorgeous candelabra stage left, the theater was packed but with social distancing and mandatory masking, and the energy and execution of the evening were terrific!

One of only four professional ballet companies in Mexico (the National Ballet in Mexico City, Monterrey and the more recently founded Youth Ballet of Jalisco), we have been blessedly spoiled by their presence in our city these past ten years. Young professional dancers from here have gone on to dance in Mexico’s National Ballet, in Monterrey, and in renowned professional companies in the USA and Europe. In the finale of the show on Saturday, students from our Municipal School of Classical Ballet joined the pros on stage, in a nod to Mazatlán’s future generations of professional dancers.

The company’s very first production seems to me like yesterday; the comedic ballet La Fille Mal Gardeé or The Wayward Daughter was performed on November 18 and 19, 2011 with costumes from Bellas Artes in Mexico City and scenography by Raúl Font. That was during a golden age of the Municipal Institute of Culture, Tourism and Art, when artists banded together under Raúl Rico González’ leadership with a goal of positioning Mazatlán as home to the highest quality cultural arts in northwest Mexico. After performing The Wayward Daughter here, the company took it to Culiacán and La Paz. 

During the tenth anniversary gala on Saturday night the company’s 14 professional dancers presented eleven movements including nine pas de deux from classical, neoclassical and contemporary choreographies. The scenography was gorgeous, with classical pillars made of curtaining and a constructed bridge that, combined with changing projections on the big screen, leant themselves well to the various settings of the choreographies. Costuming was lovely with a broad variety of styles to appropriately accompany each dance.

The pieces performed were Romeo and JulietLe Corsaire, Thaïs, The Parting, The Flames of ParisAdagio, Penumbra, Andante, Spiegel im Spiegel, A Mí and Venetian Carnival. Two of the pieces were accompanied by live music: violin, piano and cello. Artistic Direction was by company co-founder, Guillermo Carrillo. Sadly, Oscar Treto Hevia injured his leg tendons in rehearsals and was unable to perform; he was to be the principal male dancer in Romeo and Juliet pas de deux. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

This is a young company, with one dancer performing professionally for the very first time, yet all danced with incredible aplomb, strength, grace and beauty given the early stages of their careers. The audience could feel the youthful joy and vigor of the dancers. Venetian Carnaval was the most substantial piece of the evening, with the full company on stage and costuming made for the narrative of the ballet. This is a challenging choreography that had both principal dancers, Sandra Fernández Hernández and Carlo Bravo, leaping repeatedly.

Cultura Mazatlán Director José Angel Tostado Quevedo congratulated the company for their hard work and exceptional contribution to our port. Standing with him was Zoila Fernández, company co-founder and current Artistic Director of Cultura Mazatlán. Also on stage for the rounds of applause and “bravos” were Ballet Director Guillermo Carrillo, and current and past company and ballet school members and staff.

The current repertoire of the Mazatlán Ballet includes:

  • La Fille Mal Gardeé or The Wayward Daughter
  • Don Quijote
  • Giselle
  • The Nutcracker
  • Swan Lake (2nd act)
  • Carmen
  • Romeo and Juliet pas de deux
  • Le Corsaire
  • Sleeping Beauty

I am proud to say I have enjoyed each and every one of these with them, some of them several times. The company has become an integral star of our local arts scene, participating in arts and cultural festivals, operas, the Mazatlán Carnivals and Day of the Dead festivities. 

Maestra Zoila Fernández, Artistic Director of Cultura Mazatlán and founder of the Mazatlán Ballet, told me for this article, “The company now dances in classic and neoclassical styles. My greatest satisfaction these ten years, after so much hard work, is seeing that today the Mazatlán Ballet Company is a focal point in the port, that we enjoy a public that always fills the seats of the theater, and that more than anything, we serve future generations as a source of work and a mirror. It is truly a luxury in Mazatlán to have such a serious and dedicated cultural work.”

The Mazatlán Ballet company has deep roots and connections in the National Ballet of Cuba. Its two founders, Maestra Zoila Fernández and Maestro Guillermo Carrillo, both worked and studied there. Maestra Zoila has worked with the Municipal Ballet School for 23 years, and Maestro Guillermo arrived here in 2010 with the goal of starting the new company. During its first season, 2011-12, Maestra Ramona de Saá Bello, grand dame and maître of ballet in Cuba, cancelled contracts she had in Brazil and Italy to reside here and advise. Two and a half years earlier, her daughter, Margarita Naranjo, a beloved teacher in Mazatlán’s Municipal Ballet School, had died as a victim of domestic violence.

Upon the occasion of the company’s founding, Maestra Zoila was interviewed by none other than Héctor Guardado, our much-esteemed local cultural and arts journalist with the Noroeste. She told him at the time, “This was a dream that we have been forging with much work, over two and a half years. Maestra Margarita Naranjo and I visualized it for many years, together with Maestra Ramona de Saá, one of the most important ballet maitres in Cuba. This year everything came together thanks to the enthusiasm of Raúl Rico and private interests in Mazatlán. There are many people backing this project.”

The Maestra also invites everyone to the gala on November 20, a fundraiser to put a much-needed elevator in the Angela Peralta Theater, to make the theater inclusive and attractive to everyone. I have tickets available, if you would like some, or you can stop by Cultura offices or the theater box office.