Indigenous people around the world have been marginalized for centuries, and México is sadly no exception. Please join me this holiday season to make a difference in the life of a native child by helping Tarámari schoolchildren here in Sinaloa. These kids live in unbelievably poor families, in isolated communities, and make herculean efforts to get to school. Their families often need them at home, so sticking with an education takes enormous the hard work and commitment of the entire family, plus a bit of luck.
We will work with the the Sinaloan Taramari Collective to support Tarámari children living right here in our state of Sinaloa. There are three terrific ways you can help:
1. Let us know you want to sponsor a child. We’ll get you the child’s name, gender, age and town of residence. You fill a backpack for them as you wish: you might include new toys, school or art supplies, and perhaps a set of clothing for your godchild. Please turn the backpack in by December 15th.
2. Donate money to the Colectivo Tarámari Sinaloense, and they will share with you a ticket that proves your donation went to buy products for the children. In the photo below are card numbers for you to transfer money to (you can pay at any OXXO if you don’t have a local bank account). The leader, Hortensia López Gaxiola, is well-known and trusted nationally for her social activism.
3. Donate non-perishable food items, basic food supplies. Local Mazatlán coordinator, Angela Mar Camacho, will pick them up.
Please pass the word around and thank you for your help. Let’s show these kids that Mazatlán’s foreign community supports them!
Ho, ho, ho!!! Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Heri za Kwanzaa! Blessed New Year!
The prognostic today from an incredibly prestigious panel of Mexican biologists gathered in the Art Museum to celebrate Son Playas’ third anniversary: Mazatlán is in a “via crucis” or “perfect storm” regarding its natural environment. Beaches here will continue to erode and disappear due to over-building, damming of rivers, relocation of sand, destruction of mangroves and internationally rising tides. Already beaches are impassable in various places. There are obvious irregularities to federal laws, as well as even state and local ones. These experts say that Mazatlán seems to be following the same environmentally and economically destructive path as Acapulco, rather than learning from it. If this path continues, tourism will be greatly curtailed, as there will be no more gorgeous and seemingly endless beaches. While the 100+ towers under construction in the city are hoped to benefit the local economy, the unplanned-for growth and lack of coordination between the three levels of government (federal, state, and local) is causing a trajectory toward the opposite.
This article will focus on the main points and learning gained from the panel today, but first allow me to congratulate Raquel Zapien and her team at Son Playas on their third anniversary. Son Playas is one of a very few journalistic outlets in Mexico dedicated to environmentalism, and Mazatlán is blessed to have this resource. Their reporting has served a hugely needed role in our community. Today, Saturday 28 May, was also a blessing, as their anniversary brought together this prestigious panel, a capacity audience, all-day cultural programs, as well as an exhibition of thirty sustainability and environmental organizations—governmental, private and non-profit—all in one place. What a huge gift to be able to learn about so many different organizations and opportunities all in one place!
If, like me, you get frustrated by the fact that local “federally protected environmental areas” are so frequently developed and cemented over, you may find some of the main points below interesting.
Points Made by the Panel:
A lack of coordination between the three levels of government—federal, state and local—is a huge contributing factor to environmental degradation in Mexico.
Even though the city likes to say, “the municipality has no power; that was a federal (or state) decision,” per law municipalities have control over the “suelo” or “ground.” Municipalities pass zoning and usage laws and can prosecute irregularities, thus curtailing federal or state permits. We need to remember that municipalities benefit financially from the use of beaches.
There has not been a census of the beaches in Mexico, so there is no official count of how many there are.
There are few if any systems of control and vigilance for environmental laws, and no incentivization to comply.
I have always been told that as non-citizens we should not participate in political activities, protests, or voice our concerns over development. Today we were told that as foreigners we may not be (or maybe you are) legal citizens (tener ciudadanía), but we are residents (ciudadanos). Those of us who own property are also property owners. Thus, there are two reasons why we are legally able to voice our concerns, particularly about events which affect our lifestyles as residents or our property values as owners.
The federally mandated right of all Mexicans to have free and open access to beaches provides excellent leverage to those seeking environmental sustainability, as does protection of endangered species.
Every resident in Mexico has the right to transparency on the part of the government. Yes, this made most in the room chuckle. But we were assured that this is the law. We were told that federal projects are on the federal transparency site, as are many of the projects in Mazatlán as well. If we go to city hall or the municipal archives and ask for building permits, etc., we are entitled to see them. Sheila Arias stood up from the audience to tell us she would help anyone who needs public information.
Sinaloa does have earthquakes, and the building of such tall towers on the beach is a disaster waiting to happen.
40% of the species fished in Sinaloa are in danger of extinction.
Municipalities can pass and enforce laws to keep our beaches clean. Some cities prohibit the introduction of cans and single-use plastics to the beach, others require that beach visitors return with everything they brought to the beach. Cities have power.
“Natural disasters” are not natural but man-made, caused by us building where we shouldn’t, taking what we shouldn’t, destroying and degrading the protections nature offers.
The key to environmental sustainability is in the people, the residents of a location. We need to use our voices to make our desires heard, to ensure that government acts on our behalf. We need to plan to prevent disasters.
Any new building project requires a public hearing, input from the public. We should all be making sure these happen, that our voices are heard.
Corruption everywhere is rampant. One of the best remedies is the court system: suing those projects that are built “irregularly.” We were assured there are lawyers who help with this pro-bono.
Regular readers of this blog know that I am very concerned about the “irregular” building in the Delfin area of our city: apartment buildings and homes right on the beach with no setback, and private piers appearing in the Escopama Estuary. During the Q&A period I asked the panel about this, specifically what we private citizens and residents could do. Below is the recording of that answer.
Summary of the experts’ responses to my question about building on federal lands in Delfín and Estero de la Escopama:
Dr. Abril Montijo, CIAD: It’s a lack of political will, but there are mechanisms for citizen participation, including protests. She just heard about two upcoming opportunities. IMPLAN and the municipal government will hold two events in June. One will be a workshop to help people understand the diagnostics conducted, and the other will be an open meeting. We all need to attend and make our voices heard. Our government is combatting corruption, but there are so many realities that make us doubt that. We probably can’t destroy towers already built but we can prevent more from starting. Please attend the meetings and speak up.
Dr. Omar Cervantes, President Pro Playas: In theory the towers must have a permit, and those are public information. That is the place to start: verify who did it, did they have permission. It’s called “Uso del suelo.” Could be that they are not following what they were approved for. Someone would need to denounce them. Other places people have filled in the ocean and the waterways; that’s illegal.
Dr. Esteban García Peña, President Oceana México: How did they give those permissions? SEMARNAT and the Secretary of Federal Maritime Zones and the municipal government, all three must give permission. El Químico is an open person; talk to him to verify if the buildings have these permissions. What is happening with environmental planning in our country? We have laws that regulate development, especially in federal zones, but the sticking point has been an abuse of the words “por excepción”… The law agreed to only give permissions to those who are going to respect the environment. But nowadays, politicians give so many “by exception” permits. They will agree to have a developer plant a few trees on the street as compensation for destroying a wetland. He is sure those buildings in Delfín were built under this laxity. These out-of-control towers create wind tunnels, impede the flight of birds, impede access to the beach by the people, and erode the beaches.
The politicians follow through on what pleases them. The exception, as Esteban said, is the chain around our necks. Meet the Químico and talk to him. They are political points.
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!
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.
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: email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org or via WhatsApp +52-669-122-8962.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.