Las Luminarias: Monigotes of Carnavál Mazatlán 2013

After my last post, many of you who are not here in Mazatán have written to ask if I’d post photos of all the monigotes this year. Marilyn Monroe is still not up, and I’m not sure if she will be even though we saw her being made. (UPDATE: Marilyn is now added to the slideshow below).

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Above you can see these eight-meter/26 foot tall statues, starting from the north at Playa Camarón (La Tongolele) and going in order to the south (Al Jolson), in the Machado.

Behind the Scenes of Carnavál: The Making of a Giant Statue


This year’s Carnavál de Mazatlán statue of Marcel Marceau

Every pata salada loves the monigotes, those super-sized statues that go up along the malecón and in the Plazuela Machado each year in the weeks prior to Carnavál. The tradition began in 2005, with Maestro Jorge González Neri’s replicas of the work of Antonio López Sáenz, Mazatlán’s illustrious painter and sculptor. Last year, for Festival de los Imperios, we had gigantic warriors from major world civilizations protecting our fair city. And we all loved it! Excited to see them go up, rather heartbroken to see them taken down, it is a terrific tradition.

Every year we wonder and guess, what will the monigotes be this year? On Saturday we were driving down Avenida del Mar and happened to see them putting up the first statue: the mime Marcel Marceau. Ah, the excitement! This year, with the theme of La Linterna Mágica, we are privileged to enjoy eight-meter tall likenesses of international film stars — Las Luminarias de Neri.


Maestro Jorge González Neri in his taller

Marlon Brando, my beloved comic actor Cantinflas, the pachuco Tin Tan, actor and luchador El SantoPedro Infante, and Al Jolson were erected over the last few days. Marlene Dietrich went up this morning at Playa Norte. Just this afternoon we watched them put Charlie Chaplin up in front of our home. Oh, the thrill! The rumbera from the Golden Age of Mexican cinema, La Tongolele (Yolanda Montez), went up late this afternoon. We watched it leave the taller after final painting and varnishing. Towards the end of the week the final monigote, of Marilyn Monroe, should make her appearance. We watched her head being carved today (see video and slideshows below), and her body being welded. Maestro Jorge González Neri himself told me that, yes, her skirt will be flying up in that iconic pose of hers.

So, how do you make one of those giant statues for Carnavál de Mazatlán? Well, the Maestro is a set designer who creates pieces for the stage as well as for public events. He is based in Monterrey, so there is a lot of sending of drawings and designs back and forth, between Monterrey and CULTURA here in Mazatlán, as they agree on what the monigotes will look like each year. It sounded to me like Neri himself is a bit astounded at how large they’ve become — the bar higher every year.

Once designs are agreed on, the staff of his taller begin working. Finished parts and parts in process are shipped to Mazatlán. A month or so prior to Carnavál, the Maestro travels here with a crew of 15 of his people from Monterrey. They hire papier maché people here locally, people who have now been doing this for years.

And, in an incredible open-air artistic assembly line, they create magic!


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Below is a very short video clip of one of the artists carving Marilyn’s face:


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Below is a very short  clip of the artists lowering La Tongolele (from vertical to horizontal) so they can paint her shoulders:


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Below is footage of the workers loading the huge statue onto the truck for transport.

Below is a clip of the crane workers installing Charlie Chaplin in front of our building. They stake the monigote to the beach, and counterbalance the stand with sandbags.

As you can see, it’s a bit like making a piñata, or one of the papier maché projects we all did as children. But, not really. It’s nothing like that! What an incredible dream to make magic in this way, don’t you think?

Click here for a slideshow of all the 2013 Carnavál de Mazatlán statues. Thank you, Maestro and crew, as well as CULTURA and all involved! This year’s “Luminarias” rock!

Are you curious to learn more? A couple of years ago we visited Maestro Rigo Lewis in his taller, as he and his crews worked on the parade floats or carrozas for Carnavál royalty. He was born during Carnavál and the event and its magic run in his veins. Need a schedule of events? It’s posted on CULTURA’s Carnavál site. The inside scoop of what to attend and how it all works? Check that out here.

Mini Maz: A Work by Marco Hernández

47320_1616036159131_5108622_nI have long loved miniatures. I collect them wherever I travel. I have belonged to groups in which we make them. So, when a friend of a friend posted pictures on Facebook of a miniature city, including my beloved Mazatlán, my interest was piqued!

Marcos & GGMarco A. Hernández has been working on his maqueta for years.

Once a year, during the month of December through the first week of January, it displaces his car and takes over his family’s garage. It brings joy to those walking by on the street, and squeals of delight to anyone smart enough to ask to go inside and take a look around.

Marco started with a collection of toy cars. He built some roads, overpasses, parking areas, and then a Golden Gate Bridge for those matchbox-sized cars. But he didn’t stop there.

FarmHe added a farm. He made the Angel of Independence, and put it in the center of a roundabout.

Angel of Indep

Eventually, and to my delight, he started to add in features of Mazatlán. In his miniature, garage-sized city you can walk along the malecón. It includes benches, plant boxes and a guardrail that look just like the real thing! He has even painted the malecón in the two different designs that I remember it having, thus preserving a bit of history.

Monos BichisMarco has created a miniature Monumento al Pescador. It even lights up at night! He has the pulmonía monument in miniature, as well as the Cervecería Pacífico monument. He has the Escudo, the state seal of Sinaloa, that is in Olas Altas, just down from the Pedro Infante statue.


382150_4596447463081_150681162_nMarco has created such detail that this year he even added the row of Salvador Herrera’s photographs that hang in front of the Universidad del Occidente!

167152_1872972422377_5172596_nMarco loves to show off his project, and watch the delight in the eyes and hearts of people who come to visit. I urge you to stop by if you know him. I hesitate to post here his address, but if you’re interested in going, I can put you in touch with him.

garageFor some history on how Marco started, and how the various items in his diorama are made, visit:


New Year’s Update: I am psyched that more and more people are passing on these posts. Today the local newspaper El Debate ran a short story using this post’s same title, though in Spanish of course.

Cultural Change on the Malecón: A Case Study

Ok, the title of this post sounds a little too “professional” for our family blog. But it’s about dear friends, Mexican society and our beloved malecón, so I think it belongs here. It is really the story of the power of one.

Our dear friend, Guy, retired from a career as an air traffic controller in Canada and relocated to Mazatlán about five years ago. He loves the “blue:” the ocean, the sky, the outdoors, the views. He is a passionate athlete. He started out running the malecón many times a day, and has evolved to roller blading it. He is a French speaker who also speaks English, and he has actively sought to learn Spanish since living here. Guy is very outgoing, optimistic and friendly. He loves coffee, and makes a great pot of cappuccino every morning, sharing it with those friends lucky enough to be nearby when it’s ready. Guy has become a city icon. Everyone knows the bald guy dressed in black who can be seen skating along the oceanside promenade nearly any time, day or night. To see him is to be reminded to enjoy this beautiful city in which we live—not to get lost in work or daily drudgery, but to take a look around and a deep breath, and to get out and move our bodies before we lose the ability to move them.

We also love walking and biking the malecón every day; it’s one of the best things about Mazatlán. In our opinion it’s the best oceanside promenade in the world, with 4+ miles of paved, gorgeous walkway between Valentino’s and Pedro Infante. We imagine that everyone would enjoy using the malecón. Thus, we have been repeatedly surprised by friends, mostly locals, who tell us they prefer to exercise at home or in a gym. I’ve had girlfriends tell me their husbands won’t “permit” them to use the malecón if they’re not with them. Girlfriends tell me they don’t use it because they don’t want to be out in the sun; it causes wrinkles and spots on their fair skin. Others say the malecón is dangerous; that you’re looking to get robbed.

And, honestly, I know very well that many people don’t use it because it’s beneath them. That is a side of society, any society, that I very much dislike. Beach vendors, people who can’t afford gym memberships, people whose only mode of transport is a bicycle or public bus, even beggars and homeless people, use the malecón. “I have more money than them. I was born higher class than them. I need to maintain my status by not associating with them.” No one in polite society says it directly, but it’s there; it’s palpable. And this is a side of any society that I’d love to change.

There are loads of Canadians and US Americans who come here and desire to make a mark on this gorgeous city, to help make our city better. They often wreak havoc on themselves and others despite their good intentions, because they come on like gangbusters and try to “change” or “fix” something they don’t yet understand, something that is much larger than they are (a culture, a society). I know this well; I’ve seen it worldwide; it’s my profession.

Guy didn’t set out to change anything. By setting out to enjoy himself and stay in shape, he has inspired many people to get out and move: to bike, run, walk, rollerblade… People from all walks of life started coming to Guy, asking him to teach them to rollerblade, to help them get started, to give him advice. They told him they’d pay him for his lessons. “No,” he’d say. “I’ll teach you for free, but you must pay it forward and in turn do something helpful for somebody else.” Thus his “entourage” was born, including a running group and a roller blading group, as well as, now, people who hang out at the coconut stand to share good conversation and homemade ceviche.

Guy has made a wide circle of friends from all different parts of society: government, big and small business, housewives and young singles, wealthy and humble. I am sooooo so so so happy to see the gatherings of people around him. It crosses socio-economic lines. There are people roller blading now who, personally, told me the malecón was no place for them! I have had friends who previously refused to use the malecón for the reasons above ask me if they could walk with us, bicycle with us. It’s because, I believe, they see these other people, “society” people, out there, exercising. Not just with Guy, of course. Kelly and his bicycling tours and groups, other running, roller blading and bike groups…. The culture is shifting. I’ve seen a huge shift towards egalitarianism and inter-mixing of the social classes on the malecón in the four short years I’ve lived here. Bravo!!! Long live culture change! Let’s keep it up! We aren’t there yet, but… Just the other day a friend asked another friend, aghast, “You have the coco guy’s phone number in your cellular?” Well, she did. And proudly so.

One last photo: this one of the malecón during Carnavál. Forbes Magazineranks our Carnavál/Mardi Gras one of the world’s top three. I will just add that it is VERY family-oriented. Come join us!