Update on Bicycling in Mazatlán

In June I wrote a post updating everyone in English about the planning for ciclovías/bike paths in town and the CicloNoches/night bike tours in this gorgeous port of ours.

I’m very happy to report that since that post, the city has joined so many other cities in Mexico and abroad, and has begun closing the southbound lanes of Avenida del Mar on Sunday mornings. Today was the second such Sunday.

Last week, opening week, we were joined by Governor Malova and Mayor Higuera, as can be seen in the video above.

The road is closed from Insurgentes to Monos Bichis, the Fishermen’s Monument. It gets closed about 8 am (though they’ve announced it’s from 6 am), and stays closed until about 10:30 or 11 am (though, again, it’s announced to stay closed till noon). Southbound traffic is routed to one lane, as is northbound traffic, both using the inland side of the Avenue. Thus, drivers are able to continue using the Avenida, and the bikers, skaters and skateboarders are safe in the oceanside lanes.

This is a wonderful chance to get out with the whole family, or with your friends and neighbors. Please take advantage of it! We definitely want to show the city how important this privilege is to us by having a good turnout. Hopefully this practice will continue long enough for citizens to learn about it and develop the habit of Sunday morning cycling, though we weren’t that lucky last time.

Something wonderful this morning was that police were loaning out, free of charge, 80 beautiful bicycles for people to use! Those wanting to borrow a bicycle were asked to leave their credenciál or identification card, in order to ensure they’d return the bike.

Regarding CicloNoches, they are now scheduled for the first Thursday of every month. September 6 will be the third such event. Meet in front of the Aquarium at 7:30 pm, for an 8:00 pm start. The plan this time is to ride down to the Escudo/the shield down in Olas Altas and back. It is a wonderful feeling pedaling the Avenida del Mar in the dark, looking out at the lights around the bay.

As in prior events, the road will not be closed for this event, but we should have a police escort and a wonderful turnout. We will be guided by a leader, and will be asked to stay only in the rightmost lane of the Avenida. You can see the rules here in the photo at the left. This is a group event, so participants are asked not to pass each other and not to go out into the left-hand lane, in order to protect everyone’s safety and enjoyment, and ensure that drivers can get by smoothly.

 

Children’s Day at Deportivas Juarez

The other really terrific Children’s Day event in which we participated last weekend was a huge festival for local kids from the more marginalized neighborhoods of town. It was held at the Canchas Juarez on Sunday. (I already posted about the terrific opening of the Marco Polo Park last Monday, which was Children’s Day here in Mexico.)

The festival at the Deportivas Juarez was very well organized: well-publicized, a published schedule, lots of organizers wearing colored shirts, Scouts present to help out. There were people at the park collecting donations of toys and gifts all week leading up to the event. They had a clown as a Master of Ceremonies who was just terrific, and the mayor and his wife and the full Cabildo Infantil 2012 showed up. The whole Juarez complex, by the way, is amazingly state-of-the-art: green grass on the fields, covered bleachers, large clean toilet facilities. Kudos to the city and the local business sponsors for building this new park for our kids!

The children on Sunday had so many terrific activities in which they could participate! There were sports events such as running races on the track, baseball games, soccer and American football games. There were carnaval-type games and face painting. There was music and dancing. There were gifts and prizes, from new bicycles and soccer balls to dolls and toys and books. We made a human fish and a helicopter arrived to take photos, to the delight of the kids. But the biggest hit of this party, hands-down, were the half dozen or so swimming pools that they had brought in and filled on-site. Some of the kids didn’t want to get out of those pools even to run and wave at the helicopter (though the helicopter was a HUGE hit)!

The event was organized by a long list of local grassroots organizations, and sponsored by a large number of local businesses. About 1500 kids had a really terrific time; an amazing turnout for a first-time-ever event, I thought. I was so proud to be involved. There were so many giggles and delighted faces.

Take a look and enjoy the slideshow above! If you’d rather see larger photos, click through to SmugMug. Some videos I took of the event have also been posted to YouTube, if you are curious. I’m sure they’ll be edited together in time; right now they are just raw footage. First one is here, and you can see there are about a dozen more if you’re trying to find something in particular. Enjoy!

New Marco Polo Park for "Differently Abled" Kids in Mazatlán

 

Can you imagine you are a child in a wheelchair, watching as your friends swing in the park? How do you feel? Watching them slide down the slide, or go up and down on the teeter totter, or round and round on the carousel, while you sit in your chair?

Rotary Club North chapter has worked for seven years in cooperation with many others in our community to build a park for “differently abled” children in Mazatlán. I love that term, along with the other commonly used term here, “special kids.”

The Grand Opening of the Marco Polo Park in Fraccionamiento La Campiña was this week, in commemoration of Children’s Day, and what a pride and joy to our local community it is! Huge kudos to everyone involved!

The first park of its kind in the state, there is hope that it’s success will spur the building of more parks with handicap-accessible play equipment throughout Mexico.

It is a true local success story. The first fundraising event for this park was held in December 2005, a chef’s dinner called De Amores y Sabores, with seven local chefs donating their time and talent. They served a seven-course dinner for 320 people. It was a huge financial and gastronomic success, and provided the initial funding to get started with the project.

With the cooperation of Rotary Club members and their wives, the land on which to build the park was secured. Several Rotary Presidents traveled north to Tucson and other places, visiting Rotary chapters to try to obtain funding to build the park. In the end, the park was funded locally, with municipal, state and federal government support, and many private companies from Mazatlán funding the manufacture of the special play equipment.

Leti Alvarado Fuentes assigned her architecture students a project: adapt common park play equipment so that special needs kids can use it and enjoy it. They did a terrific job. Then Jorge Medina, our resident iron work professional, found a gentleman who could manufacture the play equipment. And, oilá, Parque Marco Polo was born! The swing holds a wheelchair securely. The slide accommodates two people going down at once: one to hold the other safely. And the teeter-totter also accommodates two people: one to sit in back and hold the person in front. The merry-go-round wasn’t yet functional this week, so we have something to look forward to!

Below are two video clips. The first is television news coverage of the inaugural event, and the second is the early park animation that the Rotary Club used to attract donations.

If you are interested, here is a link to a newspaper story about the inauguration.

Finally, here are a few vocabulary words I learned, since I don’t hang out in too many children’s parks these days.

  • The play equipment in the park is just called juegos.
  • The merry-go-round is the carosel. Easy enough!
  • The teeter-totter (some call it a seesaw) is the sube y baja. Also easy enough, but more fun in English I dare say, lol.
  • The slide is the resbaladilla.
  • And, drum roll please, the most important piece of park play equipment, the swing: columpio!
Hearty congratulations to all those involved in this park! Now children can play alongside one another regardless of ability, creating an equality of joy! I do hope that many more parks of this type might be built, throughout our state and country, providing more access to all children.

 

Wednesday Hump Day

 

Mid-week. Wednesday. “Hump day.” We decided we needed to get out, see a bit of the “interior” of our beloved Mazatlán that we hadn’t seen in a while. Not like we don’t often do that, but, hey, it’s Wednesday and we’ve been working hard …

We ended up driving toward Infiernillo. We were so very psyched to spend time noticing just how clean everything looks, we suppose after it was cleaned up from the flooding last year. Danny’s Scout troop has gone out there many times cleaning up. But this was obviously a clean-up of larger, more mechanistic proportions. Well done, city!

We stopped at a little mariscos and taquería that Greg had noticed yesterday, when he was refilling the gas for the grill. It is called El Pariente, and it did not disappoint.

The owner was very gregarious, and worked busily on the outdoor grill. His wife worked the indoor kitchen.

Despite the pull of the ceviche de jaiba and other cold dishes, we all ordered shrimp: camarones rancheros and

camarones a la diabla. Both were really tasty, portions were huge (we couldn’t finish), and

prices were definitely right: 80 pesos per plate.

Plus, the view was very pleasant!

After lunch we drove around the other side of the estero, past the fishing pangas,

the waterfowl,

the recycling truck,

the gas delivery truck,

the roof dog protecting a roof-top camper shell (?),

and a hand painted and festively decorated mural of the Virgen.

All in all, a most welcome mid-week respite to recharge our batteries and ground ourselves in the reality and security of our beloved city before we headed back to work.

 

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!