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!