Art Walk Golden Zone!

We love Art Walk/Camino de arte in our historic center, now there will be a new one in the Golden Zone! There are over two dozen artists in various media participating (painting, photography, sculpture, jewelry, drawing) and it looks to be a whole lot of fun! I will have Thru Di’s Eyes Photography at Athina Spa in the Golden Zone, and I hope to see you there!

The dates vary a bit due to Carnavál, etc., but Art Walk GZ will take place once a month on Wednesdays from 2 – 6 pm, so there will still be daylight and you can enjoy dinner afterward. Dates are: November 14, December 19, January 16, February 13, March 13 and April 10. Rumor has it there will be margaritas in the main office, Mazatlan4Rent.

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Below is a map of the participating locations, and there is also a Facebook page so that you can stay up to date, ask questions, or interact with the organizers and artists.

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Finally, below you will find a list of the participating artists and the event’s sponsors. Let’s join in and support our local art scene!

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Day of the Dead Mazatlán 2018

DSC_0057Mazatlán knows how to put on some of the best parties ever, and I say that with a lot of worldwide experience, not lightly. This year’s Day of the Dead alley parade or callejoneada did not disappoint. Visitors from the interior of the country, elsewhere in Latin America, north of the border and Europe all reported to me thoroughly enjoying themselves and the revelry that is Día de Muertos in our port.

The callejoneada this year was held on November 2nd instead of the traditional 1st, due to the changeover in city government. Thousands attended the annual festivities, which are some of the most exciting and participative in the country. The parade began at 8:30, and there were performances inside the Angela Peralta Theater, as there have been in other recent years.

The alley parade wound through downtown past several traditional altars, and included at least three bands, several dance groups, costumed stilt walkers, and mobile sculptures. As is traditional, families with children were in the majority. It’s my favorite part of this night: seeing multiple generational families in costume enjoying our city and one another!

The callejoneada returned to the Plazuela Machado where several stages were set up with live entertainment till the wee hours. There seemed to be a lower percentage of costumed revelers this year, but the hundreds who dressed upped the game and looked fantastic. Local makeup artists outdid themselves with creativity and color.

New this year was that the parade began at the Plaza República, winding the three blocks to the Machado and then beyond. It gave a bit more breathing room to the official participants before being bombarded with the thousands of spectators who joined in from the Plazuela.

Also new this year were official catrinas that were sponsored, namely, four or so of them sponsored by our beloved Venados baseball team. While they were gorgeous, and this was very cool, it added a commercial element to our traditional alley-winding that I found rather sad.

Sadder still was that for the first time in many years our local Pacífico brewery was apparently not a sponsor. Not only were there no kegs in sight, ruining a joyous local tradition of people handing up their cups, but Indio beer was served in cans, by gruff people lacking the usual joy! Finally, first we lost our traditional donkey cart, which was understandable, but this year we had tuk-tuks! How in the world is that traditional to this part of the world? The beer fiasco was perhaps the most epic fail of the evening, as complaints were heard far and wide over how kodo (cheap) the new administration was; the lines for Pacífico at the Kioskos went nearly around the block, with people choosing to purchase their beer.

Another disappointment was the fact that the organizers have discovered cheap Chinese imports from the likes of Waldo and Sanfri. We were treated to mass-produced skeleton Halloween costumes rather than the gorgeous handmade garments we are so used to, and numerous inflatable plastic decorations and cardboard skulls were to be seen on the stages and posts of the Plazuela, in contrast to the beautiful handmade papier maché artwork from our local art school. I pray this error will not be repeated. Mazatlán’s art scene deserves way better!

The callejoneada for Day of the Dead this year was more Carnaval-like, with dance troops performing routines that lent themselves more appropriate to Fat Tuesday than to Day of the Dead, and one of the wheeled calacas/skeletons lit with lights in a similar manner to a carroza/float in the Carnaval parade. As is usual we did have Carnavál royalty participate. I can vouch that those gorgeous women even look good dead! 😉

My favorite costume was that of my friend Linette: the death of Lady Liberty. While I hope and pray for my birth nation that it is not true, her costume rang too close to home; I appreciated its poignancy.

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Every year we seem to attract more people to this incredible event. It has outgrown the Plaza Machado and especially this year spillover could be seen in Olas Altas and beyond. An important recommendation for next year is to raise the stages higher. With so many people it is nearly impossible for anyone beyond the second row of standing spectators to see what’s going on on stage.

Every restaurant in the Plaza and along the parade route seemed to be sold out. Our group stayed to cenar/eat a late dinner, and when we left about 1:30 am the Plaza was still full of energy. I so enjoy watching how vociferously death sings in the late evening on the Plazuela after the callejoneada.

Day of the Dead remains one of the highlights of Mazatlán’s local cultural scene. It is a jewel in Mexico’s holiday offerings; not the traditional celebrations of Oaxaca or Janitzio, but full of spirit and reflecting our local culture. It is my true hope that some of the missteps this year are due to the fact that the new administration just took over the day before and thus had little time to prepare.

Kudos to the maestros and artists who contributed! Mazatlán is incredibly blessed with your talents and generosity! Day of the Dead in Mazatlán, as Carnavál, is truly a festival of the people!

 

 

The Gringo Guide to Mexico

VOL 1 copy.R2.jpgBook Review: The Gringo Guide to Mexico, vol. II, by Murry E. Page
US$9.95 ebook, $17.95 paperback on Amazon as of  November 1, 2018
Link to volume 1

Many expats in Mazatlán are fans of Murry Page. I for one love his writing and used to regularly look forward to his blog posts. Murry would thoroughly research and write about a broad range of cultural and historical topics, from chile to Diego Rivera’s murals, tequila to organ grinders, and bullfighting to Carlos Slim. As he traveled through, lived in and learned more about Mexico, we were able to educate ourselves thanks to Murry and his noviaand collaborator, Linda Hull. I am eternally grateful to Murry and Linda because years ago they came to our house to interview and help our son when he was in the midst of a fundraising campaign to get himself to World Scout Jamboree in Sweden.

In November 2018 Murry plans to self publish two books, titled The Gringo Guide to Mexico: Its History, People and Culture. In them he assembles 56 editions of his Mazatlán Messenger column, The Page Turner, which he originally wrote over a five-year period. Murry has updated information where necessary to keep content current. He kindly shared with me a copy of volume 2 for review; it contains 160 pages and 28 chapters.

“… all of my writings have the purpose of providing foreign nationals living in México and those who hope to call México their home in the future, information that will make their life here more interesting and meaningful. It is hoped that those who read The Gringo Guide to México …will have a better understanding of the history, people, and culture of their new home.”
—page 4

If you were not able to read Murry’s work the first time around, and you are at all curious about this adopted country we call home, I highly recommend you get these books. And, if you did enjoy his columns the first time around, you may delight to read them all over again, remembering what you’d once read and since forgotten. While I learn something new every day, I am constantly saddened at the ignorance so many of us immigrants and seasonal visitors have about our host country. Are you aware of how Cinco de Mayo helped save the US from slavery? Why Pancho Villa is revered by some and hated by others, was first wanted by and later helped by the US government? And do you know the history of legal Mexican field labor up north, starting with the braceros?

It’s refreshing to read an engaging volume written by someone intelligent (retired lawyer), personable, and committed to the community—Murry dedicated 100% of the profits from his first book to Hospice Mazatlán and has served on the board of two local charitable organizations—on topics that pique our curiosity and are worthwhile knowing about in our daily lives. I love history, but I whither up in boredom reading a dry history book. These volumes are far from that—quick-reading and amusing, with personal reflections and anecdotes thrown in for good measure. I will admit to enjoying the columns more when they were spread out one every couple of weeks than in book form. As blog posts the facts and information were nice tapas, a fairly in-depth look at a topic that we could slowly savor. I would, therefore, recommend reading the book a chapter at a time, to more thoroughly relish the content. Discussing it with a partner or friends will let the facts settle in and stir further curiosity for learning.

Thank you, Murry, for being so generous with your passion for learning about Mexico, your time and your wonderful writing. Both books will be available in ebook (US$9.99 per volume) and paperback (US$17.95 per volume) on Amazon from November 1, 2018.

More than a World-Class Stadium

DSC_8345The new baseball stadium for our nine-time-series-champion Venados is advertised to be the best in all of México, and for once those superlative claims appear true. The architecture is stunning, the remodel retains iconic elements of the historic stadium around which it is built (weird-shaped historic columns, for example) and it increases seating to 16,000. We will now have:

  • 38 luxurious suites with indoor, air-conditioned seating as well as outdoor seating for 15 people.
  • 550 palcosor box seats, and a private VIP entrance and bar for them and the suites.
  • Two restaurants—El Muchacho Alegre and La Cantinetta.
  • Several food concessions including Water’s Edge and Surf’s Up.
  • Large bathrooms for both genders on each level!!
  • A seating area where vendors will speak English, to make this incredible cultural experience easier and more enjoyable for tourists and “polar bears” (“snow birds” as translated from Spanish).
  • A retro-sounding Venados Booster Club from which you can buy tickets in English.
  • Much improved locker rooms/clubhouse, umpire and training rooms and physical therapy facilities.
  • A media facility up top.
  • Pacífico beer is still a huge sponsor of the Venados, so Estadio Teodoro Mariscalcontinues the tradition as a Pacífico-only venue.

The stadium will glisten as an anchor to the remodeled Parque Central. It is envisioned to host not only the baseball season but other cultural and musical events, including, of course, our traditional and world class Carnavál coronations. The views from the stadium, both inside—of the field, and outwards—of the city, are fantastic! The only glaring problem is that they still have not solved the parking. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

The 2018-19 baseball season opened on Sunday October 14, and I was ready with my camera for what I was confident would be a spectacular fireworks show. My gut instinct proved true: these were fireworks as Mazatlán has never before seen over a stadium! They were flawlessly choreographed to music by Mazatlán’s own Arte Pirotecnia, and the show mesmerized everyone who saw it. The only issue photographically was that so many fireworks went off at once that it was difficult to capture the spectacle AND not burn out the photo!

Thanks to these photos I met Isaac Urquijo, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Venados, with whom I recently toured the new stadium. Isaac is a young mazatleco who left town to obtain his degree, going on to work for large multinationals around the country. Lucky for us, after 11 years out of town he was recruited a year ago to return for his dream job. Isaac is a fireball of energy and ideas with degrees in both accounting and marketing, and he speaks excellent English.

During our tour I very much enjoyed watching one of those gorgeous white steel arches go up and get welded in. Isaac told me that when the first arch was placed, two construction workers hung from it in order to weld it on! How I would have loved to get a photo of that! I was fascinated with the guts of these welders, dangling as they do high above ground.

The Presidential Suite is also most impressive. It has a kitchen and bar, dining table and chairs, and living room with flat screen, plus outdoor seating. The normal suites seem like a good deal to me. They cost 240,000 pesos for the season and seat 15 people. Palco or box seats are 10,400 for the season.

Once all the arches are up, the covers will be put in place. With the covers in place, much needed shade will be provided to box seats and others as well. Below is a video of the full design. Note that there have been many changes since the initial plans, including that there will be no water feature at the main entrance.

Governor Quirino’s father was in office when the original stadium was built, so he has had a special interest in seeing this remodel through. The stadium is owned by the municipality of Mazatlán, and reconstruction was financed primarily with state funds in the amount of 416 million pesos. The current remodel began on July 14, 2017. It was designed by Raúl Peña, an architect in Mexico City, and is being built by Dynfra. based in Guadalajara. This is the third stadium they’ve built for the league, after Hermosillo and Culiacán, and after watching it every day and hearing its progress all night every night, their work ethic is amazing.

The Venados’ concession for the stadium was renewed in September of this year through 2045, for an investment of 80 million pesos and 8% of the proceeds from each game. Isaac tells me that the official inauguration of the new stadium is planned for the first part of December.

The entire Venados organization, or, rather, it’s parent company, Espectáculos Costa del Pacífico—owned by the Toledo family (95%) and Ismael Barros (5%)—is on fire these days. The Venados in recent memory have had a leadership triumvirate: Ismael Barros, President; Chino Valdéz, sports manager, and Juan José Pacho, team manager. Under their leadership the Venados twice won the Caribbean Series, in 2005 and again in 2016. Barros left, however, to assume the position of city treasurer, and the Venados organization in January 2017 named a new President: 35-year old José Antonio Toledo Pinto. He is the youngest President of a Mexican baseball team, and his energy and enthusiasm seem to be transforming the entire organization. City administration ends the 31st of this month, October 2018. I am told José Antonio will remain in place, but we’ll see.

While in season the Venados organization employs 400 people, normally during the off-season they’ve had 20. This year they’ve increased that number to 80. They’ve hired an office full of young and enthusiastic creative staff who released a brand-new, hotly-debated Venados logo. The organization has opened five new Venados stores (increasing the number from three to eight) and is merchandising a stylish clothing line. They are adding a public gym (Rock Gym), a mini market, a barbershop and three Starbucks outlets to the stadium, in addition to other businesses. There are long-term plans to build a business hotel behind the big screen. The hotel would house out-of-town players in season and serve business travelers the rest of the year.

The Venados are aiming to become a much more inclusive, accessible organization, out of gratitude to their fans’ enthusiasm. Isaac told me that this year 40 pesos gets you a bleacher seat and a beer, plus full access to walk around the entire stadium. What a deal! With dancers, people on stilts and live music playing in the hallways as well as in the stadium, our local baseball games are a terrific, family-oriented party.

There are of course many aficionados who know the roster and focus on the game, but we also have a huge group of fans who attend for the party: to drink beer, listen to music, visit with friends, and, oh yes, watch a few plays. It’s quite amusing if you follow the Venados on social media. They have asked fans, “how many outs are in an inning?” and a fan answered “five;” or “how many players are on the field?” with a reply of “four.” But they do know the price of beer and all the special promotions! A professional game here is a different animal than a Major League game up north, more affordable, more of a full sensory experience, more like a Minor League game, perhaps. Isaac says he wants it to be like “Disneyland with a beer.”

The Venados don’t own players, for example; they borrow them from the Mexican summer leagues and the Major Leagues up north. Thus, there is a lot of fluidity on the roster from one season to the next. This season, however, the Venados have recruited several young, healthy, talented players who they hope to retain for a good five to ten years, to provide continuity for the crowd and the franchise. The season here is three months long, four if we go to the playoffs. Since there are twelve months in a year, the organization looks to find additional uses for this gorgeous new stadium.

Most interesting to me, they are branching out from baseball to become a true sporting franchise. They purchased a professional basketball team back in 2014 (Los Nauticos) that have played in the Multiple-use Center (Centro de Usos Multiples or CUM) since 2016—that gorgeous new sports arena in the marina that no one really uses. The Venados also support volleyball, boxing, and of course our internationally recognized annual marathon and triathlon. Their goal, as Isaac told me, is to support local athletes and entertain the local community.

They run academies or training camps for kids in the various sports. According to Isaac, a young baseball player here in Mazatlán is “owned” by the league in which he plays; the league controls contract negotiations and makes decisions if one of their players is recruited professionally. In fact, the control over the kids and their future earnings has been such an issue, that Major League Baseball recently took action and has banned MLB teams from recruiting from the Mexican League (LMB).

The Venados’ goal is to help players develop skill and experience while staying free agents. The same is true for boxing. The baseball academiaruns Mondays-Fridays, 4-8 pm ten months of the year; the 200 kids who are enrolled are coached by the Venados’ manager himself, Juan José Pacho. The academias are not profit centers but, rather, social service endeavors, though those attending do pay nominal fees. Isaac reports that there are similar plans for academías of boxing, basketball and volleyball. They are even planning to hold a golf tournament this December at Marina Mazatlán; Venados players and managers will play alongside the experienced golfers.

I was curious about how a pro baseball team here makes its money. Isaac told me that 55% of its income is from sponsors, 35% from box office and season ticket holders (Socios Venados), and beer income makes up the rest. If they sell 3000 tickets for a game with sponsorships in place they break even, and this season—other than the hugely attended inauguration—they’ve averaged 6500 people per game. In-season salaries total 6 million pesos/month.

The Venados organization engages in quite a bit of social outreach. They support the Red Cross and give away season tickets to families in need. You may have heard about the Venados Booster Club, with its aim to act as liaison with foreign visitors and help two local charities: Refugio Mazatlán and Amigos de los Animales. Simon Lynds helped the organization conduct a survey, and they found that many foreigners complain about dirty bathrooms and say they don’t speak Spanish so have a hard time buying tickets. The bathroom situation will be hugely improved with the new stadium, and the English-speaking section and Booster Club will remedy the English-language concerns. On November 24th they are planning a special invitational event for Booster Club members, with the charities and some franchise players.

Who was Teodoro Mariscal, the namesake of the stadium? He was a Mazatlecan businessman who campaigned long and hard for a new baseball stadium here in the 1940s. Our original stadium had been destroyed, and he assumed leadership of the “Committee for a Stadium in Mazatlán. When our current stadium was dedicated for the 1962-63 season, it was decided to name the space in his honor. The stadium remained largely unchanged over the decades, though it was modified several times, most thoroughly in 2000.

You may be wondering about our favorite Venados event of the year, Banda Baseball. This is an annual charity fundraiser, in which popular banda members play one another. Greg and I absolutely love it, and it hasn’t taken place this year due to the stadium reconstruction. Isaac assured me the season would not end without doing it. Fingers crossed…

You can buy your tickets online if you wish. Wednesday night, the 31st, they are urging the crowd to dress in Halloween costume. There is also a Venados app for your phone. You can watch the games live online, too. But, hey, what fun is that? The thrill is experiencing the cacophony of the crowd. A Venados baseball game has so much going on you don’t know where to look first!

Hurricane Willa

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Sunset over the malecón pre-Willa

Mazatlán proved itself ready; it was encouraging to see. Businesses and homes boarded themselves up and put sandbags in place. Most everyone taped over windows to try and prevent flying shards of broken glass.

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The morning after Hurricane Willa

We lived here during Hurricane Lane (Cat 3, 2006) and Tropical Storm Rick (2009), and remember what I felt was a lack of safety precautions then: people not taking down billboards or boarding up windows, surfers pursuing their passion even during the storm, people unsure of flood areas and where to take shelter. This time around there were maps of potential flood areas and shelters, lists of items to have at the ready, and regular updates regarding the weather and evacuations. We’ve come a long way. Commercial activity was ordered stopped at 2:00 pm on Tuesday (so people could get home to their families), and public transportation to stop at 3:00 pm. Protección Civil evacuated some tourists and residents from flood zones to the Convention Center. Most importantly to me, people took the threat seriously. Of course, Willa quickly became a Cat 5 hurricane, which was extremely intimidating.

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Fortunately we in Mazatlán were spared Willa’s wrath; those south of us, in Escuinapa, Teacapán and Agua Verde, were not so lucky and need our aid. And today they are evacuating El Rosario and other places due to potential river flooding. Here we experienced very high tides and incredible beach erosion. There was very little rain or wind, fortunately. Most of the damage I have observed is with the palapas on the beach, and with the beaches themselves. Even without a hurricane our sandy beaches regularly move, so most mazatlecos consider ourselves incredibly blessed. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

 

The day before Willa was scheduled to arrive, there was a double rainbow over Mazatlán. The photo below doesn’t show the second one that well, as I did a panoramic of the full rainbow. Of course all the memes circulating said this was God’s way of telling Mazatlán it would be safe.

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The evening before Willa’s arrival we had one of the most incredible sunsets I’ve seen in my 11 years living here full time. The sky and the ocean were orange for as far as the eye could see. The huge waves crashing with their orange color was a sight to behold!

 

Then, the day Willa was supposed to arrive, Tuesday, there was a second double rainbow. God wanted to be really sure we felt safe. We in Mazatlán are blessed with a bay sheltered both by the Baja Peninsula and by our three islands. There is a legend about how the three islands were formed after the death of three indigenous sisters, and another legend about how we are protected by “Our Lady of the Port.” So, once we dodged the bullet, so to speak, everyone thanked the Virgin of the Port—you can find her in the parking lot of La Puntilla restaurant in Playa Sur, if you’d like to pay your respects.

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Thank you, God of the seas and the skies. Thank you, Virgen de la Puntilla. Thank you, three sisters in our bay. Let us use our gratitude to share drinking water, food, toilet paper, moist towels, diapers, toothpaste, flashlights and batteries for our friends to the south. You can drop off your donations at one of the many Centros de Acopio around town, including the Soriana Híper on Rafael Buelna today. And you can also join in a peregrinación of thanksgiving to the virgin today (Wednesday) starting at Hogar San Pablo at 4:00 pm, concluding with a Mass at 5:00. The virgin has already been showered with flowers, as you can see in this photo by my friend Jessica Aviles.

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La Virgen de la Puntilla hoy, miércoles, foto tomada por Jessica Aviles