Lighthouse Update & Event of the Season!

DSC_4453Readers, many of you share my love of the lighthouse. Every season of the year it has natural wonders to share, breathtaking views, and provides us a good place to exercise and breathe clean air. Do you also love :

  • Historic properties, elegantly restored, surrounded by gardens and furnished with antiques?
  • Great views of our bay and port, with the city at your feet?
  • Creative cocktails served at a modern Victor de Rueda-designed bar by a trained mixologist?
  • Getting into a private, luxurious facility that you can’t normally get into?

On Thursday, December 20th you can experience all of the above while watching a killer mazatlecan sunset with a bunch of other cool and civic-minded people—for the benefit of our beloved lighthouse.

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Noche de Luz (Night of Light) will take place at the Observatorio Histórico de Mazatlán, atop Cerro del Vigía, overlooking the lighthouse on Cerro del Crestón. Cocktails and canapés will be served from 5 pm, and a concert including classical, Mexican and Christmas music will be performed by baritone José Adán Pérez, mezzosoprano Sarah Holcombe and soprano Rebeca de Rueda, accompanied by Miyoko Morikawa on piano. The performance is scheduled to start at 6 pm, and it’s all to benefit the Patronato Parque Natural Faro de Mazatlán. The promotional video is below.

Tickets are 800 pesos and can be purchased in Centro Histórico (Plaza Machado) at La Tramoya (4-11 pm) or at Deco Designs (Camarón Sábalo 610-5, tel 669-916-5393). Raul Rico’s Vivace Producciones is in charge, so we are sure to enjoy a super show. In order to avoid use of styrofoam and other environmentally unfriendly disposables, logo’d mugs designed by Emilia Igartúa will be available for sale. Do not miss it, or your access to this incredible private property! The event site has very limited parking, so attendees are asked to park at SAT (the old aduana/customs house on Venustiano Carranza and Miguel Alemán) and take a shuttle to and from the observatory. Shuttles will start running at 4:30 pm.

The observatory where the concert will take place was built in the 1800s, according to my friend and local historian, Joaquín Hernandez, designed by Friaco Quijano when our city was still called “Mazatlán de los Mulatos.” It was constructed as a lookout for pirates, at a time when many of the tunnels around downtown were dug—as hiding places for gold and silver from the mines in the Sierras as well as escape routes for the wealthy in case of attack. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

When I first visited the Observatory a couple of decades ago it was in complete ruin, though still beautiful. Some years back Amado Guzmán purchased the property and he has both restored and significantly upgraded it, adding antique nautical furnishings, historical photos, comfortable dining and seating areas and a full bar. The bar is now staffed by a bilingual mixologist during events! My apologies for the fuzzy night shots, but I was out all day and did not have my tripod with me, so we tested my handheld abilities.

The Observatory provides nearly a 360 degree view of Mazatlán, the port and the bay. It is a private party place used only for the elite as well as family and close friends, so those attending Noche de Luz will be quite lucky.

I very much enjoyed interviewing María Esther Juarez, presidenta of the new civil organization “Patronato del Parque Natural Faro de Mazatlán” that takes care of the lighthouse. Since their formation we’ve already seen installation of three new webcams (with a fourth coming soon), funded by Javier Lizarraga Galindo, which provide a 360 degree view of our city 24/7/365. It’s kind of fun to watch the waves crash, the weather change, and the planes take off and land, via the internet. Ten of the key points Esther told me during our interview include:

  1. Public bathrooms, funded by the municipality, are being built at the bottom of the lighthouse at government expense. There is no water at the top, so no bathrooms there yet.
  2. Though Governor Quirino has scheduled the sewage plant at the foot of the lighthouse to be moved out to Stone Island within the next year, planning restaurants and tourist shops designed primarily for cruise ship passengers in its place, the new municipal government has recently vetoed the plan.
  3. Funds from Noche de Luz will be used to (properly repair and) finish the recently redone trails up the hill. The paths will be covered with a natural-looking surface called tucuruguay (you can see it at Parque Ciudades Hermanas/Sister Cities Park), which will be put over the top of the current gravel held on by the geocelda or plastic netting, assuming current tests of the product prove it appropriate.
  4. The zip line is still being planned, with the state coordinating the concession.
  5. The lighthouse keepers will soon be getting uniforms!
  6. The roundabout at the entrance to the lighthouse will be finished very nicely, and a gate installed.
  7. A fence to keep people away from the glass bridge when it is not open is planned.
  8. The patronato is currently looking into ways to make the lighthouse inclusive (accessible to the disabled, elderly, families with strollers), using the ideas and experience of Cuastecomates beach in Jalisco state.
  9. There are plans for drinking water atop the lighthouse.
  10. The patronato would like to make every November “Lighthouse Month,” as the lighthouse was first commissioned in November of 1879 (though a fire burned atop the hill and served as a lighthouse for perhaps a century before that).

The lighthouse itself is owned by API (Integral Administration of the Port), while the lighthouse hill has been thought to be federal land but may actually officially belong to the state or city; that’s part of the clarity those involved are seeking right now. The  patronato thus has to coordinate between FOUR disparate entities—federal, state, local and API—as well as listen to and involve the public. Glad that coordinating role is not mine!

So how did this new civil association come to be? There were a group of regular faro-goers who became concerned about the lack of supervision of the contractor for the lighthouse upgrades. It seems the project supervisor was a state official who only visited the site 2-3 times during the entire construction process. Thus, we have geocelda, the plastic netting on the pathways, that has already disintegrated due to a failure to install it properly. Geocelda is not intended to be used on paths with such a steep incline as we have at the faro. This same group of people was proud of the new crystal bridge and the amphitheater, but well aware how quickly and easily beautiful new installations can be trashed—witness the graffiti-covered Carpa Olivera (ocean-fed swimming pool), Glorieta Sanchez Taboada, or Parque Lineal.

Desiring to prevent neglect and vandalization, the group of civic-minded lighthouse-goers decided to form an association and went to a notario to officially register. They are all volunteer, and just last night successfully joined the much-admired JAP (Junta de asistencia privada), which is a very selective group of patronatos that ensures bookkeeping and decision making are transparent to the public.

Members of the patronato include María Esther; Elsa María López, owner of Deco; Javier Hidalgo, architect, who designed the new lighthouse installations; Alejandra Contreras (a daily visitor to the lighthouse); Balbina Herrera Medrano, who has worked for the lighthouse and API for many years); and Raquel Briseño, a researcher at UNAM. They would seem to be a group with diverse and complementary interests, and they all live locally.

I asked María Esther how our readers can help the faro. She said that soon they will have an online registry to sign up for lighthouse cleaning days (trash pickup and minor gardening). She asked that people stop feeding the feral cats at the lighthouse, as the cats have nearly eradicated the native flora and fauna. The patronato has paid to neuter most of them, but at 800 pesos per cat, they can’t afford to keep it up. Anyone interested is more than welcome to adopt one or more of the resident cats. The great news is that just yesterday the city’s Secretary of the Environment agreed they would find a solution to the problem!

I hope to see you while hiking up the lighthouse, and I also hope to see you on the 20th at the Observatory! Do NOT miss this once-in-a-lifetime event and your chance to support our beloved lighthouse!

Best Mexican Military Bands

_DSC9039On Friday afternoon Greg wanted to treat me to something special. That morning while running he’d seen that the huge flag was out at the Glorieta Sanchez Taboada, so he suggested we take a trip down there at sunset to photograph it.

Well, we all know that nothing in Mazatlán ever goes as planned and you need to be open to surprises. Surprised and delighted we were, as while we were setting up my tripod, a convoy of military vehicles arrived, hundreds of soldiers jumped out, and in addition to their rifles they were carrying… wait for it… musical instruments! Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

It seems Mazatlán has been host to Mexico’s top military bands, who were competing to be the best in the country. The top three performed a concert on Friday evening in the oceanside plaza. Sadly, they decided to take the flag down just before sunset, so I didn’t get the photos that I had hoped to, but I got a whole lot of other pictures that I’d never imagined I might.

My final question for you: how many people does it take to retire/carry that huge flag that flies over the glorieta?

Las Temporadas de Mazatlán/Seasons of the Year, Updated

 

  • Season of the Curved Tides (January-February): The ocean waves come in with scalloped edges, leaving the sand on the beach with ripples. It’s beautiful! (See the photo above for an idea.)

  • La Temporada de la Neblina, Fog Season (February or anytime as late as May): Starting around Carnavál and continuing for a few weeks, the cold ocean air meets the warm land and….our building disappears, as does Ice Box Hill and many other landmarks, for a good portion of the morning.

 

 

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  • Season of the Crying Screens, in May-June, after the heat of summer begins and before the rains start. We get condensation of salty ocean air on our window screens.
  • La Temporada de los Candidatas, the season of the PARADES!!! (May): Two kinds of candidates: political and royal. The royals are the fun ones—girls (and sometimes boys) from all over the metro area, who want to be queen or king of their school. They walk the malecón, the plazuela, and the Golden Zone collecting donations, usually accompanied by their court if they’re teenagers, and by their families if they’re primary school kids. When the little girls wear nice dresses, boy then am I a supporter of their cause! Parades of course accompany the campaigns of both kinds of candidates. Parades include multiple live bands (not marching but riding), cool cars, loads of balloons, horn honking, and sometimes fireworks. The political campaigns include the standard posters, bumper stickers, t-shirts, etc., and their parades, unfortunately, include the loudspeaker campaign speeches.

  • Season of the Panzas–or Panzones! (July-October): If you are walking the malecon, walking to the market, or basically just standing outside, beware of the bare bellies! Men of all shapes and sizes seem to quite enjoy the air conditioning they achieve by rolling up their shirts and exposing their mid-sections. Unfortunately, six pack abs are few and far between! This is also the season to carry a wash cloth or small towel–sweat rag season. A handkerchief will NOT be sufficient. 🙂
  • Septi-Hambre, Hungry September: The month when those who serve the tourist trade complain because there are neither national nor international tourists around.
  • La Temporada de Venezia, The Season of Venice (August and September): This is when you need a gondola to get your son to school, or to go grocery shopping. MUST wear waterproof shoes and shorts, as streets are flooded at least 1/2 meter deep and more in places.
  • Necklace on the Bay Season (September or October through April or so): Open season on shrimp! US$4/kilo and even cheaper, higher for the really giant ones. You can get shrimp any time of year, but the legal shrimping season is now, so you can get fresh not frozen shrimp now. Mmmm. Our fleet is the biggest in Latin America. Opening day of the “veda” is one of my favorites. The shrimp boats all leave port, and in the darkness of night you see the lighted boats forming a beautiful necklace around the bay. Very difficult to capture on film, but incredibly beautiful and, from our experience, it only happens once a year. Don’t miss it! Opening day of the season….

This is the sixth update to this post. I’ll keep updating this post as I learn more.