Monday, December 5, 2011
Here we are…another winter season in Mazatlan. We migrated (via Alaska Air) five days ago and have been busy cleaning out the dust bunnies from our open-air home that takes a bit of a beating during the rainy season. Washing walls, cleaning out cabinets, unearthing treasures…slowly but surely we are reacquainting ourselves with our Mexican hacienda.
But that’s not all we’ve been doing. This is a diverse city of close to a half million people and after spending close to ten winters here, we have gotten to know many aspects of it. First of all, there’s our neighborhood (barrio). We live on a very Mexican and family-oriented street, and happily I can say that with every year that passes, we feel more and more accepted. There were hugs and hellos and many stumbles with our rusty Spanish.
Beyond the barrio (about three blocks worth) is the larger area we live in called Centro Historico. Of course we’ve been curious about any changes that may have taken place in our eight months absence. Without a car, we walk most everywhere, and these first few days we have been criss-crossing the area, catching up with familiar faces and places.
A constant question we hear up north is “aren’t you afraid in Mexico?” The answer we give is always a “no” but we also say that we make sure to be cautious with carrying valuables and where and when we walk. Use common sense we say. With the economic crisis (“when the U.S. gets a cold, Mexico gets pneumonia”), petty theft is up and in the past few years we have known a friend or two who have had purses and jewelry stripped from their bodies. Added to these questions are the constant media reports we hear about more and more violence here, so of course we have also been checking out the pulse and the feel of Mazatlan during these first few days of our homecoming.
It feels quieter. Some storefronts are empty, and our local plaza, typically a thriving place, is sleepy at best. But other than that, there are impressive signs of life. Cultural events at our local performing arts theater (Angela Peralta Theater) are plentiful. Mazatlan Film and Theater is an active group that provides great classic movies and also frequent playreadings. Over 200 people wandered the streets last Friday for First Friday Artwalk. A new beautiful gallery has opened its doors. The Mazatlan Marathon drew a group of participants that nearly filled all of our hotels. An amazing skateboard park located on the waterfront opened last night and was buzzing with activity. The locals are as friendly as ever and the gringos we have come to know continue to return. The tempo is upbeat, and our slice of Mexico feels as magical as ever.
Our little street saw two big parties this Saturday night – one on each side of us. (Two parties = two karaoke machines!) One was a 40th birthday celebration and the other was an early Christmas posada and each lasted until 4 or 5 in the morning. Our bedroom is located on the street side so you can imagine the noise level throughout the night. Typically we close our windows, put in earplugs, and TRY to get some shut-eye. But this night, we joined the birthday party until midnight, then came home and went to bed with windows OPEN and without earplugs. Unbelievably, we slept well.
There are those who can’t get past the media reports about Mexico. They truly are missing out on a wonderful experience in this beautiful country with our neighbors to the south.