Around Mazatlan

As we approach the end of our time in Mazatlan for 2015, I thought I’d share a bit about what we’ve been doing. Until this week, we’ve attended Spanish class twice a week for a couple hours. This would mean doing homework and practicing as much as possible. Doug is getting quite proficient, with beach vendors and taxi drivers complimenting him on his accent and encouraging his efforts. This is good and usually means I do less. We’ve finished our lessons for this visit, however, practicing continues. Feeling fairly confident with our new skills we checked out the Spanish language service at the blue church.

   
 People were friendly. The service was lovely, Sunday School children singing and the youth musicians were great. However, we were waaay over our heads, in deep language do-do and the place was packed. Had to stay to the very end.

We didn’t return there. Instead are back at La Vina in the Golden Zone where they have an English service all year. Although attendance is getting low. There were around 40 last Sunday.

At least some part of each day we find ourselves along the waterfront. The ocean is such a draw and the malecon is a great place to walk, blade, bike or just hang. The past few weeks there’ve been some unusually big waves which have pleased the surf and boogie board crowd. It also makes for interesting viewing.
   

  

 

While walking on the malecon we’ve kept up with the construction on the newly remodeled free, public tidal swimming pool, Carpa Olivera. The pool is named after its developer, Antonio Olivera, and originally built in 1914. The remodel includes new bathrooms, handicap access, fountains, lights, snack bar and a slide. We’ve heard and it appears, the work is on time with an opening date the end of May.

 

Carpa Olivera pool with new palm trees

  

Checking out the new slide

  

Replacing the mermaid statue

      

The mermaid in her new home above the sea.

Shortly after “the season” ended when the majority of gringos head north, work began in earnest on many buildings around the city. It’s pretty interesting to see the methods being used. I’m pretty certain there’s no OSHA equivalent here. Our building is being scraped, patched and painted too.

Cleaning, sanding, prepping for painting.

  
Condo painting

Renovating the upstairs for a new restaurant by the Pueblo Bonita chef.   

 Front of our place ready for paint. 
We’ve seen some great movies, The Diviner, Mussel Shoals, The Imitation Game and The Cobbler. Most of these were at a little theatre in an old building in the hood. We saw The Cobbler at the regular theatre in the mall. The seats are awesome and you make your seat pick when you purchase tickets. Popcorn is a choice of cheddar, Carmel or regular and yes, you can mix and add your own butter. Two tickets, large drink, large popcorn and peanut M&M’s all for under $20! The tickets alone are $3.33 or 50 pesos. At the place in the hood tickets are only 35 pesos but the theatre isn’t quite as nice.

We’ve been dancing to live bands playing 60’s-90’s rock-n-roll. Some songs were good, some not so much. Last Saturday we heard the orchestra at the Angela Peralta Theatre play rock from Queen, Foreigner, U2, Journey, REM, Sting and others. It was pretty good except for the ole gringo behind us who talked or sang  through it. He was on vacation and pretty excited about it all.

A couple weeks ago we saw a Flamenco performance. Again, all these events take place within walking distance to where we’re living. We love it! The Flamenco pictures don’t capture the intensity of the dancing but you get an idea of the color and showmanship.

   
  

 

Of course we hit the beach at least once a week. I’m still attending the challenging yoga class three times a week. Doug has played cards with a poker club a couple times. La Vina church does a weekly feeding to people who sort through garbage at the dump and we’ve gone on the ‘dump tour’. We met some lovely people who live a couple blocks from us, ex-pats from Wa and Calif. Even with the ‘season’ ended, there is always something going on.

Oh yes, sometimes we just sit on our patio and watch the swallows dip into the pool for a drink and say ‘Ah, we are blessed.’

The dump feeding includes stops in poor colonias to feed kids.   

From Cooking Class, Kale stuffed chicken breasts

  

Beet Salad from Cooking Class  

Sign indicating it’s movie time in the ‘hood’.   

Mom, Annette and Karolyn, does this place look familiar? I walk by on my way to yoga and always wonder. Is this where Dad was ‘hospitalized’ when Annette and Karolyn had him released AMA? It’s in a really nice neighborhood near the Golden Zone.

It’s with mixed feelings that we prepare to leave Mazatlan. Although, we know we’ll be back it may be a year or more. We have a lot to look forward to, seeing family and friends and planning for our upcoming trip to the Mediterranean. 

Adios amigos and one more sunset.

  

What is DIF?

Sistema Nacional Para el Desarrollo Integral de la Familia or just DIF (pronounced Deef) is a Mexican institution of social assistance focused on strengthening and developing the welfare of Mexican families. I’m not sure how people qualify but they do need to make application to get help.

One of the ways DIF in Mazatlan helps is by providing breakfast and hot lunches to school children. They also provide ‘scholarship’ monies to eligible children to cover school supplies. Some additional emphasis of DIF is to help juveniles in trouble, children who are abused, financially penalizing parents who’s children are peddling on the streets and working to see that all children are in school. This is a sampling of the programs offered. They don’t give money or food vouchers.

The current president of Mazatlan DIF happens to be the mayor’s wife. She is very interested in educating the gringo population about what is going on in Mazatlan, particularly with DIF.

A gringa (originally from Oregon) who has lived and worked in Mazatlan for over nine years has been hired as an Information Consultant (not her actual title) to the gringos of Mazatlan. Lisa works in an information center in the Plaza Zaragoza which is an easy walk from our home.

Lisa is fluent in Spanish, friends with the mayor’s wife and truly knows what is going on in Mazatlan. She is the gringos’ voice to the mayor. Lisa invited us on an excursion she was sponsoring to help gringos see firsthand how DIF programs work in action.

Last Thursday we boarded a van with 12 other people to visit a small Puebla about 40 minutes north of the city. This is still part of the Mazatlan municipality.

La Palma Sola is a proud community of about 150 people.

Entrance to the puebla

Entrance to the puebla

The residents of the community all dressed in their best to greet us. We sat in the shade of the veranda of the DIF kitchen. This 12×14 building is the comunity kitchen for La Palma Sola. DIF selects a group of women to prepare the daily meal. Food is provided monthly by DIF. The women plan and prepare the meal once a day. This ensures everyone in the town has at least one meal a day.

  
While the meal was being prepared, Lisa translated as the town ‘historian’ shared the story of La Palma Sola. You can see the DIF cocina (kitchen) in this picture. The town’s pride and claim to ‘fame’ was being the sight of production of an award winning ‘wine’. This wine was actually Mezcal.

The town grew up around the Mezcal producing hacienda. Most residents worked for the distillery or with supporting businesses, ie. Tiendas (stores), schools, on the farms etc. According to the local historian, taxes drove the distillery out of business. However, one must also consider the supply and demand for Mezcal. Closure of the business left many people out of work. Naturally there was an exodus from the community. DIF has intervened to help the town stay alive.

   
 
The historian was a woman who was proud to have been born, raised and attended school through the third grade in La Palma Sola. She then became the teacher for the elementary grades when her mother retired. After becoming the teacher, she too went back to school. There is still a functioning elementary and secondary school in the town. Although, there are only about 30 children in the community. 

The town also boasts a health clinic with a nurse and doctor who visit regularly. The nurse was there when we visited and showed us the clinic. The clinic was fairly modern and well stocked with equipment and supplies.

Our lunch consisted of fresh cheese from a local dairy farm where cows are milked by hand, fresh roasted salsa, bean soup with bones (sopa con huesos), fresh tortillas made on an open fire and dessert of jello salad with cream cheese. We also had the typical horchata drink or water. No Mezcal today. DIF does not provide meat. The ‘bones’ were purchased from the $5 peso fee charged per meal.  Five pesos is about thirty five cents.

 

Fresh Cheese

  

Pressing tortillas

  

tortillas on a comal over an open fire

  

Preparing the lunch table

 

After lunch we were given a tour of the town. They have a functioning church and new town square. The homes around the church and square have been well maintained. The community has kept part of the original mezcal hacienda in the historical state with furnishings. The former distillery owners no longer live in the community. One community member opened her newly remodeled home for us to view. It was hot and windy and dusty. SeƱor Douglas found a place to buy a cerveza to enjoy while the women in the group toured.

Here are some random pictures around town.

 

Nurse in white coat & community members

  

Mayor & granddaughters

                

The DIF representative made it very clear that they never give out money. Rather, they provide for families and children in these other ways. In La Palma Sola they provide the community meal, breakfast and lunch for school children and scholarships for school supplies. There are other agencies that also provide help in Mexico.

Mexico is still a very poor country with very corrupt politics like the U.S. and other countries round the world. There are many, many working poor trying to subsist on $80 pesos or $6.00/day as we recently learned in the Baja agricultural strike. No amount of government handouts can make up for this gap. 

Well friends, we had a lovely day of ‘learning’ and sharing in the hospitable and inviting community of La Palma Sola. I hope you learned something from your little ‘visit’ to Mexico this week.

Adios and ve con Dios.