Saturday, January 31, 2015

Fresh tortillas

Just around the corner from our street is the Tortilleria Zaragoza, a store that creates and sells corn tortillas. We know they're fresh because we can see them being made by the ancient machines just behind the counter.

These tortillas are hot off the press so to speak and they're still warm and oh-so-fragrant when the Señora wraps them up for us.  A pound of tortillas is about 70 cents and that's a fabulous deal because the best lunch you can get is last night's leftovers wrapped up in a fresh tortilla with a little salsa added.

The tortilleria seems to be a family affair. I think they live upstairs and the other day when we went by another family member was there creating a stone metate.

And this morning when we went by with Sue there were two little barefoot boys having a great time playing with selfies on a cell phone. They seem to be brothers or sons of someone who lives in the house.

Having access to fresh tortillas within steps of your home is one of the benefits of living in the centro.

Here's another look at the tortilla making machinery. It looks as though it's been around for a long, long time. 

By the way, Sue arrived yesterday and we're having a great time showing her around the neighbourhood.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Zaragoza Park

We live just around the corner from Zaragoza Park, a lovely urban space with a bandstand in the middle that serves a community centre. Twice a week at 8:00 a.m. we go there for drop-in yoga with Alma. We spend about half an hour doing various balance and stretching and simple yoga poses, followed by maybe 20 minutes of relaxing on our mats under the waving palm trees. The relaxation part is my favourite because I get to dreamily follow the birds as they flit from tree to tree and become mesmerized by the moving clouds and feeling the warmth of the sun as it penetrates the morning cloud cover.

It's not particularly peaceful in the park, however, since there are a couple of other groups that meet there too. One is a few older Mexican woman who laugh and do some simple movements. This group doesn't seem to have a leader. Instead it seems that movements spontaneously begin and are followed.
The other group is younger, about six fit women and a drill sergeant of a leader who runs them ragged for an hour.

This morning there was also a crew of painters who arrived with buckets of chemical paint and brushes to touch up the fencing and the details on the bandstand. With them there was a boom box playing rhythmic music. Other mornings there are workers sweeping the stones or mowing the grass or clipping the hedges.

Several school girls in spotless uniforms take a short cut through the park on their way to school, as well as a few dads carrying their young ones on the handlebars of the bicycles. And all around the edge of the park there are people, often older men, sitting on benches taking in the view.

Later on in the day there will be kids skateboarding, a few vendors selling chips and salsa, and people walking their dogs.

And some evenings there is dancing in the park. A band plays and chairs are set up in a square around a dancing area. And on Saturdays there's the organic market. It really does serve as a meeting space for many in the neighbourhood.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Pino Suarez Market

In Mazatlan the main destination for shopping by residents of Centro is the Pino Suarez market. It's housed in a building that takes up a complete block and within it (and outside of it too) you can buy just about anything you need.  There are dozens of stalls, each one specializing in a type of food or household product.

This is the outside and there are 12 doors going into the 125 year old building, three on each side.

The first few times we went to the market I found it so overwhelming that I had to leave.  Especially if you come in via the meat and fish aisles, it can be a bit much. But now that I've been here longer and we've had a few more trips there I'm amazed at what can be found.

There are many fresh fruit and vegetable stalls and some that sell dried and candied fruit...

Some of the butcher shops look pretty much like what you'd find at home...


....others not so much. 

To purchase canned or bottled goods, or cleaning products you go to a stall like this one and you ask the vendor for what you want.  Harry speaks reasonable Spanish so can communicate well enough, but even our friends without a word of Spanish shop easily in the mercado as all the merchants are very friendly and helpful.

There are stalls selling cheeses and we even found cottage cheese, which is not that common here.

A young boy still in his fishing gum boots was hanging around at this stall.  Lots of fish is available here, including smoked tuna and marlin.

Today we came with a shopping list that included fruits and vegetables, laundry soap, baby powder, and for me a pair of Mexican leather sandals.  I'd seen some of these up in the tourist area but they didn't have a great selection.  But at the mercado there was lots of choice--with the added benefit of a resident cat.

 I managed to find a pair that I liked and that fit me for $30 pesos less than in the Golden Zone.

Here are a few more photos of what can be bought at the mercado.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Champagne gala for Amigos de los Animales

Yesterday we attended a gala champagne brunch on a little palm fringed island. It was the annual fundraiser for Amigos de los Animales, the best known of several groups that help abandoned and homeless dogs and cats in Mazatlan.

This intricately carved watermelon graced one of the serving tables.

We dressed up and took the water taxi to the island where we were served an authentic Mexican brunch and all the champagne and fresh-squeezed orange juice we could drink.

There were around 200 people, most of them English speaking, getting tipsy and bidding on a vast selection of silent auction items, plus raffle and 50/50 tickets.

I think it was a big success, thanks to the organization skills of a small group of people including our friend Peggy seen here at the right attending to some paperwork.

We came home with gift certificates to two restaurants--always a good idea when you're on vacation.

I think that Amigos de los Animales and other groups are having a positive effect here. We see a lot fewer stray dogs than we did five years ago. Still, there are some, like the poor little she-dog, obviously nursing puppies, that was licking something off the street the other night. I've taken to carrying some dry dog food in my bag so I can feed her if I run into her again.  

Today is a slow day as we are recovering from unaccustomed champagne intake. It's all for a good cause, right?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

A bicycle ride along the Malecon

A couple of days ago on the bus I noticed that enormous papier maché figures were being installed at key intersections along the Malecon. This is the first sign of the upcoming Carneval, which takes places February 12 through 15.

It's Mazatlan's version of Mardi Gras and they go all out for the celebration. The monegotes (monny-goat-ehs) are part of this year's festival and there are about ten of them placed along the parade route.

The Malecon is the wide walkway along the ocean that runs from the Golden Zone where a lot of the tourist hotels are down to Centro, where we're staying.  I wanted to get some photos of these amazing colourful, inventive figures but couldn't figure out just how to do it as it's about a six-mile walk.  Harry came up with the great idea of renting bikes.

So this morning we hoofed it down to Olas Altas, the end of the Malecon where the big waves come in, and rented a couple of cruiser bikes. What an excellent morning we had riding alongside the ocean and stopping to take photos of the sculptures.  Here's Harry just setting out.

And here is a gallery of some of the figures. I hope you can get a sense of the size of them. They are at least 25 feet high.

I think my favourite is the boy who's looking through his legs with the frog prince sitting on his back... or maybe the sad elf. They're all astounding.

After our two hour bike ride in the sun we adjourned to an oceanside restaurant for a light lunch of tortilla soup and well-deserved drinks.  Harry is sporting his new Mexican haircut.

 Then we walked home and had a long nap.

I'll be posting more about Carneval in future. And stay tuned for a post about tortilla soup. It's just the best--and always different.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Beautiful ruins

All over Mazatlan there are building that have fallen into disrepair.  Part of it I'm sure is the tropical air that flakes paint off. Also there appear to be many properties that have long ago been abandoned. Some building that appear to be vacant though are actually someone's home. I think this one is occupied, but it's hard to know.

What I do know is that in the historic centre there are regulations that prevent people from building anew.  You must restore the building to its original appearance--both outside and inside. This prevents most people from making anything but the most cursory repairs.

There are so many beautiful Colonial gems that are empty and eventually they succumb to the elements. Once the roof goes it's pretty much game over.  This one is clearly destined to become a pile of rubble.

In some cases, the windows and doors are bricked up and cemented over, and then they become a vehicle for graffiti (which I think is much more creative than what we see at home).

Note the beautiful lamp attached to the side of this building. There are hundreds of these beauties all over the downtown area. I like to imaging that there was a special factory somewhere nearby that turned these lamps out at least a hundred years ago.

 This is a row of houses just up from where we're staying. They look small but each one has an interior courtyard hidden behind the narrow facades.  Each family does their own paint job.

This one is clearly more recent with its art deco styling, but it has suffered the same fate. Peeking inside you can see layers and layers of paint. For some reason I'm obsessed by these ruins, and I keep imagining what they would be like restored.

Since I can't do that however, I'm going to try some water colour paintings of a few of them.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sunday morning at the Juarez Market

It's maybe the largest flea market I've ever seen. In Spanish it's called the tianguis, and it happens on Sunday mornings in the Juarez neighbourhood. We took a bus named Infiernos to get there and when we got off we were right in the middle of several blocks of makeshift stalls, some covered with tarps, others open to the air. In some cases, people are selling stuff from a blanket laid on the ground.

You can buy just about anything you can think of at the tianguis--from sparkly dog leashes to pink pigs to lamps, the brighter the better.

How about some ceramic Madonnas? Or is it supposed to be Snow White?

There are lots of food stalls selling vegetables, pies, chiles, candies, cactus leaves...  or whatever you want.

And if you're hungry, there are stalls cooking food and offering the Mexican Aguas, like a heavily sweetened fruit punch.

You can even get your hair cut at the market or search through piles of miscellaneous hardware for the particular piece you need. 

The market is a great place for kids. Here are few that caught my eye.

We found the vendors there very friendly. Here's Harry posing with a couple who were cooking breakfast at a well-equipped stand. They even have matching aprons.

We didn't buy much there, just a few dried cranberries for our cereal, but it was a most entertaining morning.