Mazatlan - Chapter One
31 January 2015
January 29, 2015
Coming from La Paz to Mazatlan, Mazatlan is, in a word, overwhelming. La Paz is a sleepy town compared to Mazatlan's sprawling metropolis. The city streets are bustling with life. Crazy drivers speeding down the malecon, dodging in and out of traffic. Pedestrians running from here to there are narrowly missed by the constant onslaught of vehicles. The malecon runs for miles adjacent to a beautiful beach with high-rise hotels. Again, I am reminded of Miami Beach.
The mercado is a city block wide and doesn't just offer food vendors but sells just about anything you could want. A few blocks down from the mercado are the shrimp ladies. There must have been about a dozen vendors, each with huge buckets filled with ice and various sizes of shrimp. This is what Mazatlan is known for.
As in most Mexican towns, there is a central square with a cathedral. One of our favorite areas is the park located in Centro Historico. It is surrounded by indoor/outdoor restaurants, shops and galleries.
"Mazatalan feels more European than Baja." Jay commented one afternoon while sitting on the patio of one of the restaurants overlooking the park. "Even the people have a slightly different look. Their features are more Spanish."
And there is so much culture! Museums and theaters abound. There is always something going on; concerts, traditional dance performances, and even cliff diving.
On our first day here, our "rojo truck" (An open cab, pick-up truck with seats along the sides and a canopy over top.) taxi driver dropped us off right in front of the cliff divers. He must have know that this was on Jay's bucket list (well, maybe not bucket list, but some list, nevertheless). A young man was waiting to hustle us into watching his friend perform. He didn't have to work hard as Jay and I really wanted to see them dive. (This way we wouldn't have to go to Acapulco.)
For a tip, this young man, maybe twenty years of age, climbed up on the rocks, waited for the perfect wave - to make the water deeper and therefore safer - crossed himself and dove down, precariously close to the rocks' edge. We all held our breath and said a prayer. He hit the water and went under. No one moved. We waited. Then, to our relief, his head popped up and everyone let out a sigh of relief and clapped. It was a good show.
We spent that first afternoon roaming the streets, admiring beautiful, Spanish architecture interwoven between dilapidated buildings. This disparity in the structures alludes to a deeper issue; poverty versus wealth. Many have little. Very few have a lot.
The day ended with a couple of wonderful surprises. The first was that while we were looking for a place for dinner, we happened on a parade.
Carnaval is coming the week of February 12-17 and this was a precursor to the second largest Carnaval celebration in the world. This night was to be the election of the queen and the parade was a grand display of all the contestants.
Pow! Pow! Pow!
"What was that?" We all wondered. Of course, our first thought was gunfire. But no. It was fireworks. Or rather, hand-held bottle rockets being shot into the air.
Next we heard sirens and there were police everywhere. They were shutting down the malecon to allow for the parade.
Each contestant had their own car, usually with a band tagging behind in an open truck. She sat on top of the car in a beautiful evening gown (think Miss America), waving to the crowd. She also had her own color; one was blue, the other red, one purple, yellow, etc.) Behind each contestant was a trail of cars with her color, the people supporting her, wearing her color, and raising banners asking the people to vote for their contestant. I believe the parade ended at the stage in the main square where they had the election. It was great fun and hinted to the Carnaval festivities ahead.
The second surprise was finding The Water's Edge. Although not literally on the water's edge, we found it to be a first class restaurant with excellent service and delicious food. All this, and music too! A duo (piano & trumpet) serenaded us while enjoying a relaxing meal.
So much to absorb! So much to see! It was a wonderful first excursion into the city of Mazatlan.
(Check out photos in The Gallery)