[040210, 1710 UTC, Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico; 23º16.2'N/106º27.3' W]
Yes, we are still in Mazatlan. While here we have accomplished many things and have checked most items off our project list but have seen few sites that tourist guides suggest you shouldn’t miss. We certainly have had the opportunity to become lost in many colonia (or neighborhoods) while looking for shops in which to buy the things we needed to complete our projects. We’ve generally accomplished this by starting with flawed directions from fellow cruisers supplemented by locals who cheerfully step in with detailed, lengthy and authoritative wrong directions in Spanish. One day we were walking along when we were stopped by a woman calling “Honeymooners, honeymooners you are lost!” (she was right).
Late last week we moved to a slip with power and are now deep within the marina rather than out on the edge where we had a view of the estuary and enjoyed privacy. On these docks with both electrical and water service every boat is occupied so we’ve met more people with great and varied experience and learned quite a bit more about cruising in Mexico.
Mazatlan is a large, historic port of roughly 450,000 people (“Mazatlecos”) of which approximately 1% are expatriates from the US or Canada who’ve made their home here. Mazatlan has been compared to Havana Cuba or Old San Juan in terms of its architecturally-rich historic center, plus it sports many parks and plazas and a plethora of public art. Mazatlan also has one of the (if not “the”) highest manned lighthouse(s) in the world (447 feet), a lovely cathedral, a beautiful and historic theatre finished in 1874, cliff divers, a thriving tourist industry and many active community organizations such as Amigos de los Animales, Aquario Mazatlan, Hands Across the Border, etc. Mazatlan’s charm combined with the convenience of a small but active marine industry, large chain stores for provisioning (Office Depot, Wal-Mart, Sam’ Club, Gigante, etc.) and a friendly inexpensive marina, make Mazatlan an excellent spot for a cruising boat in transit.
In the historic downtown district (“Centro” in bus jargon) there’s an incredible market of stands selling picture-perfect produce, pescado (fish), including favorites of ours such as atun ahumado (smoked tuna), huachinango (red snapper), dorado (mahi mahi), and camaron (shrimp). The market also sells carne (meat), such as cerdo or puerco (pork), beef in its many manifestations such as arrachera – similar to carne asada, pollo (chicken) including pechuga de pollo (chicken breast) and those ubiquitous yellow chicken feet that are apparently prepared by deep-frying. There is also pavo (turkey), queso (cheese) including queso fresca (fresh cheese) and our favorites chihuahua, manchego and oaxaxa. Aside from seafood, meat and cheeses, the market also sells spices, handcrafts, pottery and embroidered clothing (remember the beautiful cotton clothing popular in the sixties?) and – without an exaggeration - thousands of other products. Surrounding this are dozens of street vendors and small shops (tiendas) selling just about anything you might want.
Though Mazatlan has many big large stores the bunk of commerce is done out of tiny storefronts that open to the street through overhead doors. Examples include tortillerias (tortillas de maiz – corn or tortillas de harina - flour), ferreterias (hardware), panaderias (bakery), fruterias, (produce), etc. One curious phenomenon is the large number of paint (pintura) stores that sell strictly paint. One day while walking in the old part of town, we happened upon a store that was the size of a large cubicle that sold computers, peripherals, copies, and internet service. The entire front was open to the busy street. Four people including the proprietor were a crowd but the high speed internet access cost only $10 pesos per hour (less than $1.00 US)! Most of these tiendas have only a counter with a tiny space to step up off the sidewalk and most products aren’t displayed; you simply ask for what you need, which can be a challenge because of the language barrier. Getting marine-specific parts in particular is possible if you are determined. We were successful at purchasing a small outboard engine for our dinghy and considering import fees from the US, we feel we paid a fair price.
Late in our stay here and as the result of information received from others who are pursuing similar adventures, we decided to pursue a change in our immigration status from “tourist” to “retired resident” or “rentista”. The rationale for doing this is somewhat convoluted so we won’t go into it, but one huge advantage is that we don’t have to leave the country to renew our visas and we’ll have opportunities to pursue other countries’ visas from here in Mexico. The process is a bit involved and included three separate forms in Spanish, one of which needed to be typed on a typewriter (remember those?), securing six originals of “forma 5” from “any” stationery store (nope), providing bank statements, proof of a local residence (our marina slip), references, visas, four photos front view, two photos right side view, copies of all pages of our passport…you get the idea, a pile of paper. Once processed you take “forma 5” two versions typed using carbon paper in triplicate to a bank and wait (and wait and wait with - in our case - hundreds of semi-patient people) to pay your fees only to dash back to immigration just in time for them to close (we made it, but only by sprinting). If all goes well, we’ll get our visas on Friday when we were instructed to return.
Our stay here hasn’t been all work and getting lost as we’ve attended a few impromptu potluck gatherings (cruisers are famous for them), a sand-castle building contest (a group of cruisers won first prize in the “family” competition!), the aquarium and a champagne brunch to support Amigos de la Animales. This week we hope to climb the hill to the lighthouse, explore more of the historic center and finalize our provisioning. If our visas are ready at Immigration on Friday we’ll leave at the next earliest moment when weather allows or we may wait for a cultural dance presentation by the Salvation Army Children’s Home planned for Saturday. Our next stop will be Banderas Bay (Puerto Vallarta area) to rendezvous with friends who’ll be visiting from MT. We’re ready to move on…
Philip & Leslie with gato gordo (fat cat) Jake