2015 FEB – MZ CARNIVAL 

Fireworks chosen for their "battle" firing effect as these loop out over the water

Fireworks chosen for their “battle” effect as these loop out over the water

 
SATURDAY 2/14
Mazatlan has a 6 day carnival stretching from Thursday thru to Tuesday. This celebration is reportedly over 100 years old, and is the highlight of Mazatlan’s annual calendar of festivities – of which there are many scattered throughout the year. Mazatlan is a friendly, happy city – and they know how to party!
 
While most businesses stay open, thanks to all the tourists attracted to the carnival, there is nevertheless partying till all hours of the night, every night. Tuesday is reportedly the “worst” with parties going on till 6:00am Wednesday when people then stagger off to work straight from the final party.
 
There is a young man, Raphael, in the Marina who has been so helpful since I have been here. Whenever I need to get directions somewhere, or know the timetable for anything, or ask about upcoming events, I go to Raphael.  He was born in Mazatlan and as a local, he seems to know everything and everyone.
 
I was strolling down the promenade on Saturday – coincidentally also Valentines Day – when I spotted Raphael and stopped to say hello. He asked if I was going to the fireworks show that night?
 
I was born in South Africa and by the time I finally emigrated, I had been attacked countless times. It was like I had this cosmic arrow saying – Attack her!  On three different occasions as I looked into my attacker’s eyes I thought, This time I am dead; this time I don’t get away with just my clothes ripped. And then my guardian angels would intervene and by some miracle I would manage to flee.  I was a sprinter as a young girl, so once I escaped your clutches, you couldn’t catch me again.   Eventually the attacks got so numerous that I went for counseling.  It turned out that I walked with a preoccupied and distracted air, which predators find very appealing. I was taught to walk aggressively, and the attacks stopped.
Nevertheless, my social memory was already imprinted…. you go out at night – alone – and you get killed.
 
So I responded to Raphael that I was not going because I don’t go out alone at night.
He was appalled.  He said, You have to see this fireworks show, it is spectacular.
I said I had seen lots of fireworks shows.
He said, Not like this one.  This one is a naval battle that Mexico had with France.
I said I had seen the naval battle at Treasure Island Hotel in Vegas.
He persisted; You have to see this.
I was just as adamant that I wasn’t going out at night.
He said, You will regret for the rest of your life if you do not see this show.
So he offered to take me. We argued about that for another 10 minutes while he tried to convince me I would be safe with him.
Finally – to avoid regrets for the rest of my life – I looked at this adamant, tall young man and decided to take him up on his offer.
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That night we caught the bus into town because Raphael said he was taking me to the hill that all the locals go to. It has a fabulous view of the malecon, he said, as well a close up of the naval battle. As we rode along more and more people got off until we were the only ones left on the bus.  Raphael saw my look and said, They are all tourists, they know nothing, wait and see. We finally got off the bus and slogged up a steep hill, and sure enough, there were the locals encamped on the hill waiting for the show. Tons of families with children running everywhere, young lovers cuddling in the cold (it is after all Winter here now), and groups of friends chatting and laughing together. We found a space and sat down to wait with everyone else.
 
Raphael was a fountain of history. He told me about the young sea cadets who were in their military dormitory on the Mazatlan beachfront when the (real) battle started. Even though they were basically just children, the young cadets ran for the cannon in the front, loaded it, and started lobbing cannon balls at the French fleet.  Some of them were killed when the French redirected their fire, but the young boys kept firing.
 
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The show started at 10:30pm promptly. It truly is the most wonderful fireworks show I have ever seen. About 1/2 mile of beachfront represented the Mexican army deployed along the malecon. The (Mexican Naval) vessel out in the bay played the part of the French Navy.
Suddenly there was a massive explosion that made everyone jump to their feet.  The show had started.   Unexpectedly the show is set to music and the loud strains of rousing battle music filled the night. It was very stirring!
 
The 1/2 mile beachfront exploded with light along its full length. This fireworks show was not restricted to a central point as most are, but the whole beachfront was the battle line. All the fireworks were chosen for their visual effect of being cannon balls being lobbed out to sea, and rockets roaring out over the waves. After 5 minutes of the Mexican “attack”, the “French Navy” in the bay responded with its rockets and cannons.  Then the beach replied with another volley of fireworks, and the music swelled.  Raphael pointed out that the only colors in the fireworks were red, green, and white (and some gold) like the Mexican flag.
 
It was truly fabulous.
A fireworks show.  Set to music.  And telling a story!
Awe inspiring.
 
The battle lasted a full 30 minutes and then the music reached a roaring crescendo and the finale exploded from both the beach and the frigate.  It was so moving that I had a lump in my throat.
Raphael was right – I would have regretted for the rest of my life if I had missed that show.
 
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Raphael was telling me that at 20 he joined the Navy for 5 years, and underwent various SEAL exercises. On one of the exercises they would be dropped this side of the jungle, and the Navy expected them to exit the other side within 7-8 weeks.  They would be given only a knife. 
 
They were also told that they would be given a dog that they had to keep alive. Raphael thought that was an excellent idea – a guard dog, a companion, one that would bark and warn him of jungle dangers.   When the time came he was given a one month old puppy that was pure white!  After he got over his shock, he looked in the hamper for a black or brown puppy, but all of them were white.  He immediately smeared the puppy all over with mud.  Once he got dropped off in the jungle, he made a hammock out of his bandanna and hung the puppy around his neck.  To his dismay, the puppy howled incessantly for its mother considerably adding to the overall risk factor.  The puppy’s whining attracted all kinds of predators – 2 jaguars can sniffing around, raptor birds watched carefully, and a big troop of vicious monkeys with large canine teeth were especially interested and dogged his footsteps.  The puppy was thriving and didn’t help by wanting to get out of his safe hammock and play!  
 
I asked what food was available in the jungle?  Raphael said disgustedly: Oh there is lots of food available but it is all still alive! I burst out laughing at his disgusted tone. He had to hunt it, catch it, kill it, and cook it. He shared his food, which consisted of snakes and fish and frogs, with the puppy.  Shouldn’t the puppy have had milk? I asked, stupidly I guess.  He answered, Yes but I couldn’t find a goat or cow in the jungle. I walked straight into that one. 
 
On the 15th night, the puppy was quietly stolen from him as he slept.  Raphael is tall, around 6 feet, so the predator was happy to sneak the puppy without taking the risk of waking the muscular 20-year old.
Raphael emerged from the jungle 34 days later and got the equivalent of a ” B” because he lost his puppy. 
 
Unless this diabolical extra was recently added to the USA or UK, I have never heard of any other country upping the risk stakes by giving a puppy to their SEALS on maneuver. My brother applied to be a South African SEAL and they togged him out from head to foot with guns, and knives, and water purification pills, and fishhooks.
 
None of this “you only get a knife” stuff.  Oh and by the way, here is a whining puppy guaranteed to attract predators.  
 
===== The Party!
We had a great view of the crowded malecon

We had a great view of the crowded malecon

After the show the malecon turns into a 2-mile party. The government engages the top bands in Mexico to appear at this festival. Apparently the MX govt doesn’t pay well, but it’s such an honor to be selected that the top bands all accept the invitation to play.  So every 1/4 mile is a bandstand with a popular band blasting out their music, with the people dancing in the street and singing along.  I have been in Mexico long enough now that even I recognized some of the tunes!
 
One band had their onlookers hopping and bopping enthusiastically until the girl singer started singing some chick song that obviously dissed all the men – who showed their disgust by all walking away. The girls in the audience, however, all knew the words and sang along lustily.
 
The crush of bodies is fantastic as 500,000 people turn out to party on this special night. The only way to move in the crush is to join one of the many conga lines, especially one going in the general direction you want to travel. So Raphael and I bopped along as I kept a tight grip on his back. At one point I let go to adjust my backpack and he immediately stopped and swiveled to see where I was. Now “stopping and swiveling” in a conga line of half a million people is not a trivial move. So after that I didn’t take my hand off Raphael’s shirt again.
 
The only way to move is to join a conga line

The only way to move is to join a conga line

Raphael was so sweet the whole night, constantly checking that I was at ease, that I was having fun, that I was not tired.
 
Unbelievable crowds - but everyone laughing and dancing and having a good time

Unbelievable crowds – but everyone laughing and dancing and having a good time

Much further down the malecon, the crowds thinned right at the ruins of the dormitory where the boy cadets valiantly fought the French with their one lonely cannon. Raphael walked me round the building as he repeated the story.
 
It was 3:30am when I finally ran out of steam and asked to be taken home, and Raphael hailed a taxi that dropped me at my boat.  I was asleep almost instantly.
 
Here is a YouTube link to a part of the 2012 naval battle. For 2015 they extended the “firing line” to stretch almost around the bay. Note the clever use of lasers to give the impression of ships rushing the shore:
When I get a chance I will post my own video of the 30-minute 2015 show.
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SUNDAY 2/15
Today is Parade Day of the 6-day carnival. I had booked a seat on the malecon through a hotel and they informed me I was to turn up early to claim it. i thought by getting there at 1:00pm for an evening parade that I was early, but there were only the 3 seats left to choose from at the back!  I put my name on one of them and then went to find a restaurant for lunch. The fellow watching the seats said I should be back at 4:00pm for the start of the parade at 5:00pm.
 

Small truck that carries the sponsor lighted sign, and drags the float

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The govt closed the malecon to traffic last night and all through the night they erected bleachers down the length of the boulevard for the people. Judging by the number of bleachers, it must have been a gargantuan task!
 
People are really into the whole carnival spirit and are wearing masks, and funny hats, and painted faces and bodies. Lots of Avatars, Pirates, Batman, Captain America, Catwoman…and the like are walking around.
 
This year Pacifico Beer is the primary sponsor of the show. Supposedly they contributed $500M to the carnival so only Pacifico beer is allowed to be sold on the malecon. The parade started at 5:00pm with the Pacifico float of young girls throwing promotional Pacifico goodies into the crowd.  Followed by another Pacifico float with more goodies. Then the other sponsors’ floats came along – CocaCola, executive bus service, candy, chips, airlines, tourism – just a host of other sponsors.
 
FullSizeRender
 
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After they passed, there was a pause for 1/2 an hour as we waited for the sun to set.  Then the parade proper started.   All the floats are specially lighted, so they are best viewed in the dark.
 
I have never seen so many lovely SLIM girls – I am so used to the overweight girls of California that I had forgotten there are millions of beautiful slim girls south of us.
 
And of course between each float is a dancing troupe in gorgeous costumes.
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I found it interesting that the floats are devoid of any writing. Each float is preceded by a small truck that bears a lighted sign with the name of the float sponsor. The truck also often carries the music and electronics for the float which is dragged behind the truck. The truck is dark and the float is ablaze with lights, so you tend not to notice the truck – except for its lighted sponsorship sign.  I thought that was an interesting way to keep the floats free of advertising.
 
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Small truck that carries the sponsor lighted sign, and drags the float

After 3 hours of floats, I was all paraded out. And with my late night last night, or rather my early morning this morning, I just wanted to sleep. So I snuck off about 4 floats from the end, walked up to the (now alternate) main thoroughfare and hailed a taxi.  A few days ago a taxi to my Marina was 50 pesos.  Tonight it was 120 pesos.  Supply and demand – tonight 500,000 people are chasing just a few hundred taxis!
 
I really like this city. I think I will come back here for an extended stay one day.
 
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PS there is something wrong with my GoPro – most of my fireworks pics were blurred, so i took similar shots off the internet.

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