I knew very little about Mazatlán before I got here so one of the surprises was that it is a large, prosperous city with tourism being only one part of the economy. It is one of the largest harbours and fishing ports on the west coast of Mexico also hosting hundreds of cruise ships over the winter. Other major industries include coffee and beer exports. The city area supports over half a million people. It is a shopping mecca with many market centres and modern shopping malls including stores familiar to residents north of the border like Home Depot, Office Depot, Sam’s Club and Walmart. There are few items I cannot find here.
The tourism attractions are numerous. Some twenty kilometres of sandy beaches line the shore of the city with a beautiful promenade called the Malecon along a good portion, busy with hikers, joggers, cyclists and rollerbladers. The luxury hotels and many wonderful restaurants provide a tourist paradise suiting every taste. Fishing, golfing, sailing, baseball, and a variety of excursions are available to entertain the vacationer.
However, those of us who are here for the winter months require more than the typical tourist attractions. It is our home and we are happy with those other amenities that make it special – an active cultural program at the Angela Peralta Theatre, modern hospitals and medical specialists, an artist community featuring a monthly art walk, a live comedy club, a music scene that is amazing from traditional Mexican to jazz to rock, a very active ex-pat community of mainly retirees. There are always many choices of how to fill your time.
But the most important feature that keeps me coming back is the people. The Mexican people I have met here are kind, accommodating, fun-loving, family oriented, hard-working and personable. They go out of their way to make you feel welcome. Also, the Americans and Canadians that I meet here are a special breed of adventurers with interesting stories and histories. I must also mention my writing group that has encouraged and tutored me over the years. There are so many new friends to be made and they are not too busy to share their time with you.
Yes, it is my second home and I love it!
BACK TO MY SECOND HOME
I hear the roar of the surf and taste the salt on my skin. It’s not my beloved Atlantic shore but has equally captured a part of me. People often ask the questions “From Nova Scotia, how did you end up spending your winters in Mazatlán?” and “Aren’t you afraid of living in Mexico?” My first blog will try to answer part of the first question.
In December, 2002, I took early retirement from a stressful job that was wearing me down physically and mentally. My long-time friend/soul-sister and her husband, Lorraine and Bill Johnson, were spending the winter in Mazatlán, their favourite place in all of Mexico. So, I loaded up the Boler (small trailer) and my Subaru and headed across the continent with my partner at the time. It was a camping adventure I will never forget from vistas of the mountains of West Virginia to the depths of the Grand Canyon.
However, I was not prepared for crossing the amazing Sierra Madres on our way to the coast. All was going well mechanically until we hit a tope (speed bump) in Toreón. There was a bit of damage to the trailer hitch but we thought it would be okay until we reached Maz, just a couple of hundred miles over the mountains. No one told us about the two hundred hairpin turns, large trucks surprising us as they swung into our lane from around the bend, no guard rails with drops of a mile in depth, stray pigs wandering onto the road. All this while I had visions of the trailer bursting off into the wild green depths at the side of the road.
Yes, heights make my stomach churn. Yes my knuckles were white. Yes the shot of tequila our friends had waiting for us was very welcome.
That was how I got there and by the way, there is now a super highway through the mountains that turns a six-hour-drive into two. More about why I returned yearly, later….