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The Two Captains


Volume 92
Carnival in Mazatlán
March 2003

I can’t tell you how many places I’ve read that Mazatlán Carnival is the third largest in the world. Well, I don’t believe it. Perhaps it had something to do with my mood, which was glum because Don was still in the States at his watermaker school, and I was looking at it solo. Or perhaps it had something to do with the weather, which was stubbornly gray and chilly. How can you be “HOT, HOT, HOT!” when it’s NOT, NOT, NOT!?????

Perhaps Mazatlán’s Carnival is the third largest in terms of people who come to participate? Mexicans do love a fiesta, and people did travel here from all over the country to drink and dance. But I fear I told everyone and anyone within earshot, that Mazatlán’s Carnival doesn’t come anywhere close to Trinidad’s. I’m sorry, I should be open minded, but it just didn’t measure up.

Here were the most noticeable differences. The Food Fair, scheduled to be down in the Plaza Machado by the Angela Peraulta Theater, had nothing happening during the lunch hour when a bunch of us went down. The booths were very nice, but empty, and quite frankly all of them displayed signs from the very same restaurants around town we could go to any time. In the Caribbean, food fairs feature the real home cooking by ladies church groups that you can’t otherwise get!

Saturday’s Fireworks display took place around 11pm hours late putting it well past both my bedtime and the limit of my patience. Clearly, we will never know the REAL MEXICO, because apparently the REAL MEXICO doesn’t take place until the middle of the night! The marina had arranged a bus (or three) to carry the cruisers down to Olas Altas, the old resort area of Mazatlán, where a gated Carnival Village had been set up along the beachfront. We arrived about seven, and after being bodily frisked at the gate made our way to the restaurant where a dinner had been arranged in the upstairs room from which we could watch the display without suffering the crunch of the masses. The alternative was to stroll the street and eat at snack bars. Since I was solo, the reserved seat dinner seemed like the right choice for me, however the meal was utterly uninspired (and not even Mexican), beverages were expensive (which dampened enthusiasm for artificially induced merriment), and the wait standing in place on the balcony was frustrating.

I’ve never met a fireworks show I didn’t like, and when the show purportedly a recreation of the area’s sole naval battle with a French ship in the 1800s finally started, it was pretty good. When it was over, we found ourselves with barely 20 minutes to get to our midnight bus rendezvous. But the fiesta on the street, with bandstands every hundred feet or so, was just get going, and, when the cruisers emerged into the crowd on the street, we were caught up in a frightening press of bodies, most of them young and rowdy. It was almost impossible to move. Small women were lifted off their feet, unseen hands groped your body, and there was a real fear of getting knocked over and trampled. Groups of us formed chains clutching the shoulders of the person in front, and inch by inch we made our way out. It is not something I would do again. Even for fireworks..

For the parade, a couple of days later, the cruisers had bleacher seats at the Agua Marina Hotel on the parade route. This came off much better than the fireworks deal as the bountiful buffet lunch was more filling and tastier and our seats were right up front. The parade, however, was also hours late, putting it well after dark! This meant that all the floats had to be electrified, which thereby meant all the floats had to have loud generators! I will allow that the floats were pretty damn fancy. There was one at least two stories tall. Others were mechanized, and all had pretty girls waving. However, they all looked cold.

Here’s the thing, nobody really looked like they were having fun. The Carnival Queens were put onto of inter-city buses. The troupes between the floats were small (as were their routines.) The marching bands were small (as were their tunes.) None of the costumes approached the imagination (or sexiness) of even a small Caribbean parade. And the music, when you could hear it over the generators, was mostly generic thump thump thump. Where, I ask you, was all that great Mexican musica? The best thing in the parade to me was the group of Paso Fino dancing horses, but of course they weren’t electrified, so you could hardly make them out!

Mazatlán’s Carnival did have one fine event. The parade that goes one way on Sunday evening, goes back the other way Tuesday afternoon, and for that parade the cruisers who helped with the winter’s fundraising events for the volunteer fire department were invited to ride on the fire truck. My expectations were pretty low. I waffled about going. I mean how could a rerun of something that was disappointing to begin with have any hope of being fun. Not to mention that the fire truck’s position in the parade was dead last.
They were so late at the end of the nighttime parade, everybody bailed out before they reached us!

Well, it was a hoot! First off, who hasn’t, in their heart of hearts, wanted to ride on a fire truck. Ours was a puce green ladder truck that still said Santa Monica Fire Department on the side (Santa Monica, CA is Mazatlán’s sister city, and much of the equipment here is hand-me down stuff.) Then, incredibly, the parade back was only an hour or two late in starting, so it was daylight most of the way. To our amazement there was actually a crowd, and it was a happy one, filled with families!

About fourteen of us rode the whole way on top of the truck waving madly while Iréne (the mastermind of the fundraising effort) and her husband Lou sat in the cab and fired off the siren at intervals. It’s amazing what eye contact you can make with even the smallest kids in the crowd. At the back of the truck, one of the cruisers (from a boat called Moon Me…oh, dear!) had on an Uncle Sam outfit. Periodically, he would flash the crowd….to reveal a T-shirt with the image of a muscle man chest! He was a hit. And although we were still the last “float” in the parade, our reception was as warm as if we had been the first!

Of course, we have no idea whether anyone in the crowd really understood what the bunch of gringos on the fire truck was doing there. There were three big posters on the front and sides with the sailboat logo of the “Amigos de Bomberos” fundraising group. However, since the newspapers repeatedly got the story wrong (when they bother to cover it) we figured there was just as much chance that people thought we’d come all the way from Santa Monica! Oh, well.

So, I was in a good mood when Don got back the very next day. Carnival is over and checked off the list, but better yet, I’m not lonely anymore!

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