Ensenada is 80 miles from San Diego, California and it’s not only a popular tourist destination for Californian’s but for cruise ships as well. This resort area has one of the best climates in Mexico much like San Diego … Continue reading →
At sunset, a boat returns to the pier with its passengers.
Lake Chapalpa is the largest freshwater lake in Mexico and the village of Chapala has been a popular weekend and holiday destination for both Guadalajara residents and international tourist since the 1920’s. The lakefront promenade or malecon has 2 scenic piers, boat rides, restaurants, hotels, playgrounds, skateboard park, mariachi’s, retail vendors and yacht club. One of the malecon’s landmarks, seen below, is the old Victorian style mansion built in 1906. It is now a restaurant called Cazadores but was formerly owned by the Braniff family of airline fame and fortune, In addition to tourist, ,many local people come to the malecon on a regular basis for picnic’s, see the sunsets or watch the birds who migrate here in the fall.
Cazadores Restaurant, formerly the Braniff family home
Birds start migrating to the shores of Lake Chapala in the falll
The main pier and lighthouse
An old boat is used as a planter in the garden on the malcon.
The Lake Chapala Inn on the malecon
There is a skateboard park on the malecon
On Sunday’s many families bring the kids to the playground on the malecon
Here’s a few of the restaurants at the east end of the malecon along with some strolling musicians
another pier is found at the east end of the malecon
Here’s the ever present Mariachi’s entertaining some visitors
The malecon is also the location for annual events such as Day of the Dead and Carnival
A tribute to revolutionary hero’s Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata
The day of the dead is a long standing tradition in Mexico similar to Halloween or all saints day in other parts of the world and was inscribed into the intangible cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO in 2008. In Mexico, it is also a national holiday celebrated on November 2nd. On this day Mexicans pay homage to deceased family members, friends, national hero’s, luminaries and even world leaders with personalized altars that offer gifts to the departed. These offerings usually include flowers, favorite foods, beverages and possessions of the dead. Alternately, family members will visit the grave site of departed souls and leave similar offerings.
Today , Katrina’s are the most highly recognized symbol associated with the Day of the Dead. Years ago, however, a Katrina referred to an elegant and well dressed woman of class and privilege until a mexican artist created an illustration of a well dressed skeleton during revolutionary times that was supposed to symbolized the death of mexico’s ruling class of privileged aristocrats. Eventually, the Katrina figure came to represent the joy of life in the face of its end.
The entrance to the street of altars
A tribute to Nelson Mandela
Tribute to Frida Kahlo, one of mexico’s most famous artist
a smiling katrina looking to the heavens
a grinning katrina on the malecon
an elegant looking katrina
a well dressed katrina in front of lake chapala
a katrina in front of city hall
city hall decorations
this altar offers insight into the departed persons favorite foods, beverages and possessions
Located in the heart of Ajijic, the Lake Chapala Society was founded in 1955 by a group of 21 expatriates and today has over 3,000 members.The mission of LCS is to contribute to the social enrichment of its members and the Lakeside community through a variety of services and programs designed to facilitate the integration of expatriates into the Lakeside community and foster interchange between ex pats and mexicans to name a few. More details about LCS are available at http://www.lakechapalasociety.org and in the photo gallery there are images of the LCS facilities, garden and the recent Woodstock 45th anniversary party.
LCS Garden pond has a variety of Lily pad flowers
A Garden Pathway
Another part of the Garden Pathways
The entrance to the Lake Chapala Society facilities
The LCS cafe
Another type of lily pad in the LCS garden pond
a bird of paradise in the LCS gardens
The LCS Woodstock 45th anniversary celebration on August 16th.
Contestants for the best hippie costumes at the Woodstock anniversary celebration featuring wavy gravy with the microphone
a ceramic frog placed along the LCS garden pathway
San Cristobal is at an altitude of 2300 meters and is surrounded by peaks, pines and oak trees
This annual week long celebration of spring involves quite a variety of events and runs concurrent with the Semana Santa holiday in Mexico. There seems to be something for everyone including art exhibits, sports, concerts, parades, cultural events, rodeo’s, bull fights, fireworks and more. Best of all, most events are free of charge and in San Cristobal de las Casas the weather is spring like almost year around. For more information and a few photos of event activities, see the gallery below.
local people who have no store of their own set up shop behind the main plaza to sell hand made textiles and crafts
past and present festival beauty queens at the El Gato blues concert
El Gato Blues Band rockin’ La Ensenanza Casa de la Cuidad, they were smokin’
A sidewalk art contest in the main plaza
Folk dancing on stage in the main plaza
Flora, a local artist from Korea sells her unique style of artwork on Calle Hildago, one of the pedestrian only streets in Centro during the festival
At the anniversary celebration of El Jardin de Epifitas, there was a plant contest.
Another exotic plant in the epifitas garden plant contest
a flower decorated frame was set up at all four corners around the main plaza
a marimba orchestra performing on one of two stages set up in the main plaza
a fashion show on the main stage in centro
another model wearing one of the latest spring fashion designs in Chiapas
One of the 2 day events was a National motocross competition
The winner flies over the checkered flag
Almost every event in Mexico will have a Mariachi Band as did the spring festival
There were state soccer tournaments at this field, as well as, basketball and baseball tournaments at other locations in the cities large sports park
Here is a handicapped musician who learned to master the marimba with his feet, performing on the main stage in centro
Here’s a 4 piece jazz band performing at the Casa de la Cuidad with a cover of Dave Brubecks “Take Five”
A trational orchestra on the main stage closing out the festival on the 27th of April
The annual jazz festival in Playa del Carmen would have ended Saturday night with one of their greatest hit songs called “September” but the crowd kept chanting for an encore. This event takes place in the last week of November at Mamita’s Beach and this years concert dates were scheduled on the 28th, 29th, and 30th. All three days of music are free of charge and music fans can bring their own refreshments or buy them from vendor stands on site. Each night features 3 different musical groups that play from 7pm to 11pm depending on how many encores the fans request. The photo gallery below shows each of the different groups performing on stage along with a sample of the light shows that are also part of the entertainment.
Playa del Carmen just finished celebrating an annual event known as a “Taste of Playa” on Sunday the 24th of November. It is a culinary event that highlights the best and most creative restaurants as well as retail food outlets that define the culture of this area.which is renowned for its diversity, international influences and culinary expertise. At the event which is open to the general public from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. guest have a chance to sample a variety of food and beverages served at the many restaurants around town for a few pesos. This is a very convenient way to discover who’s serving your favorite foods at the right price without the hassle of shopping around town for days on end.
In 2003 the Day of the Dead was declared a masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage by U.N.E.S.C.O. and every year the Xcaret Park near Cancun, Mexico celebrates the Day of the Dead with a 5 day event known as the ” Festival de Tradiciones de Vida y Muerta”. During this celebration visitors can enjoy traditional cuisine of the region, workshops, handcrafts, visual art exhibtions, music, dances, rituals, altars, and offerings. One of the highlights of this event is the tour of their cemetery which is both a tribute to the deeply rooted attitudes of mexicans towards death and a replica of cemeteries found throughout Mexico. This cemetery is located inside the maya village on a hill with winding spiral paths that lead to the top.The path is lined with unique and imaginative headstones, plaques and ornamental structures that display a variety of spiritually oriented designs and attitudes about the dead.The photo gallery below is a sample of what to expect in the cemetery and in other locations around the park during this event.
the festival logo and display near the entrance
traditional yucatan altar and offerings
traditional maya dress and mask
day of the dead altar and offerings
a stone carved headstone with religious oriented design elements
a surreal headstone with spiritual design elements
a tiled headstone with religious design elementstwin towers, bells and crosses
a stone carved headstone with cross and a sculted religious figureeligous scuplture
stone carved headstone designed like a temple to and decorated with flowers in the shape of a cross
tiled headstone with a spiriual motif
a tiled headstone with other religious design elements
headstone with a religious theme and statue of the virgin de guadalupe
a religious theme for a headstone made with beer bottle caps and quart of corona beer
Mexico loves it monuments and that’s why one of its most important cities, Oueretaro, was inscribed as a historic monument U.N.E.S.C.O. world heritage zone in 1996. A tourist in Mexico can learn much about the history of this country by simply visiting these monuments which can be found in most every large city and resort area. There are several kinds of monuments such as statutes built as a lasting tribute to a person, a group of people or an event. Other kinds of monuments that are most common can be either a place, building site or structure that is preserved because of its historic culture and/or aesthetic importance. In addition to Queretaro; most of the national monuments are found in Mexico city, Gaunajuato, and Guadalajara but there are many other significant monuments to be found in a variety of locations nationwide.The photo essay below shows a variety of these monuments including some of the most important and popular in Mexico.
A monument in Puerto Vallarta dedicated to mexican culture
El Caballito a monument in Puerto Vallarta dedicated to the sea
monument to Father Hildago, the spiritual leader of Mexico’s revolutionary war
the fishermans monument is dedicated to the importance of commercial and recreational fishing in Mazatlan
Monument to Mazatlan which translated means land of deer
a monument to Danzante and the Otomi indian culture in that existed in Queretaro before the Spanish conquest
Ruins of La Pintura building which housed works of art in the ancient city of Tulum
a monument about the Mayan people in playa del carmen on the caribbean sea
mermaid and dolphin monument in La Paz
The ninos hero’s monument dedicated to 6 cadets age 13 to 20 who lost their lives after they volunteered to defend a fortress against overwhelming odds.
a monument to the Pacifico brewery founded in Mazatland
a monument statute of aesthetic beauty in Puerto Vallarta
A chapel monument located on the hill in Queretaro where the Mexican army defeated Maximillian to win freedom from Austria.
The 10th annual Maya Jazz Festival is a 3 day event that starts in the last week of November. It is considered to be one of the top 10 Jazz music festivals where many jazz greats such as Herbie Hancock, Sergio Mendes, Yellowjackets and Fourplay have performed over the years. As there are no admission charges it is probably the best bargain in the world of live entertainment as well. The photo above shows the stage on Mamita Beach which is located in Playa del Carmen. All shows start around 7 pm and continue until at least 11 pm each day.
This years festival featured several jazz all stars including Wayne Shorter, Pancho Sanchez, John Scofield and Level 42. Considering the whole line-up of musicians appearing this year, Wayne Shorter is arguably the most accomplished. He is a 6 time grammy award winner, saxophonist and composer. His professional career started with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers around 1957, followed by a stint with the Miles Davis Jazz Qunintet beginning in 1964. About 5 years later Wayne co-founded the Jazz Fusion group, Weather Report, which produced many high quality albums in diverse styles. This band finally broke-up in 1985 but Wayne has continued to record and lead groups in the jazz fusion style, winning his last grammy in 2004 for the album titled “Alegria”.
The Pan American Road Race was initiated in 1950 by the Mexican government to promote a new system of highways that had been built across the country to improve commerce and tourism. After accomplishing their goals over a five year period, the government decided to drop the Pan Am Road Race. Some years later, the road race was revived by interested private parties in 1988 and is now in its 22nd consecutive year of open road racing from southern to northern mexico. Almost anyone can take part in this event in one of three separate categories. The first, is the tourist level which requires only a 1965 or older vintage car with the necessary safety features. The second way to participate is at the competitive level which requires a better vehicle and greater driving skill. While the 3rd and highest level of participation is classified as full competition. Needless to say, competing at this level requires a thoroughly prepared vintage hot rod which can cost a small fortune.
This year the Pan AM started on October 19th in Veracruz and continues in stages over a 7 day period, eventually finishing in Zacatecas. The length of each day’s speed stage can vary from 3 to 16 miles through what are mostly winding mountain roads. The cars are started in 30 second intervals with the fastest cars scheduled to run first. At the end of the week the cars with the lowest elapsed time are declared winners overall and by class.
Racing on winding mountain roads can be hazardous and this year has been no exception. There was a fatality on the very first day of this event when a driver lost control of his Studebaker and rolled the vehicle at high speeds. Also, a few days later while racing in the Queretaro area an unusual accident occurred when 5 cars ran into each other around a dangerous curve in the road sending all of them to the bottom of a cliff. Fortunately, the injuries where no more serious than a few broken bones but all the cars had to withdraw from the race due to major damages.
September 20th to the 23rd was the inauguration of Club Hipico and Grand Prix Equestrian Show Jumping in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. It is located in the exclusive gated community of Otomi Lake and Villas close to the historic center of this world heritage site. The club features a restaurant, galleries, 3 paddocks and 3 separate courses for various levels of competition. In the future they will be hosting both national and international equestrian events.
The outcome of a Grand Prix show jumping contest is based on numerical scores determined only by whether a horse attempts an obstacle, clears it, and finishes the course in an allotted time. Obstacles include verticals. spreads, double and triple combinations of each, along with many turns and changes of direction. The object is to jump cleanly over all obstacles on a set course in the time allowed. Faults are assessed for exceeding the time allowed, knockdowns and refusals to jump the obstacles. In higher levels of competition, such as Grand Prix events, the courses present more technical and complex challenges for the horse and rider. Not only does the height and width of obstacles increase but the turns become tighter and distances between obstacles shorter making the course more difficult to complete without faults.
Due to the long-standing Spanish occupation of Mexico, the culture of this country was heavily influenced by their traditions such as bull fighting which has been a popular pastime for over 400 years. The Spanish style of bullfighting starts with Picadores circling the bull on horseback while jabbing it with lances, followed by Banderilleros who enter the ring on foot and attack the bull with barbed darts. Finally, the Matador takes control performing precise moves to please the crowd and attract the bull eventually using his sword to slay the animal.
Another style of bullfighting that is also practiced in Mexico originated in Portugal and differs from the Spanish style in several ways. The Portuguese style involves 2 stages beginning with the Cavaleiros who fights the bull on horseback and stabs the bull 3 or 4 times with a javelin to weaken the animal. The next stage of the fight involves a suicide squad of 8 men known as Forcadors who challenge the bull without any protection or weapons. This begins with a front man who provokes the bull into a charge. If all goes well the front man performs what’s known as a face catch to secure the animal’s head while the other Forcadors rush in to secure the bull until he is subdued. Herein lies another difference between the 2 styles of bullfighting, the bull is not slain by the Forcadors but released. The matador’s purpose, however, is to slay the bull in the ring.
The annual hot air balloon festival in Leon, Mexico is the largest event of it’s kind in all of Latin American. The event takes place every November during which time the skies of Leon are filled with colorfully designed hot air balloons in various shapes and sizes. There are races, rides and evening night glows, in which balloons are fired while remaining tethered to the ground. In addition to the display of several hundred balloons the festival includes exhibitions, presentations, a variety of food vendors and live music concerts.
The Mexican International Volleyball Tournament, formerly known as the Estero Beach Volleyball tournament, started in 1974 and is held annually in Baja California during the last week of June. It is considered the largest beach volleyball tournament in the world and often host to several thousand amateur and professional players from a variety of countries worldwide. The tournament is a two day , weighted blind draw, beach doubles competition with both men and women’s divisions. In addition, all tournament profits go to charitable causes.
Once again, this years tournament is held in Estero Beach which is the spanish word for estuary. As the name implies, estero beach fronts an estuary just a few miles south of Ensenada. It consist of a luxury hotel, spa, large pool, a couple of restaurants, an RV park, and a broadwalk. The beach itself is a great place for watersports, jet skis, and kayaks since it is in a sheltered bay.
A world heritage site since 2006, the village of Tequila is where the drink was first produced. It is also one of Mexico’s Pueblo Magico’s because of it’s history and traditions. Located about an hour’s drive to the west of … Continue reading →
The 27th annual wine and cheese festival hosted in Tequisquiapan, Mexico has been described as “Paying homage to the art of living well”. This 300 year old colonial city with cobblestone streets and rustic homes is now a popular weekend getaway for people living in Mexico City and Queretaro. In addition to it´s wineries where grape production began in the 1960´s, Tequisquiapan offers visitors an 18 hole golf course, natural water springs, spas, and water parks.
The festival features tastings, competitions, lectures, workshops and music. There are typical mexican cheeses such as Ranchero and Manchego along with locally produced versions of French and Middle Eastern cheese. Many kinds of wine are availible at this festival from various regions in Mexico, as well as imports from other countries. The most popular grapes grown and harvested in this part of Mexico are Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
The 44th annual Baja 500 events begin this year on June 1st and concludes on the 3rd of June. As always the race starts and finishes in Ensenada, Mexico. The event is sponsored by Tecate and organized by Score International which is the off road sanctioning body in the sport of desert racing that was founded by Mickey Thompson in 1973.
Score races are held in both the USA and Mexico. The main score events include the Laughlin Desert Challenge, the San Felipe 250, the Baja 500 and the flagship Baja 1000 off road race. At the end of this series of championship events the overall winners are determined by a point system which awards teams for starting, finishing and some additional points for a variety of reasons.
Each race has separate catagories for cars , trucks, motorcycles, atv´s, dune buggies and baja bugs. The fastest and largest class of off road racing vehicles are the trophy trucks. These trucks cost upwards of $250,000 to build and feature high powered engines that exceed 700 horsepower and can reach speeds in excess of 135 mph even over rough terrain. The engines must be naturally aspirated and of the same make as the body of the truck. Surprisingly, they are 2 wheel drive vehicles with otherwise custom suspension systems designed to handle some very challenging road conditions.
Guanajuato is the capital of the state that bears its name and is one of Mexico´s most well preserved colonial cities. Rich in both history and culture, Guanajuato became a Unesco World Heritage site in 1988 and is well known for its museums, university, colonial architecture and the hospitality of it´s people. The city also has a tradition of hosting musical, theatrical and dance events such as the Cerventino Festival. Since its inception in 1972, this festival has become the most important artistic and cultural event in both Mexico and Latin America, in addition to , one of four major events of its kind in the world.
One of the most important institutions of higher learning in Mexico is the University of Guanajuato in the city of Guanajuato. It was founded in 1792 by the society of Jesuits and authorized by King Felipe the 5th of Spain. After a series of transformations it eventually became a state university and was finally named the University of Guanajuato in 1945. Today the university has over 30,000 students and 153 academic programs; including 13 doctorates, 39 master´s programs as well as 65 Bachelor´s degrees and does more scientific research than any other institute of higher learning in the state.
Guanajuato is home to several unique museums a few of which are the former home of famous artist Diego Rivera which has been converted into a museum, a museum of mummies, the Cerventino museum and the Alhondiga Museum. During the Mexican war of Independance in 1810, the Alhondiga was converted to a fortress from what had been a warehouse for storing grain by Spanish loyalist who locked themselves inside to fight the Mexican rebels led by Father Hildago. The rebels won the battle when a miner known as El Pipilla crawled to the fortress with a large flat stone on his back for protection and burned down its wooden door. Before the war was over, however, the Spanish recaptured the Alhondiga along with 4 of its revolutionary heroes including Father Hildago, beheaded all four and mounted their heads on stakes at all four corners of the Alhondiga.
Ensenada is a large and growing city of over 350,000 people on the Pacific Coast about one hour´s drive from San Diego, CA. It is the largest seaport in Baja California where most imports and exports are shipped both to and from the United States, Canada and mainland Mexico. In addition to shipping, Ensenada also has a first class cruise ship facility with 3 state of the art cruise ship berths, retails shops, restaurants and crafts markets. Many of these cruise ships come from L.A. and San Diego bringing daytrippers who are gone by night.
One of the main attractions to Ensenada are the local wineries on ruta del vino in Valle Guadelupe where over 90 percent of of Mexican wines are produced in this region. The best wines produced in this region are red varietals made from zinfindel, merlot, pinot noir, petit syrah and cabernet sauvigon. Two of the largest and most prominent of wineries shown here are LA Chetto and Santo Tomas.
There are many special events in the Ensenada area such as the annual Newport to Ensenada yacht race, the annual bicycle road race from Rosarito to Ensenada, the Mardi Gras carnival, and the Estero Beach Volleyball tournament. However, the most popular and well known events in the Ensenada area are the Baja 500 off road race in June and the Baja 1000 off road race in mid November. These events feature separate categories for a variety of motorcycles, trucks, and cars. The most sophisticated of these off road vechicles are the trophy trucks which can cost several hundred thousand dollars to build and have up to 800 horsepower.
Featured in the John Steinbeck novel ¨La Pearl¨, La Paz is the capital of Baja California Sur and has a population of around 250,000 people. It also has one of the highest standards of living and quality of life in Mexico. As a result, La Paz has become a popular destination for many Canadians and Americans seeking alternative retirement havens. It is also favored by water enthusiasts for its marina´s, boatyards, marine supply stores and cruiser clubs.
La Paz is also Baja´s Eco-tourism center offering a variety of tours guided by professionals dedicated to preserving the environment. Thus, eco-tourism is by far the leading source of tourist income in this area; as most people come to enjoy snorkeling, diving or kayaking in the pristine waters or to explore the 244 islands in the sea of cortez which are under UNESCO protection as bio-reserves such as the Espiritu Santo group of islands only a few miles off the shores of La Paz.
Less than an hours drive south of La Paz lies the Bay of Ventana which is one of the best locations in the world for windsurfing and kiteboarding. The best time of year for both of these sports begins in November and ends sometime in March when the strong northeasterly winds slowly die out. During the peak season there are kite boarding expos and several major events such as the La Ventana Classic which is an international competitive event for windsurfers and kiteboarders.
Other popular activites in the La Ventana area include snorkeling, camping, swimming and fishing for marlin. There are campsites for both tents or motorhomes all along the shoreline; some offer showers, toilets and trash barrels while others are more primitive.
Mexico hosts Latin Americans largest balloon festival and it is located in the city of Leon where the skies are filled with several hundred balloons over a three day period. This is an annual event which is held around the 3rd week of November. In addition to the colorful balloons; the event is packed with exhibitions, presentations, and live music concerts.