Hundreds of years ago, Mazatlan was founded as a fishing village on the north bank of a natural inlet from the Sea of Cortez. Over time, Mazatlan grew northward from the inlet as the protected deep-water lagoon beyond the inlet attracted a commercial fishing fleet that now numbers in excess of 800 boats and provides much of the fresh shrimp and tuna consumed in Mexico each day. Although the port, one of the largest on the Pacific coast of Mexico, is today also utilized by cargo and cruise ships, the strength of its fishing industry allowed Mazatlan to escape the descent into a tourist based culture that has befallen so many of Mexico’s other coastal cities.
After investigating El Centro – the old town of Mazatlan – the second best way to experience the everyday life of Mazatlencos is to stroll along the Malecon, a 6.7 kilometer long (about four miles) beach front promenade. I began my walking tour at Pescadero Beach (Fisherman’s Beach), where scores of gaily painted wooden fishing boats rested on the beach. Every morning, fishermen gather on the beach just before dawn. They form crews of six or eight and help one another drag their simple boats across the sand and into the sea. By midday the boats are back with their fresh catch and the process is repeated in reverse; returning boats are dragged back onto land, the larger of them using a simple metal axle with two wheels, which is pushed into the water and gradually shoved under the boat, allowing the crew to leverage the weight of the vessel and shove it back into its allotted slot.
I strolled along Pescadero Beach at midday, chatting up gnarled old fishermen with dark tans and faces deeply creased from too many years in the sun. What type of fish had they caught? “Dorado,” was the most common answer, although some showed me yellow-tail tuna and what appeared to be Red Snapper. The men nodded and smiled, demonstrating their talents at repairing nets and untangling fishing line. I shot a video of the final boat being dragged from the sea and asked one of the younger crew members what they had caught. “Ah, mucho Dorado,” he claimed. Lots of Dorado. The others laughed and shook their heads. “Pero manana,” he added. But tomorrow.
Further south along the Malecon is a park, officially named Parque Glorieta Rodolfo Sanchez Taboada, but which the locals call “El Clavadista,” named for the cliff divers that perform here. Jumping from a high rocky promontory into a narrow channel of thrashing Continue reading
From the moment I arrived at the Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort and Emerald Casino, I was treated like a queen and fed like a king. Within minutes of settling into my oceanfront room, I had devoured the tray of gourmet chocolate, fine Danish cheeses, crackers, and fresh tropical fruit that awaited me and, just a short while later, overindulged with a lobster salad at one of the resort’s fine restaurants. A private van tour of the island on day two included lunch at Doktorstuin Restaurant, an historic converted plantation home that served up authentic local cuisine, and that was topped off with another gourmet dinner back at the resort. Lying in bed that evening like a beached whale, I resolved to get some much needed exercise the following day.
Fortunately, the Marriott is located an easy half-hour walk from Willemstad, the capital of this tiny south Caribbean island. I walked out the front entrance, turned right, and headed toward the ocean. Just past an idyllic public beach I found the Koredor George Hueck, a broad asphalt path leading to the heart of the city. Initially, mangrove swamps and black coral coastline flanked the path. As I approached the outskirts of Willemstad, the island’s desalinization plant appeared, its holding tanks lined up like behemoth sentinels on the inland side of the trail. Continue reading
During the past few years, I have frequently contemplated the issue of charitable giving. Every time there is a disaster of major proportion, we are called upon to donate. I listened to these pleas following 9/11 and the tsunami. Of late, the earthquake in China, the Myanmar cyclone, and the flooding along the Mississippi have prompted organizations like the American Red Cross to redouble their efforts to raise money. Regularly, I am subject to appeals from non-profit organizations that solicit money for a plethora of causes: Jerry Lewis browbeats me on behalf of children suffering from Muscular Dystrophy, the Fraternal Order of Police demands that I purchase their light bulbs, and National Public Radio subjects me to a full day of on-air begging twice per year.
Because I rarely donate to any of these organizations, I sometimes worry that I do not do enough to help others. I wonder if I am selfish or less generous than I should be. My problem, however, is that I have a healthy suspicion of charitable organizations. Although I believe Continue reading
Exploring the back roads of Hatteras Island in search of old homes that have weathered scores of hurricanes and provided shelter for generations of fishermen is one of the many delights of any visit to the Outer Banks. The Old Gray House, tucked into the woods just off the main road in the tiny village of Buxton, is one such structure. If only this house could talk it would tell many tales. Fortunately, the home’s current owners, Dewey and Mary Parr, are happy to speak with visitors about their homestead.
The Old Gray House takes its name from a seafaring family by the name of Gray, whose descendants have inhabited Hatteras Island since the early 1600′s, beginning with Dewey’s great grandmother, who was shipwrecked on Hatteras Island. She was on board a ship coming from Newfoundland that ran aground and, Continue reading