Travel | No comments yet.
By: Zdenko Kahlina
Cruising the streets of Mazatlán’s ‘Centro Historico’
It’s true what they say: Time flies when you’re having fun. And that’s what we’ve been doing here. Having fun… again! This was our second winter in Mazatlán’s historic center – ‘Centro Historico’, and our accommodation was also on the same Pelegroso Street, just like previous year. The two months spent here went by in a flush!
This city, the first major resort town on the Pacific coastline, has a split personality. At the northern end of town is the Zona Dorada (Golden Zone), where the hotels (and the prices) rise high and the pace is frenetic.
At the southern end of the malecón (the seaside promenade) is Viejo Mazatlán (Old Mazatlán), or ‘Centro Historico’, the city’s historic center. This is gorgeous and low-key area of colorful postcolonial buildings – some restored some still idyllic piles of chipped stucco, where you’ll find a few hip restaurants, art galleries, big food market and lots of small shops, and a totally different scene from the touristy Golden Zone.
Centro Historico (Old Town) is just short walk south from Calle Pelegroso. West of Plaza Revolución you will find Plazuela Machado and the Angela Peralta Theater. If you continue walking west, toward the sea, you will come to the seaside area known as Olas Altas, Mazatlán´s original tourist zone. Here you can visit the Archeological Museum, the Museum of Art and art galleries.
This is the area we prefer, and this is where calle Pelegroso goes up the ‘Ice Box’ hill in a typical Mexican residential area, overlooking the old Cathedral and the historic center of Mazatlán.
This wacky, winding street is right in Centro Historico and close to all amenities and most important for us, close to Olas Altas beach. ‘Calle’ (street) Pelegroso has its ups and downs… literally. It runs parallel to Angel Flores, but due to nature of the topography, namely a huge hill, it offers amazing views. Coming from Plaza Hidalgo you have to climb the short but steep hill and pass the ‘Old Mazatlán Condominiums’ (OMC) on your right. After that point, the road descends towards the malecón and Olas Altas beach. This year we were staying at Pepe’s place, also known as ‘Pepe’s palace’, which is on this downhill section on your right. Recently renovated with freshly painted walls in yellow… you can’t miss it.
If location is what you are looking for, calle Pelegroso is only 1 block from the famous ‘Olas Altas’ Beach, and 10-15 minute walk to the farmers market that carries everything from fresh seafood to local fruits and vegetables. Olas Altas means high waves and the beach really lives up to its name. Olas Altas is the starting point for the Malecón, the city´s seaside walkway and continues for 8 kilometers, up to Valentino´s. Shops, galleries and restaurants offer art, silver, souvenirs and great food.
The street of Pelegroso is a community. Everyone walking the street says ‘hola’, even to us, gringos. After living for full two months on this street, we knew every single house, almost every single person, every single dog (and strays), and every annoying rooster. Thus, I still don’t know who was the person laughing very laud several nights in a row in the middle of the night. At the beginning of the street, almost every evening, neighbors would gather in a prayer group right on the street in front of one abended house. People were sitting on the warm concrete and were listening their priest who was holding bible in his hands. The story about this place is that the owners of the house passed away several years ago, but left their dog in the house. The neighbors committed themselves to take care of the dog ever since. They leave him in the house during the day, but take him to their houses over the night. So the dog is still guardian of this abended and empty house.
Many times, as we would walk by, people we already knew were sitting on the side of the road. We could tell they were gossiping about everything that’s going on in ‘their’ street. To our greeting in Spanish ‘buenas tardes’ they would respond with the smile and the same words, happy that we are trying to speak their language. Mexicans are very friendly and very sweet when approached. They are hardworking people and if you treat them with respect you will get the same.
Pelegroso cast of characters
Then there were the Pelegroso cast of characters. Poncho lived next door and did odd jobs, had odd hobbies (like playing drums) and was wearing very colorful wool hat. He changed his outfits three times a day and went from brown pigtails to a blond Mohawk. American Tom owned a house across the street… very private guy, who did not socialize much with anyone. Suzan Carnes across the street was busy installing beautiful paintings in her windows. Angela Jackson had a lovely morning yoga practice on her roof. Sylvia, the talented seamstress in the peppermint green house was making dresses. The steepest part of the Pelegroso Street was reserved for Canadian couple from Quebec. Their house was decorated by Canadian and Quebec flags. Across the street from them lived another, very friendly French Canadian, André, who was renting one bedroom apartment on the main floor of the house, just across from Old Mazatlan Condominiums.
Patty Neal left Pelegroso when her husband died, tried different cities and has now returned ‘home’ to Pelegroso. Bob and Diane would arrive from Canada and put a spring in our step. They walked up to El Faro every morning and are an inspiration. Cesar (the plumber) had his bike chained at Paul’s house, which is the last house on the street, just before you get down to Angel Flores road and ‘The Fish Market’ restaurant. Paul is Canadian cyclist with whom I would go for a long training rides and who showed me many good roads for biking, around Mazatlán.
Mexicans, Americans and Canadians would all gather in Joaquin’s tienda and buy one egg, one cigarette and one onion; it’s a store for everyone. Lourdes takes the morning shift in stilletos, tight jeans (and a lovely cleavage) and buyers stream in for their morning munchies. Joaquin’s wife, Gerenia, manages the afternoon shift, and the two daughters assist in the evening. No need to purchase a newspaper; you heard it all there.
And then… there were construction workers… several houses have been renovated at the same time on this interesting street during our stay. The workers were working, sleeping and eating on the road. They worked very long hours; usually starting early in the morning and many times they would be still working at 10pm in the evening under the street lights.
Last year we stayed at the ‘Old Mazatlán Condominiums’ which is just few houses away from ‘Pepe’s place’ (at Pelegroso 18). I already described Old Mazatlán Condominiums as ‘Jewel in Centro Historico’ in one of my blogs last year. This year we found our accommodation again over the internet, on the same street as last year – Pelegroso Street. This time our private accommodation was bright yellow house with street number 50 also known as ‘Pepe’s place’.
Our new host ‘Pepe’ is actually Jose Antonio Cuevas Molina, who owns and operates successful deep sea fishing business ‘Pepe’s Fleet’. Jose or ‘Pepe’ as he is known, has 50 years’ experience fishing the Pacific waters offshore Mazatlán. At the same time he owns this beautiful home in Centro Historico that he rents out to Americans and Canadians. Pepe, his wife Georgina and four children live over the summer in their original home next door. They built two-storey apartment several years ago and this is where our two bedroom apartment was. He does prefer long term renters… beside the two of us, his current tenants are Americans Liz and Bill (Oregon), and Anne and Erin (California). There were also Canadian couples Bev and Garry, and Linda and Rolland staying in two attached houses. So our ‘home away from home’ in Mazatlán this year was this bright yellow building, with address Pelegroso #50 and is easily spotted when walking down the street…
Actually Pepe owns three houses on this street – street numbers 50, 52 and 54. In addition to Pepe’s own house, he converted his sister’s house next door into several rental units (three, to be exact). Our unit was on this extended property on the first floor. Americans Erin and Anne were in the unit above ours and the top floor was reserved for Liz and Bill from Oregon. Bill once told me jokingly, that we didn’t have enough seniority to move higher through the building, because both couples are staying at Pepe’s for many years already. From the top level they had gorgeous view of the ocean and Olas Altas beach.
In front of the house is a security wall, painted in yellow to match the house color, with four wrought iron gates. Two of them with locks for entering property and the other two are just decorative. Behind the wall is a nice small ‘backyard’ (though, it is in front of the house!). We though Pepe should build a small pool here, because that’s the only thing missing at this place.
Our two bedroom apartment was on the first floor. It was fully furnished with fully equipped kitchen and had most of our requirements. Pepe didn’t disappoint us. He was also promptly responding to every request we had, no matter how small it was. For this we gave him the title of ‘best landlord’ in the world! Just as good was his wife Georgina.
From our balcony we could hear the Pacific surf roll in and from the top floor terrace, that was used by all three couples, we had a 180-degree view of Centro Historico and could see the cruise ships glide in. Every afternoon we’d climb up to the roof with our wine or beer for ‘happy hour’ and watch the sunset then star gaze. We would chit-chat about everything going on around us, lot of times mentioning weather conditions back home in the States and Canada. Waking up, we’d see the sun rise over the well-known nearby cathedral (Basilica de la Immaculada Concepcion).
Pepe’s place is also only a 10-minute stroll from Centro Historico’s Plaza Machado (5 blocks), lined with incredible restaurants that host nightly live music and are adjacent to a variety of small shops and juice bars with its restaurants, live entertainment, art galleries and historic Angela Peralta Theater. It’s nowhere near the majority of the hotels in ‘Zona Dorada’ or tourist zone, meaning it’s a much quieter, more genuine part of Mazatlán. We could see the Olas Altas beach from our balcony and always enjoyed watching the cruise ships glide in and out.
I won’t dwell on the deficits (there were some), but the assets were the location, good view and security.
Mazatlán is the Pearl of the Pacific, where the average temperature hovers around 82°F/28°C; the sun shines every day, and outdoors is the place to be. The activities this city has to offer will appeal to everyone. Here on the Sea of Cortéz, Mazatlán’s coastline beckons you to stroll along its numerous beaches, or its 10 kms of Malecón—seawall, or to hike to El Faro lighthouse, the second highest natural lighthouse in the world.
Places to stay in Old Town
Places to stay in Old Town are proliferating, but at the same time the old Town Mazatlán has lively pulls. The Melville is centrally located a block and a half from the Plaza Machado. It is a classic structure built in the 1870s by Germans for commercial use. In those days Mazatlán was a bustling port town that was the last stop before San Francisco for Italian, German and Irish immigrants leaving New York for the gold rush. Once the gold petered out, many came to the realization that the weather was better in Mazatlán, at least in winter time.
The Melville is the perfect base for operations, and security is good. Though the doors of some of the units look like they could use some updating, the walls are nicely painted in pleasing tones from the Mexican palette and good art hangs on the walls.
Another choice within the perimeter of Old Town is the Old Mazatlán Condominiums (OMC), located on Pelegroso Street No. 18, two blocks up from the Shrimp Bucket and the waves of Olas Altas Beach. The OMC has more than a dozen tastefully decorated units, a new patio, swimming pool and an incredible rooftop view where visitors often congregate for an incomparable sunset. The Best Western Posada offers a similar view, but often it is windy there while the ‘OMC’ is protected by Ice Box Hill.
Casa de Leyendas is the queen of Old Town B&Bs. It is tucked away just a block from the beach and across from a cute little public plazuela with art and archaeological museums located within a stone’s throw. ‘My home away from home’ is how one guest described her recent visit. Glen and Sharon Sorrie are hoteliers with a personable touch. Several years ago they opened the restaurant cafe Maccaws in front of their B&B. Offering free live music two nights a week; it has quickly become a new popular hangout outside of the plaza.
Canadians and Americans meet mornings under the veranda of the Looney Bean, which is set on the promenade in front of the Belmar Hotel. This is a once-illustrious property that counted among its prominent guests John Wayne, who would hang out there between movie shoots up in the high desert territory around Durango.
Looney Bean has a sister location at the north end of Cerritos Beach, one of the best swimming beaches in Mazatlán. That area’s Cerritos Beach now sports five towering condos and a huge new shopping center nearby. Some refer to this area of Mazatlán as “the platinum zone.”
So, if you want to rent, to buy, and have a view to live for in El Centro, Pelegroso is your street.
Overall, the town is a good choice for a quick getaway: it’s cheaper than Puerto Vallarta, the party scene is there for those who want to partake, and unlike in many resort towns, the city has some sights to explore beyond the surf and sand.
But it is the history and architecture around Old Town and the proximity of waves at Olas Altas Beach that draw us back there repeatedly. Here we’re just blocks from good food and good coffee and small but powerful waves. Winter temperatures in Mazatlán average 26 Celsius during the day and down to only 15 Celsius at night.
Best of all, two years ago a bike rental shop opened in Olas Altas. Now visitors can ride the waterfront while they enjoy Mazatlán’s often-magical sunsets.
Follow Zdenko’s Corner on Facebook !