Culiacan was the city I was most anxious about before I started this trip. The travel warnings from the US Department of State about Sinaloa generally and specifically about Culiacan are pretty scary.
Culiacan itself, however, turned out to be something of a delight. It certainly didn’t hurt that I was sent on from Mazatlan with a contact to meet in Culiacan, who is the kind of person who would brighten up anyone’s day.
Culiacan was also going to be the first time I actually needed to rely on my Duolingo “Level 7” Spanish to try and get around. And unbelievably I had very few problems. I made awkward, struggling conversation with the taxi driver about the weather, about what Perth is like, about what I’m doing in the city, about where he was from originally (just south of Culiacan), and about how I like baseball and he thinks that’s really quite strange.
The hotel was kitty corner to the Estadio General Angel Flores, which meant that I was comfortable to walk back after the game – people would have parked further away than I needed to walk.
Estadio General Angel Flores is one of the more welcoming stadiums that I’ve been to in the LMP. You can see the person in the ticket booth, prices are more than reasonable, the entrances are wide and easy to find and it was definitely the easiest stadium in which to find my seat.
I fell madly in love with the Tomateros home uniform, but they didn’t have any in my size at the stadium, I missed the opening hours of the team shop by about 10 minutes on Saturday afternoon. (I arrived at 2.10pm, they close at 2.00pm on game days. D’oh!) and the team shop is closed on Sundays, so… no pink and maroon Tomateros jersey for me. I still want one though. Kind of desperately. Probably not desperately enough to go back to Culiacan for one, but maybe desperately enough to order one through the tienda en linea.
The second Tomateros game I went to was something of a disaster for the home team, with a final score of 14-3 and them being 9-0 down at the top of the 7th. The fantastic thing is that the crowd doesn’t desert when this happens. They just kind of hang in there and keep having their own party. It was so dire though, that the mascots were working their asses off to keep everyone entertained. I get pretty focussed on the game, but I lost 1.5 innings to watching the mascots be hilarious. The monkey mascot for Culiacan is pretty much a chaotic spirit of mischief and very, very funny. I was too busy having fun to take video of him being particularly hilarious, but I gotta tell you that the mascots worked HARD that Saturday evening.
Though the crowd was perfectly capable of making their own fun. For some reason the potato chip guy became the focus of some of it. Every time he called “Papas!” the crowd would cheer. Eventually it was clear that he was a focus of fun, so the mascots grabbed him to come stand on top of the home dugout for an impromptu Papas-off.
Foodwise – I went for cevichurros hoping and believing that they were a beans and tomato thing. They are not. Instead they are pretty much every bar-snack ever crammed into a cup and covered with clamato juice. My pathetic Australian tastebuds found the whole concoction overwhelming, which is odd, because I like nearly all of the components on their own. Skinny crackers? Yes. Coated peanuts? Yes please! Cucumber? Panela?… Pretty much everything except the sweet sausage, which I really am not a fan of. I didn’t manage to eat the whole cup, but since it was pretty much the entirety of my food budget for the game, I ate a lot more than I wanted. I can’t decide if this or Crackerjacks are my least favourite ballpark food to date.
So the next game I treated myself to churros with a chocolate sauce injection. I’ve been spoiled by getting them pretty much straight out of the oil at my churros cart in Sayulita, so these definitely weren’t as good, but they’re still pretty superior sweets. And I had the stickiest wings I’ve ever had. My face needed a shower all on its own afterwards. So. Good.
My phone had no charge and I hadn’t yet realised that the USB cable was not working properly to charge it, so I have very few photos of Culiacan.
I did get into a couple of art galleries and it was really interesting to see actual art that wasn’t just for the tourist market. Roqsi used to work in one of the private art galleries when it was a library and we had a good look around. It was a really interesting exhibition of Sinaloan modern art and some of it directly addressed the drug trafficking and violence for which Culiacan and Sinaloa are known. Sadly my Google-Fu is also failing right now, so I can’t even bring you an internet reproduction. My favourite piece was a graphic and gory photograph called 6 cubic metres of organic waste.
There’s so much to see and do in Culiacan. The malecon beside the river is gorgeous and there’s clearly a lot of money around. The city is absolutely pumping full of energy. I would have liked to have had another couple of days here to explore quite a lot more and to get the hang of the bus system.
Culiacan was definitely a surprise highlight of the trip.