Mazatlan becomes part of
UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network

[Updated by Maaike Hoekstra, a team member for the UNESCO designation, June, 2019]. Ten months have passed since Mazatlan became candidate for the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Behind the scenes the process has been moving along with the preparation of the application form as well as creating a four-year plan.  In April, the team received support from the Monterrey School of Design to build the brand ‘Mazatlan – Creative City in Gastronomy’. It’s been an exciting journey of (re)discovering the culinary roots of Mazatlan and connecting to its producers, chefs, traditional cooks and food enthusiasts. What’s Mazatlan’s most representative dish and what’s the essence of being ‘Mazatleco’? Obviously there wasn’t a unanimous answer, but what unites us all is our love for Mazatlan’s flavors and culture.

May and June were busy months with two UNESCO conferences (May 21 and June 6-8) about creativity, cultural tourism and sustainable development. Invited speakers and other Creative Cities came from across the world to share their experiences, as well as discovering what Mazatlan has to offer. More than just a lecture about do’s and don’ts, it was an exchange of ideas and good practices. To connect to the people who have innovative ideas in gastronomy, culture and tourism and to realize that Mazatlan already has many elements of a Creative City.

What will the membership of the Creative Cities Network mean for Mazatlan? Will it bring tens of thousands of tourists to the city and fill the skyline with high-rises? No! Ideally being a Creative City will bring an exchange of knowledge between other member cities and tools to build a more livable Mazatlan for all its citizens. Other Creative Cities have found the real importance was about connecting the residents with all their local food, traditions and culture- not necessarily to attract hordes of tourists. The designation uplifted each city and everyone felt proud to be part of UNESCO. Tourism, is of course, a wonderful by- product, but not the main goal. The key phrase seems to be a “more livable Mazatlan for all its citizens.” The deadline for the application is the end of June and we will know the verdict at the end of November.  The team has been working extremely hard with all the various arms of UNESCO – until then…. let’s keep our fingers crossed!

[Updated February 2019, by Sheila Madsen: So what’s been happening since August? Well, lots of meeting and an executive committee has been formed. A decision has been taken that Mazatlan is the gateway to Sinaloa cuisine – the mountains, the valleys and the sea – all the foods from these areas have influenced our cuisine.  The group is busy building the brand and look for some pop-up traditional culinary events that will help UNESCO award Mazatlan the coveted plaque of gastronomy.]

Reported by Maaike Hoekstra, August 6, 2018

An exciting partnership has been signed between Mazatlan and UNESCO. Mazatlan has become a candidate member of the Creative Cities Network. The Creative Cities Network was created in 2004 to promote cooperation between cities, placing creativity and cultural industries at the heart of local development plans. There are seven creative fields that can be chosen: Crafts and folk art, design, film, gastronomy, literature, music and media arts. Worldwide there are 180 member cities from 72 countries. In Mexico there are currently six other Creative Cities: Puebla (design), Guadalajara (media arts), Mexico City (design), Morelia (music), Ensenada (gastronomy), San Cristobal de las Casas (crafts and folk art). Mazatlan will be focusing on gastronomy as the main creative field. The spotlight will be shined on Mazatlan now and if all the UNESCO’s requirements are met it will become official in October 2019 – when the city will receive its plaque.

UNESCO Mexico director Nuria Sanz pointed out that there is work ahead for local government, restauranteurs and universities to preserve and promote local food culture, as well as creating new generations of skilled food entrepreneurs. She mentioned that “we are what we eat” and the important role of gastronomy to create sustainable urban development. In the coming year there will be intercultural cooperation between Creative Cities of Gastronomy to learn from each other. Some of the other 26 cities in this field are: Parma, Bergen, Bélem, Chengdu, Dénia, Gaziantep, Ostersund and Tucson. More for information about the Creative Cities Network: https://en.unesco.org/creative-cities/creative-cities-map

Papik Ramirez

The mastermind behind the project is Papik Ramirez, current director of the Sinaloan Institute for Culture and Arts/secretario de cultura de Sinaloa. The idea came to light after Mr. Ramirez met with Nuria Sanz, the country director of UNESCO at a conference in Guadalajara. Mazatlan has historically been the city of abundance in seafood and fish, as well as a great culinary tradition. “It would be a great honor to get the UNESCO Creative Cities recognition, to become part of a world-wide network”, says Papik Ramirez. “It isn’t only about the historic legacy, but also about incorporating young entrepreneurs in the productive and culinary sector. To capitalize on the wealth of natural resources we need the fresh eyes of young entrepreneurs as well as their connections to the rest of the world. Not only to export regional products, but to process in innovative ways of using local food to delight visitors. This will have an impact on the local economy as well as on the rest of Sinaloa.”

“The process to certify as Creative City of Gastronomy is a collective effort. We are going to need people from different sectors to build our case file. A UNESCO consultant will visit Mazatlan to indicate the steps to follow. There will be study groups, focusing on different fields. We will be hosting an international meeting of Creative Cities of Gastronomy in October this year, so we can learn from their experiences. The case file will be presented in February 2019, and in November 2019 we’ll receive the verdict.”

Mr. Ramirez is confident that Mazatlan has all the necessary elements to become the 27th member of Creative Cities of Gastronomy and he hopes that the city will be able to add other unique cultural elements too. To keep track of the process, more information will be available on the ISIC page http://www.culturasinaloa.gob.mx/

[Maaike Hoekstra is the owner and founder of Flavor Teller – Mazatlan’s only street food tour. She’s particularly excited about UNESCO’s interest in the cuisine of Mazatlan as she’s known for years how unique the food is. You can find out all about Maaike and her popular tours on www.flavorteller.com]