Puerto de Guaymas
Review and History

Puerto de Guaymas lies on the shores of the Gulf of California off the Pacific Ocean in the southwestern area of the State of Sonora, Mexico, about 400 kilometers south of the border with the United States. Sitting at the mouth of the Río Yaqui and surrounded by beautiful mountains, the Puerto de Guaymas is a shipping, manufacturing, commercial, and tourism center. Major exports include sulfuric acid, copper, wheat, and other crops grown in the region (cotton, vegetables, fruits, etc.).

Although there are many seafood processing plants in the Puerto de Guaymas, overfishing and diminishing fresh water from the Colorado River have stressed the port’s fisheries. Still important for sports fishing, new resorts developing along the coastline are changing the Puerto de Guaymas into an important tourism center. In 2005, over 184 thousand people called the Puerto de Guaymas home.

Port History

The first Spanish explorers discovered Guaymas in the early 16th Century, naming it Guaymas after the tribe of indigenous people that lived there with the Yaqui. In 1567, Sonora’s mineral wealth was found, and Spaniards seeking gold came to the area.

Despite its natural harbor, the area remained uninhabited by Europeans due to its unpleasant climate and harsh environment. Surrounded by rocks, cactus, and scrub, it is a furnace in the summer. Instead, the Spanish established a village on an inland estuary.

In 1703, the first mission near the bay was founded by Jesuit missionary Juan Salvatierra, who called it San Jose de la Laguna. Attacks by the indigenous peoples forced the mission’s abandonment despite occasional attempts to re-establish it.

The Puerto de Guaymas Mexico’s oldest Gulf of California port, and it was the base for early mission settlements in the Baja region. In 1769, the town of Guaymas was founded by José de Gálvez. The Puerto de Guaymas received city status in 1859, and its local congress renamed it “Guaymas de Zaragoza” in 1862.

In 1854 and 1865, the Puerto de Guaymas was attacked by French troops. In 1865, a French fleet took and occupied port for a year.

During the 19th Century, the Puerto de Guaymas grew to become Mexico’s most important northwest port, making it a strategic treasure in two wars and one unauthorized military expedition (called a filibuster).

After 300 years of Spanish domination, Mexican revolutionaries overthrew their European conquerors. While the country was independent after 1821, foreign power continued their invasions. During the 1847 Mexican-American War, the US Army invaded and took over more than half of the country’s northern territory.

In 1847, the Puerto de Guaymas was attacked by the US Navy and occupied for about a year until the Mexican-American War ended. It was a supply depot during the US’s Indian Wars and Civil War.

In 1854, a ship carrying European pirates from San Francisco attacked the military garrison in the Puerto de Guaymas. General Yanez defeated the pirates and executed their leader. Today, the 13th of July is a city holiday honoring the pirates’ defeat.

During the United States’ Civil War, the French invaded Mexico. Maximilian, the emperor throned by Napoleon III, sent forces to occupy the Puerto de Guaymas in 1864 before the French were driven out of Mexico. The Puerto de Guaymas had its first celebration of victory over the French in 1888, and it has been celebrated every year since.

Until 1886, the Spanish were under frequent attack from the Apache and Yaqui tribes. Even after missions were well-established, the indigenous peoples continued to attack settlers. The last Yaqui and Mayo uprising was in 1886. European settlers learned to depend on the Yaqui for labor and for the produce from their farms.

The modern Puerto de Guaymas is proud of its past and its role in post-revolutionary Mexico. It is also the most important port on Mexico’s western shores.

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