Puerto de Mazatlan
Review and History

The Puerto de Mazatlán lies on the north-central shores of western México east of the tip of Baja California in the State of Sinaloa. Meaning “place of the deer” in the Nahuatl language, the Puerto de Mazatlán is a popular tourist resort and an important commercial seaport. The Puerto de Mazatlán is home to agricultural-based industries like food processing and brewing; however, the port handles many industrial cargoes like rolled steel, containers, and automobiles. It also handles large volumes of bulk products and fish meal.

The Puerto de Mazatlán is a regular call for cruise ships and ferries that bring passengers back and forth between Baja California. Méxican and tourists from around the world come for sun and sand, water sports, sports fishing, and simply relaxing. The Puerto de Mazatlán is between Guadalajara and the US-México border, and it is well connected by road, rail, and air with cities in both countries. In 2005, over 350 thousand people lived in the Puerto de Mazatlán.

Port History

The area around the Puerto de Mazatlán was inhabited long before Europeans arrived there. Petroglyphs have been found on nearby islands that date back ten thousand years. The early inhabitants were nomads who settled in Mazatlán to hunt deer and fish. Unfortunately, pre-Spanish conquest records do not exist to tell the story of the area’s pre-history. The Spaniards arrived in the middle 16th Century.

The Puerto de Mazatlán was a small village and home to indigenous fishers until the early 1800s. In 1829, a Filipino established trade relations, and vessels began to arrive from the Asia Pacific, United States, Europe, Peru, and Chile. By 1836, about five thousand people lived in the Puerto de Mazatlán. Port records show that five ships arrived in 1826 from England, France, and another Méxican port. In 1827, nine ships came to the Puerto de Mazatlán from England, France, Sardinia, and two Méxican ports.

The US Army conquered and held the city during the Mexican-American War from 1846 to 1848 after the Mexican army abandoned the Puerto de Mazatlán to avoid having the city bombarded. Twenty years later, a French warship fired on the city without casualties.

While the US held the Puerto de Mazatlán, gold was discovered in California, and many immigrants came to the city, creating a new mercantile economy providing food, clothing, and equipment for the visitors. Many ships began to sail to San Francisco during that period. Between 1853 and 1875, of the 436 ships that departed the Port of San Francisco, 201 were bound for the Puerto de Mazatlán.

In the mid-19th Century, the Puerto de Mazatlán was part of the Mexican Empire ruled by Maximilian, and reminders of the French days can still be seen in the old town’s architecture. In 1866, General Ramón Corona (Spanish) drove the French from the Puerto de Mazatlán. In 1968, William Bridge from the United States illegally blockaded the Puerto de Mazatlán after authorities seized gold from the ship’s paymaster.

By the early 20th Century, about 600 ships arrived at the Puerto de Mazatlán every year, including huge steamboats and small sailing ships. Imports were bought with mining products. In the late 1890s, over $4 million in precious metals were exported through the Puerto de Mazatlán.

The Puerto de Mazatlán is the world’s second city to suffer aerial bombardment (after Tripoli, Libya). During the Mexican Revolution of 1910, a bi-plane dropped a leather-wrapped bomb made of dynamite and nails on Neveria Hill near downtown. Missing its target, the bomb killed two people.

The El Faro lighthouse in the Puerto de Mazatlán began operating in 1879. Made in Paris, the light was frequently mistaken for a star because it did not revolve. In 1905, the lamp was converted to revolve, saving many confused ships. Today, it shines for 30 nautical miles across the sea. Nearby, divers make breathtaking jumps from the cliffs for tips from tourists.

A magnet for sports fishers, the Puerto de Mazatlán was well-liked from the 1940s to the 1960s by Hollywood elite like Gary Cooper, John Huston, and John Wayne. Of course, many tourists followed those celebrities to the resorts. Tourism began to decline in the 1970s as newer vacation spots opened north of the Puerto de Mazatlán.

Today, the Puerto de Mazatlán is finding a new generation of tourists, both local and international. The city is undergoing a renaissance. Old fine homes are being restored, and new businesses are springing up.

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