History of Mazatlan
*Historical Mazatlan photos can be seen here*
Mazatlán's name comes from a Náhuatl Indian word "Mazatl" which means "Place of Deer" and comes from the Aztec language which was not actually used in Mazatlan. A group of 25 Spaniards who were led by Nuno de Guzman officially founded the settlement in Mazatlan in the year of 1531 on Easter Sundaybut almost 3 centuries elapsed before a permanent colony was established in the early 1820’s. However, scientists have found petro glyphs on the off shore islands which are believed to date back as far as 10,000 years ago. Though settlement dates back before the Spanish, many of Mazatlan’s historical records were completely destroyed by the Zealots who considered any other civilization inferior to theirs which also lead to the slaughter, slavery and disease which took its toll on the local natives who occupied Mazatlan and other regions throughout Mexico. Because the name Mazatlan (Mazatl) comes from the Aztec language of Nahuatl which is not the native tongue to Mazatlan, it appears that one of the interpreters of Nuno de Guzman (founder of Mazatlan in 1531) was probably the originator of the name.
In the 1700’s silver and gold shipments from nearby mines such as Copala and Rosario poured through Mazatlan’s harbor making it one of Mexico’s most important ports which created frequent pirate attacks that stifled early development. It seems the English and the French Pirates were the first to take advantage of the benefits of Mazatlan’s harbor to hide in where they would pounce on the rich, gold laden Spanish Galleons that would travel up and down the Pacific coast. The colonial government finally took action and built a small presidio on the harbor with watch towers atop the hills. The pirates disappeared by 1800 but the famous legend of buried gold still persists today. Around the 1840’s huge groups of American settlers were flowing through Mazatlan on their way to the gold fields of California.
In 1847 the port of Mazatlan was invaded by the U.S. military and then in 1859 the port was blockaded by the British Warship Amethyst but the small port of Mazatlan was able to thwart the attack. However, these incursions by outsiders gave rise to the tradition of bars on the windows and iron fencing with spikes which have come to be a standard in traditional homes. In 1864 the French Army and the Imperialist forces took possession of Mazatlan until November 13th when they were deported. The port then began to slowly grow and Mazatlan served as the capital of Sinaloa from 1859 – 1873. Today, Culiacan is the capital of Sinaloa which is located 2 hours northeast of Mazatlan.
El Faro - Mazatlán's famous lighthouse first began operating in the year of 1879. The maritime signals had been manufactured in Paris, France, and consisted of a large oil lamp with mirrors to reflect and enhance light. Because the light was static, in the distance the light was often mistaken for a star. It was not until 1905, when the lamp was replaced by a turntable. Therefore at the time, the Mazatlan lighthouse was the highest in the world and is now considered to be the second highest, still operating lighthouse in the world.
Porfirio Diaz became president in 1876 and remained in his positions until 1910. During that time things changed for the better in the port Mazatlan. There was a time of prosperity during his rule as the port and the lighthouse were modernized, the railroad arrived to town increasing shipping importance and the grand Cathedral was completed. Journalism, arts and education flourished and the Teatro Rubio was completed in the early 1890’s which was the premier opera house for the Pacific Costal Area and is now famously known as the Angela Peralta Theather where the star Angela Peralta herself have several performances before she died there in 1883 of Yellow Fever. In 1900 The Pacifico Brewery Company opened its doors and is now the beer of choice for the people of Mazatlan and others around the world.
Mazatlan was discovered by foreigners in the 1930’s mainly for hunting, fishing and the warm climate. During that time a few hotels appeared along Olas Altas (the end of the Malecon) and then in the 1950’s Mazatlan became one of Mexico’s first large, tourist beach resorts. The modern Mazatlan we know today came into existence in the 1960's as the tourists discovered the beautiful white sandy beaches. The city limits expanded to cover this area and the rich resort hotels and tourist attractions that followed up the beach line. The tourist industry and the great fishing industry that was established have provided increasing jobs and the population is now expanding rapidly towards 3/4 of a million inhabitants. In September 2007 Mazatlan was declared on the of 13 Wonders of Mexico made by man.
Mazatlan now known as “The Pearl of the Pacific” is one of the main beach resorts in the country with a coast line running up to 21 km long which boasts hundreds of hotels, restaurants, shopping center, commercial businesses, full time real estate, a full operating coffee and tuna cannery and 2 electric plants along with an international airport, multiple championship golf courses and so much more. Mazatlan has just about the largest commercial fishing fleet in Mexico which mainly processes shrimp and tuna that is sold all over the world. Mazatlan also has some of the best sport fishing in all of Mexico as well which professional fishermen come from all over the globe to fish the Pacific Ocean of Mazatlan.
The colorful and rich past make Mazatlan a truly unique city that blends old community, history and traditions with the modern influx from its visitors. Nowhere will you find a friendlier and more hospitable local society than in Mazatlán. This is the true taste of México!
Interesting Facts About Mazatlan:
- Today with a population of over 600,000 inhabitants, there are very few if any deer actually left in Mazatlan.
- Mazatlan itself was not developed by the Spanish nor the Indians but by a group of very enterprising German immigrants who developed the port facilities in order to import agricultural equipment. Once they got started, heavy international trade followed quickly along with the music known as Banda which is a mixture of German Folk music and the traditional Mexican music. Banda originated here in Mazatlan but is now widely known and loved throughout Mexico.
- Ulma which is a sport that is somewhat imitates soccer was derived from the pre-Hispanic sport, Ullamaliztli, which was played in Mesoamerica for fifteen hundred years. The Spanish thought the "ule" (ball used to play Ulama) had magical properties and were, therefore, intimidated by it. Ulama Fear and confusion even caused Catholic priests-- who came to America during colonization-- to prohibit the indigenous people from playing the game. But the game survived and is still played today in Mazatlán, one of the last places it is played on earth.
- The “Pulmonia” which translates to pneumonia is the open-air, golf cart type of vehicle that can be spotted driving around town are used as taxis and Mazatlan is the only place in the world that has these types of vehicle. There is even a bronzed statue of the pulmonia on The Malecon to commemorate the invention of this ever famous taxi.
- The City of Mazatlán has the dubious distinction of being the second city in the world after Tripoli, Libya, to suffer aerial bombardment (although the local historical display at the plazuela claims that Mazatlán was the first)