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History of Mazatlan

from Wikipedia

Until the early 19th century, Mazatlán was a humble collection of huts inhabited by indios whose major occupation was fishing, according to Petit-Thousars, a French explorer. In 1829 a Spanish banker named Machado arrived and established commercial relations with vessels coming to Mazatlán from far off places such as Chile, Peru, the United States, Europe, and the Asia Pacific. By 1836 the city had a population of between 4000 and 5000.

The city has seen some turbulent times. During the Mexican-American War(1846-48) the U.S. Army took the city and, in order to avoid the shelling of the city, the Mexican Army abandoned it. Almost twenty years later, on the morning of November 13, 1864, a French man-of-war fired on the city twelve times but there were no casualties; Mazatlán then became part of the Mexican Empire under Maximillion (vestiges of French influence may still be found in the architecture of many buildings in Centro Historico). On November 13th, 1866, the Mexican general Ramon Corona expelled the imperialists from Mazatlán.

On June 18, 1868, William H. Bridge, captain of HMS Chanticleer, blockaded the port and threatened to shell the city on June 22. The captain had taken umbrage after local Customs Authorities seized 23 ounces of gold from the paymaster of the ship.

The City of Mazatlan has the dubious distinction of being the 2nd city in the world after Tripoli, Libya, to suffer aerial bombardment. During the Mexican revolution of 1910-17 General Venustraia (later president), intent on taking the city of Mazatlán, ordered a bi-plane to drop a crude bomb of nails and dynamite wrapped in leather on the target of Neveria Hill adjacent to the downtown area of Mazatlán. The bomb was indeed crude and the art of bombing cruder. The bomb landed not on target but on the city streets of Mazatlán, killing two citizens and wounding several others.

The lighthouse "El Faro"

During the Gold Rush, fortune hunters from the United States East Coast sailed from the New York Harbour and other Atlantic ports to Mexican ports in the Gulf of Mexico. Debarking, the aspiring miners travelled overland for weeks to Mazatlán, where they would embark from the port to arrive in San Fransico in another four to five weeks.

Mazatlán's lighthouse (El Faro) began to shine by mid-1879. The lamp had been handcrafted in Paris, containing a big oil lamp with mirrors and a Fresnel lens to enhance the light. Since the light was static, in the distance it was often mistaken as a star. By 1905 this lamp was converted to a revolving lamp. Today, the 1000 watt bulb can be seen for 30 nautical miles (60 km). Near the lighthouse shore, famous "divers" (called this even by the Spanish speaking inhabitants of Mazatlán) perform daring jumps off high rocks into the Pacific Ocean for tips from onlooking tourists.

Angela Peralta (1845 - 1883), a Mexican opera diva famed throughout the world, died of Yellow Fever in Mazatlán shortly after her arrival in the port. Legend has it she sang one last aria from her hotel balcony overlooking the Plazuela Machado. Her memory is held dear by Mazatlécos to this day.

Mazatlán is also the hometown of Pedro Infante, one of the most popular actors and singers of the golden years of the Cinema de Mexico.

Mazatlán was well regarded by film stars such as John Wayne, Gary Cooper, and others of their generation as a sportfishing mecca. The hotels along Olas Altas flourished during the 40's, 50's and 60's supporting this vibrant trade.

In the 70's, tourism in Old Mazatlán declined as other, newer venues opened on the expanses of beach to the north of the city. As an example of Mazatlán's tourism expansion, one of the largest timeshare providers in Mexico, Mayan Resorts was founded in 1975 with the inauguration of Paraíso Mazatlán (Mazatlán Paradise). This time also saw the expansion of the Hotel Playa Mazatlán and the construction of many others, a trend that continues to this day.

As the 21st Century begins, Centro Historico has been rediscovered by newcomers and locals alike, spurring a renaissance of restoration and entrepreneurial endeavors. Once fine homes that had fallen into literal ruin have been restored to their former glory and house families and boutique businesses. The city has assisted in upgrading infrastructure, such as improved water, sewer and electrical services.