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History of Mazatlan

Mazatlan and its surrounding regions was originally inhabited by a tribe of Indians known as the “Totorames” and the petroglyph’s that they left on rock formations around the area have been dated as far back as 10,000 years. However; with the arrival of the first Spanish who came to settle in 1531 came the beginning of a new era for Mazatlan and indeed Mexico as a whole.

While the Spanish did maintain a small presence in and around the port it wasn’t until three centuries further on that an actual permanent colony was established in the area. The location of that original colony, named Mazatlan after the abundance of deer in the area is actually some fifteen miles south east of present day Mazatlan, along a river on higher ground.

Spain Establishes a Larger Presence in Mazatlan

Its now the quaint little town of Villa Union, which is the first town that you will come to when you take Highway 15 south out of Mazatlan. While some people will tell you that “Mazatlan” is an Indian word and there for was given to the area by the local inhabitants. The truth is, that while it is an Indian word, it is of Aztec origins, which means that it had to have been brought here and bestowed on the town by the first Spanish colonialists.

Pirates were the some of the first mainers to recognize the potential of the area with is natural harbor and maze of hidden estuaries as a hide out where they could relax between raiding forays, far out of reach of a hangman’s rope. That all ended however, when the Spanish discovered gold in the area now known as Rosario, which resulted in them increasing their presence and military might all along the Pacific coastline.

A Period of Growth For Mazatlan

History of Mazatlan - Look How Old the Cars Are!

For the most part through the 1800′s Mazatlan existed as a sleepy fishing village but along with the long periods of monotony came brief periods of excitement. In 1847 the port of Mazatlan was briefly blockaded by American naval forces but that all ended when hostilities ended between the two countries. The port of Mazatlan also was used as a weigh station and manufacturing center for travelers and merchants heading to and from San Francisco and the gold fields during the gold rush era of the later half of the 1800′s.

The First Snowbirds Arrive

It was the economic boom times of the “roaring twenties” that first sent Americans south on vacation to Mazatlan on ships that steamed  out of Los Angeles and San Fransisco. It was those first adventuresome travelers who sowed the first seeds of the tourism industry that now flourishes in the area today. It was in the 1950′s that the first hotels sprang up along the beach in Mazatlan and the rest is history.

Related Links

  • Pacific Pearl – Read the history of Mazatlan from Pacific Pearl.
  • MazTravel – Read the history of Mazatlan from Maz Travel.


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