Mazatlßn
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Occupying the Mexican mainland’s western shore at the mouth of the Sea of Cortes is Sinaloa State (population 2.5million) covering 58,328 sq.km.

While dwarfed in size by its northerm neighbors Sonora and Chihuahua, Sinaloa is better known to American visitors thanks to its sunny beach resort of MazatlÓn, and to a loyal following of outdoorsmen who hunt and fish along the state’s sea coast and inland reservoirs.

Sinaloa’s geography encompasses three main zones: a Sea of CortŔs and Pacific Ocean coastline, fertile coastal plains, and finally, the mighty Sierra Madre mountains.

Such diverse settings create an optimal vacation backdrop for year-round outdoor recreation and ecological exploration.

The state’s mostly deserted seacoast is punctuated by estuaries, mangroves, and lagoon, many of which have jungle-like vegetation and serve as sanctuary for migratory waterfowl and unique wildlife.

Commercial and sport fishing along the state’s 656-km seacoast are a mainstay of the economy. Coastal fisheries raising shrimp and sardines are numerous, and MazatlÓn is home to the largest shrimpfleet in the world!

Inland from the coast is Mexico’s most productive agricultural region. Abundant water for irrigation,plus a semitropical climate (the Tropical of Cancer crosses the state just 3.5-km north of MazatlÓn) create nearly ideal conditions for agriculture.

Eleven rivers flow from the Sierra Madre toward the sea. Many are dammed, giving Sinaloa an abundance or irrigation for farming, plus hydroelectric power for food processing, industry and manufacturing.

Unknown to many American shoppers, large portions of their salad bowl fixings come from Sinaloa farms. Sinaloa is a leader in production of wheat, sesame, corn, rice, garbanzos, chiles, lettuce, tomatoes and other field crops, rivaling California’s San Joaquin Valley.

Sinaloa’s coastal plains give way to the stalwart Sierra Madre Occidental- a rugged and nearly impassable mountain range that separates Sinaloa from neighboring Durango State. The range’s foothills are home to colonial-era mining towns.

These colonial relics proffer centuries-old religious and municipal buildings, and languid village atmosphere. Several large reservoirs made from damned mountain rivers create ideal conditions for both bird hunting and freshwater (mostly bass) fishing. Note: Bird hunting season runs from late October to early March.

The state’s climate and landscape change as one moves southward from the desertlike northern border with Sonora State, becoming more tropical as one moves toward MazatlÓn. Similarly, a journey inland from the ocean reveals severe change-the warm weather sea coast and coastal plains turn to more temperate foothhills and eventually the alpine Sierra Madre mountains.

Though Spanish explorers visited the region in 1530, Sinaloa didn’t entice settlers until silver and gold were discovered in the Sierra foothills in the 17th century. A network of towsn emerged to serve Spain’s commercial interests. The region’s sparse Native populations lessened religius incursion, leaving Sinaloa with few missions and relatively free from the grand religious conquests that occurred in other states. Colonial-era coastal development at MazatlÓn served both tha export of minerals from nearby mines and as a provision station for Spain’s Manila (Philippines) Galleons returning with Asian spices, silks, and other exotic goods.

Interestingly, two U.S. figures played prominently in the state’s 19th century developmet. The port city of Topolobampo was estabilished in 1872 by Alfred K. Owen, an American idealist attempting to establish a "utopian" society. Another American, Benjamin Johnston, established another colony in 1893 in what is today Los Mochis.

In this century, the state has modernized quickly. Sinaloa’s transformation into an agrarian giant was aided by the construction of several dams, the development of port facilities at Topolobampo and MazatlÓn, and the opening of a major rail link north to south across the state. Today Sinaloa is realizing its destiny as a global trade player, along with attracting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican vacationers.

Sinaloa is mostly known for its main attraction, the beach resort of MazatlÓn. Outside of this popular coastal resort, the state remains largely unexplored by American vacationers. Visitor attractions can be divided into 3 main zones: north, central & south.

Its northern border with Sonora State is best known as a transit point for Sierra Tarahumara (Copper Canyon) visitors. The cities of Los Mochis and El Fuerte serve as departure points for rail tours into Mexico’s awesome canyon country (see Chihuahua State chapter for details), while the port of Topolobampo provides Sea of CortŔs access and ecological exploration.

The central zone is rarely visited, except by ardent sportsmen (bird hunters and bass fisherman) bound for the region’s coastal wettlands and inland reservoirs. The southern zone’s marquis attraction is the Seaside City of MazatlÓn, one of Mexico’s oldest and most popular beach resorts. Inland attractions include the colonial villages of Concordia and Copala, both funded in the 16th century. To the south is Rosario (a picturesque mining town) and TeacapÓn, a maze of canals cut through Amazon-like jungle.

MAZATLAN

MazatlÓn (mah-saht LAHN) is a destination with a split personality. Despite the importance of its visitor industry, MazatlÓn remains very much its own city. It nicely balances its double indentity, as Mexico’s largest West Coast port with being one of the countries most popular beach resort.

MazatlÓn is Mexico’s second largest coastal city (after Acapulco), with nearly 700,000 inhabitants. It has the largest port facility between Los Angeles and the Panama Canal, and is home to Latin America’s biggest fleet of commercial shrimp vessels (over 600 boats). Nearly 40 thousand tons of shrimp are processed each year, making MazatlÓn the shrimp capital of the world.

MazatlÓn has three distinct zones. The port and downtown areas ("Old MazatlÓn") are at the southern end of a peninsula that separates the Pacific from an enormous saltwater estuary. To the north is the zona dorada, home to nearly all of Mazatlan’s visitor attractions. Between the two is a long curved stretch of mostly undeveloped beach that serves as a buffer between the port and resort zone. This separation allows the resort community to coexist nicely with one of Mexico’s busiest commercial ports.

The area has a rich history. For thousands of years prior to the first Spanish arrival in 1531, Native Americans migrated through this region following game herds. (Its name translates to "land of the deer" in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs.) By the early 1600’s gold and silver shipments from the nearby mines poured through Mazatlan’s harbor. Frequent pirate attacks stifled early development. By 1806, the city was incorporated and by the 1840’s, hordes of American settlers were flowing through MazatlÓn on their way to the gold fields of California. The port began to slowly grow.

The invading American army besieged it in 1847 and again by the French in 1864. Following the American civil war, a group of southerners tried unsuccessfully to convert the area into a slave state.

Since the 1950’s, MazatlÓn has been a major component in Mexico’s visitor industry. Cancun and Ixtapa were deserted sandbars when MazatlÓn began earning a reputation for affordable and friendly fun-in-the-sun vacations. MazatlÓn grew up hosting weary American motorists who found it a welcome oasis on their journey south. As air service improved, the resort became a mainstay of Mexico’s burgeoning tourism industry. MazatlÓn has probably introduced more Americans and Canadians to Mexico than any other resort.

One of the best things going for MazatlÓn is its combination of affordable comfort and laid-back seaside charm. Its long, wide sandy beaches with rolling surf (quite similar to the beaches of Southern California) are lined with fun, open-air bistros and bars. While there’s plenty of elbowroom, Mazatlan’s sunny beaches clamor with activity. Strolling vendor’s hawk their ware parasails float upward, and sunbathers of all ages frolic in the blue Pacific.

Dining-especially for seafood-and nightlife is excellent. Shopping is also first rate, with several fine art galleries and handicraft markets. Sightseeing combines a few colonial-era sites with more contemporary attractions. For the sports enthusiast, MazatlÓn offers the usual assortment of water sports along with some of the world’s finest deep sea fishing. Surfing is excellent, as is hunting for waterfowl.

The ports really comes to life during the city’s annual pre-Lenten Carnival celebration in late February or early March. Dating back to 1898, this Mexican-style Mardi Gras features parades, fireworks, and round the clock street dancing and festivities.

At the end of 1996, there were approximately 6,585 units of mostly three and for star lodging. Since many properties date back to the 1960’s and 70’s, Mazatlßn has lacked a wide assortment of deluxe properties. This, however, has changed with the debut of three new deluxe properties.

The resort’s infrastructure is being expanded with two new marina developments. Marina El Cid was built in 1995 by El Cid Resort, and includes a 90-slip marina and a 200-unit deluxe hotel (Marina El Cid & Yacht Club). The second marina project is being developed by Grupo Situr, and occupies the Estero del SÓbalo (a salt-water estuary north of the zona dorada). Known as Isla MazatlÓn, this project will feature lodging, an 18-hole golf course, a tennis center, and yacht moorings.

Resort beautification has also been given top priority. Thousands of trees have been planted, and the city continues to re-store its downtown historical center. Alleyways and streets have been adorned with flagstone, building fašades have been restored, and the Plaza Venustiano Carranza now shows its 19th

Century splendor.

Fierce competition from Mexico’s other Riviera playgrounds have made the resort try harder to compete. New scheduled air service has helped boost visitor counts. MazatlÓn remains a favorite of many West Coast vacationers who return year after year. While the new kids on the block (Los Cabos, Ixtapa, Canc¨n) lure visitors with dazzling mega-resorts and the latest in leisure time gadgetry, MazatlÓn has stuck to its roots: flavor, fun, food and fishing.