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Mazatlan History

Mazatlan History

Mazatlan History

The History of Mazatlan

Though Mazatlan isn’t always considered to be one of the older parts of Mexico, a country with ruins from civilizations from thousands of years ago, it still boasts a rich and fascinating history having been populated with native cultures well before the Spanish conquerors ever came into the picture.

Even the Catholic churches within that region are constructed on a basis of the ancient native tradition and religious structure, which is older than the Catholic Church itself by millennia.  Petro-glyphs have been discovered on the islands offshore from Mazatlan by scientists who have dated them back as far as 10,000 years old.

Much of the historical records from the area have been destroyed over time, as one culture has taken over the settlement of the last over many years. Disease, slaughter, and slavery have all played their part in altering the course of the human presence in the area, especially on the local natives who occupied this and many other parts of the country.  As a result, much of the documented history of the area does begin with the Spaniards, though they were far from the first people to reside there.

The Mazatlan name, itself, is based on the word “Mazatl”, which was an ancient Nahuatl Indian term that meant “place of the deer”.  This language was an Aztec dialect which was not actually spoken in the area, so it is believed that it wasn’t actually the people living in the area who chose that name, but that it was actually chosen by the interpreters hired by the area’s conqueror (Nuno de Guzman).  Today, however, the city and surrounding area has a population of approximately 600,000 people and it is rare to spot a deer.  The city itself was not established until the 1820’s, which is why it appears to be young when compared to the history of the rest of the country.

The first temporary settlement from the conquerors included 25 Spaniards led by Nuno de Guzman, who essentially burned their way through the area until they founded it in 1531 on Easter Sunday.  The ships were filled with gold from the region’s inland mines, and departed not long afterward.  This behavior led to the development of many legends of buried pirate treasures along the coasts and coves.

The first mention of the name Mazatlan occurred in 1602, though it was not making reference of the current location, but was instead referring to a village which is now known as Villa Union and is located 30 miles south of today’s city.

Throughout the years, the area was heavily used by English and French pirates, which would continually attack the Spanish Galleons that were heavy with gold.  It wasn’t until years of government crackdowns that included several efforts including watchtowers and a small presidio, that the pirates were finally stopped.  By 1800, pirates no longer used the waters.

Surprisingly, it was German immigrants and not the natives or the Spanish who established the city of Mazatlan.  It was first developed as a port location to bring in agricultural equipment.  However, once the port was established, international trade rapidly began to grow.

The city suffered many plagues of yellow fever and cholera as foreigners continued to occupy the area.  It was passed from one people to another over the years, including an American occupation during the Mexican-American war in 1847.  In 1864 it belonged to the French in the American Civil War, and then in 1871 it was occupied by the British Navy.  Due to all these influences over time, many different traditions in architectural style have been included in the buildings of many of the finer neighborhoods of the city, and they continue today.

The city that is known today has essentially been around since the 1960’s when it was first discovered by tourists.  Though the city itself maintains its traditional way of living, its limits have been expanded and now include a long line of tourist attractions and resort hotels along the beaches, as well as a thriving fishing industry.