Issue: Issue Summer 2008
Mazatlan - Hollywood Discovers
When the cast and crew arrived by train, masses of people came out to receive them. A reception committee, headed by local authorities and the queen of carnival included a brass Sinaloan band and a crowd of people ecstatic for the presence of Raquel Torres and the other actors. (Raquel Torres later appeared as the woman tempting Groucho Marx in “Duck Soup”.) Today, Mazatlan welcomes visitors with the same enthusiasm. In spite of its Hollywood connection, this port city of 300,000, with its beautiful beaches and charming outlying villages was passed by by the glitterati who established Acapulco in the 50’s and Puerto Vallarta in the 60’s. Its attraction as a fishing (and drinking) destination were not lost on John Wayne who visited often in his yacht The Wild Goose and Robert Mitchum who was known to arrive with a bevy of beauties in tow. Mitchum would recant his many adventures in Mazatlan and was a frequent visitor driving from his ranch near Durango.
Today, Mazatlan is being rediscovered for its easy access to the U.S. A short 2-1/2 hour flight from Los Angeles, you can be on the beach by early afternoon. Along its miles and miles of beaches, luxury hotels and condominiums cater to U.S. and Mexican visitors. Vacationing at the El Cid Marina Hotel in September, we were concerned that rather than enjoying the international experience, we might be vacationing with other Americans. We were delighted to discover that the weeks just prior to the end of summer vacation Mexican families vacation. The hotel which resembled a Meditteranean village was filled with extended families of all ages. It was a glimpse of Mexico few gringos experience. Like Gregory Peck, Mitchum and The Duke, many are drawn to
Mazatlan for its big game fishing. Indeed one of its many attractions is its wonderful cuisine. Seafood of all varieties is served. Mexican food takes on a new meaning with succulent shrimp, octopus, oysters, red snapper, to name a few, prepared with delectable sauces that delight the most discriminating palate. Mazatlan celebrates its diversity. In the early 1900’s German immigrants settled in the area and it wasn’t long before, homesick for their native brew, founded the Pacifico Brewery. Nearby, Azul cacti are being cultivated and fermented into the national liquor of Mexico. Officialy known as “destilado de agave” but the people have called it “mezcal” ever since, it’s a premium beverage processed in the same manner as Tequila. Like Champagne, however, the only liquor that can use the name. Downtown Mazatlan is finding new life. Founded in the early days of the nineteen century, ancient buildings are being renovated into high ceilinged condos and apartments. The centerpiece of this restoration is the glorious many tiered Angela Peralta Opera House. This theater was built in the early 1870's and named the Rubio Theater. In 1883 however, the famous opera singer Angela Peralta 'The Nightingale of Mexico' arrived in Mazatlan to perform. Upon her arrival, the crowd that gathered to meet her unhitched the horses from her carriage and carried her to her hotel. She was so taken back by their enthusiasm that she performed to her fans from the balcony of her hotel. Unfortunately, the boat she arrived on carried the yellow fever, and she died before she could ever perform in the theater. The theater was soon after renamed after her, and a plaque commemorates her tragic death. Unfortunately, the theater also had tragedy awaiting it. In later years, the theater was turned into a movie theater, then a vaudeville stage, a boxing ring and eventually a parking garage! Finally, in 1975, a hurricane destroyed the inside of the theater. Standing in ruin for years, the theater began a restoration in 1987, and re-opened in 1992. Today, it hosts visiting operatic productions from around the world. Mazatlan is gradually emerging as the region’s arts and performing center. It boasts a visual and performing arts school. Its vibrant Plaza Machado, surrounded by restaurants that spill out onto the sidewalk is the place to meet and greet locals and visitors who recognize that while the Zona Dorado lovely beaches and marvelous resorts equal those found in other Mexican destinations, the heart of Mazatlan is in its shaded streets and historic buildings.
The charms of this region go beyond Mazatlan, its miles long malacon (sweeping beachfront promenade) extending to numerous villages scattered in the countryside. Roads are well kept leading to villages established in the 1800’s. A gem among them is El Quelite whose bougainvillea covered haciendas and flower laden verandas hint of an earlier time. Still, residents continue in the tradition of their fathers baking succulent pastries or working leather into sandals and saddles. Hidden among the rolling pasteurland is the Hacienda Las Moras, a sublime retreat for visitors from far and wide to rest and relax or to enjoy the experience of life on a rancho. Beautifully appointed with Mexican art and antiques, the silence provides a glorious respite from big city life. Its beauty is appreciated by many couples who marry in the chapel overlooking the rancho and wedding guests party for days in its wonderful surroundings. Mazatlan and its surroundings are part of the Mexican state of Sinaloa which possess a vast array of climates and attractions from its glorious beaches to its famed Copper Canyon, and its colorful capital of Culican, whether it’s a short getaway or a longer vacation, like Mitchum, Wayne and Peck, discover the charms of Mazatlan and Sinaloa.