From the dusky twinkle of shrimp boat lanterns of the azure Puerto de Mazatlán (Port of Mazatlan); to the Sierre Madre Occidental mountain range sloping majestically above the winding streets of Cosala – Sinaloa (the “breadbasket of Mexico”) boasts a plenitude of photogenic scenery. Situated upon a prime strip of West coast Mexico; the Federal State of Sinaloa represents the agricultural, and cultural heart of the richly diverse Latin American country - said to have been one of the earliest regions for civilized human settlement. Encompassed by the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range to the East; the West of the District falls to a vast flat plain, greeting the Gulf of California's temperate sub-tropical climate. With summers that tend to stretch from March to October, rainfall is scarce along the coast until mid-November!
Arguably one of the finest Mexican coastal gems, Puerto de Mazatlán (situated along the South-Western plateau) maintains a harmonious balance between tourist-packing, and escapism. Golden Beach itself is a haven for sun-seekers, whilst Punta Camarón and Playa Sábalo beaches offer boarders the ideal breakers for year-round surfing.
The central “Zona Dorada” caters for those seeking to sample the local shrimp (of which Mazatlán is an international exporter) or “Carne Asada” (a staple, local twist on beef tacos) with restaurants ranging from privately owned Verucruzana specialists, to commercial establishments. Conveniently situated on the “Golden Zone Beach”, decades old Joe's Oyster Bar is the best place to discover “Banda” - a music genre unique to the region. Characterized by brass instruments, with an acoustic undertone, the tempo is generally upbeat, encompassing everything from boleros to baladas (ballads.) Magno Music Hall, situated just 5 minutes from the “Zona Dorada” beach-front, offers a more eclectic array of concert performances including mariachi bands.
The basin-like bay of Mazatlan has long influenced it's appeal for commercial fishing and connective travel; it's port alone bears a fascinating history involving ancient settlement, pirate capture and 19th Century ambition that have all shaped the prosperity of the city. Situated just beneath the Tropic of Cancer, Mazatlan is now a major stop-off for world cruises, as well as Mexico's primary cargo export avenue (mostly shrimp, of which 40 million pounds are exported annually.) The rags to riches history of Mazatlan draws cruise visitors to the Old Town, where stands the Cathedral of The Immaculate Conception; the 18th Century Teatro Angela Peralta (Angela Peralta Italian Theater) and the Archaeological Museum.
Soaring palm trees and stuccoed white buildings bely a once dominant Spanish presence within the peaceful Western provincial city – El Fuerte. Often overlooked as tourists taxi through; the Spanish founded city has become modernly referred to as the “Gateway to Copper Canyon”, yet preserves a rich colonial history with many architectural legacies lining it's heart. El Fuerte (or “The Fort”) is by and large the most central attraction of the town. Built in 1610 upon the orders of the Viceroy of Montesclaros; the fort was conceived to stronghold the city against attacks by the Zuaque and Tehueco indigenous tribes, who sought to drive the Spaniards back into mainland Mexico. Thankfully, El Fuerte has shrugged off archaic legends of civil unrest, to become a tranquil retreat for lovers of history and culture.
By 1824, El Fuerte held prominence as the capital of the Western State, and the city grew into a municipal center. The Plaza of Arms central square, and City Hall are historically beautiful sights, should you wish to learn how the former capital developed. The area drew aristocracy from as far afield as Spain – the Countess of Retes (Dona Arcadia) being the most famous. Today, native tourists flock from all corners of Mexico, to view the Casa de Las Arcadias (House of the Arcadias) where the aristocrat once resided with her husband. The tales of murder, money laundering and fake walls (hiding gold bullion) provide fascinating fodder for tours around the mansion. Rumor implies, the body of the second murdered maid was never found!
While in the Western sub-region, a journey to the bronzed chasms of “Copper Canyon” (Barranca del Cobre) are a must. Often likened in physicality to Arizona's world famous Grand Canyon, visitors are often surprised to learn that Mexico's own tableau mountains occupy an area seven times those of Arizona. Aside from getting up close and personal with the promontories on an adventure tour, the best way to experience Copper Canyon is via Chihuahua al Pacífico railroad (“Chepe” to natives). Comprising 400 miles between Chihuahua and Los Mochis City; the route crosses 36 bridges, descending into 84 tunnels along the way – possibly why it's been dubbed “the most dramatically scenic train journey in the world”.
Ambling through the Plazuela Alvaro Obregón (an “In Memorium” Plaza named after the influential 1920's president Alvaro Obregón) the cosmopolitan state capital of Culiacan bears little semblance to a once fortified town, ruled by the Aztecs. The Centro Cultural Genaro Estrada plaza, lined by theaters, movie houses and teeming with shops demonstrates the speed at which Culiacan has evolved. A plenitude of Christian landmarks from the time of Spanish settlement remain, including the pink and white majestic cathedral Templo de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Museums such as the Centro de Ciencias de Sinaloa offer younger generations the opportunity to view the fifth largest meteorite on earth, coupled with archaeological artifacts harking back to the Mayo and Aztec settlements. When you're done with sightseeing, the newly developed resorts around Altata Beach (just 30 minutes by bus from the center) beckon with the promise of sun, sea and watersports.
Perhaps more than any other region of Mexico, Sinaloa is a state of contrasts. The co-existence of centuries old agricultural economies such as fishing and farming, alongside an increasing demand for export goods and tourism, doesn't seem to have affected the balance, or quality of life – no matter where you tread. As with much of Northern Mexico, the natives are hearty, welcoming and usually dying to impress their culture and history upon you – truly imprinting the memory of your visit for years to come.