The history of Mazatlan is a quite colorful story. Mazatlan has attracted Spanish, Americans, Germans, and French in its past, as well as pirates. It has an international inheritance, and as a port city has always been a major place for exporting goods from Mexico. These attributes are inherent in Mazatlan’s role as a gatherer and sender for God’s kingdom. The name Mazatlan, “The place of the deer”, is based on the Nahutal Indian word “Mazatl”, which comes from the Aztec language and is no longer used in the area. It is believed that the name arrived along with an interpreter from conquerors of the Sinaloa area. There were 25 Spaniards led by Nuño de Guzmán, who basically burnt their way through the area, founding a settlement on Easter Sunday in 1531.The settlement dates back before the Spanish who arrived in 1531.
In the 1700s, shipments of silver and gold from the Copala and Rosario mines poured through Mazatlan’s harbor, which soon became one of Mexico’s most important ports. Sailors knew it as the islands of Mazatlan with the picturesque backdrop that the hills provided. With the many estuaries and lagoons in close proximity to the natural harbor, it is easy to understand their reasoning.
Between 1700-1800, the harbor became the roost for French and English pirates, who were blessed by the hill-screened harbour and would lay in waiting for the gold-laden Spanish Galleons that were going up and down the Pacific coast. The government took action by placing a small prison in the harbor and watchtowers on the hill. The pirates were gone by 1800 but the legend of gold buried in the hills and beaches around Mazatlan still remain today. From 1859 to 1873, Mazatlan was the capital of Sinaloa. The railroads finally reached Mazatlan at the end of the 19th century, raising the importance of shipping to the town, and ultimately led to consistent growth in the area until the Mexican Revolution.
In more modern times, the 1960's brought on the existence of the Mazatlan that we now know. As tourists began to discover the white sand beaches, hotels began to pop up along the beach line. The fishing and tourist industry has continued to increase, providing more and more jobs. With a tourist industry boasting of around 500,000 visitors a year, it brings in almost as many tourists a year as the population of the city, which is growing towards 700,000 people.