To really discover Mazatlan one must leave the touristy “Golden Zone” along the town’s northern shores and venture into its historic old town. At its core is the lovely Moorish and Gothic style Cathedral Basilica de la Inmaculada Concepcion, which presides over Plaza Republica and calls the faithful to worship with a puzzling array of bell ringing at all hours of the day and night.

Catedral Basilica de la Inmaculada Concepcion in the center of Mazatlan

Catedral Basilica de la Inmaculada Concepcion in the center of Mazatlan

Vendors are the first to fill the surrounding arterial streets each morning as they hawk an endless array of fresh seafood, homemade pastries, religious trinkets and the like. They are quickly followed by shopkeepers who roll up metal doors and pull merchandise onto the sidewalks. Shoppers, workers, churchgoers, and occasional tourists stream through the narrow, hilly cobblestone streets, flowing as one back to the heart.

The Cathedral may be Mazatlan’s heart, but the city’s soul is bared at night. Historic buildings are bathed in a soft yellow glow from strategically placed spotlights, trees twinkle in multi-colored ice lights, and vivid neon signs blink in restaurant and bar windows. Passionate conversation and laughter spill into the street from open restaurant doorways and patios hidden from view by high wooden walls. Soon after dark, Mazatlecos begin gathering at Plazuela Machado. By day a pretty little park with a gazebo and cobblestone pathways, at night the Plaza is magically transformed into a giant open-air cafe with live music, dancing, and a craft fair. Anchoring the Plazuela Machado is the historic Angela Peralta Theatre, which offers free folkloric performances and nominally priced special events, such as the one night Flamenco performance that I attended for just $16 U.S.

Can’t view the above slide show El Centro in Mazatlan? Click here.

Mazatlan is more than a tourist center. It is home to one of the largest fishing fleets in Mexico, which supplies much of the country with shrimp and tuna. The popular Cerveza El Pacifico brand of beer originated in Mazatlan and is still produced at the same brewery that opened in 1900; an on-site museum is a worth a visit. Since residents are not entirely dependent upon the tourist dollar the town has retained much of its authentic character, ensuring that Mazatlan’s heart and soul are easy to find and welcome all who come in search of it.
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