Playa Norte: the first recreational beach in Mazatlán


MAZATLÁN, SINALOA._ Throughout history, Mazatlan has had three port areas. The oldest one was San Felix Bay, today known as “Playa Norte” (North Beach).

The Chronicler of the City, Enrique Vega Ayala, highlights the historical value of this space that over the years has undergone several transformation processes, but retains its essence as the oldest reference linked to the port’s identity.

“It was marked as a shelter area for boats since the time of the first Spanish explorations, at least since 1602, when Sebastián “El Vizcaíno” mentioned it in his trips logbook,” Vega Ayala quotes in his article The Docks of Mazatlan.

Today this iconic beach is located right in the middle of Mazatlán’s “Zona Costera“.

Playa Norte, also known as Puerto Viejo, is a refuge for smaller vessels that are dedicated to the capture of flake species and the only point where artisanal fishing is practiced, compared to the dominance of the industrialized fishing economy.

“It is the oldest place that can be referred to in local history, because it is the basic part of the settlement when the boats began to anchor in Mazatlán,” said the Chronicler.

He remembered how the ships used to arrive when there was no pier at all. Ships had to be anchored between the Three Islands and the bay, and from there they lowered people and merchandise in smaller boats.

Regarding the controversy unleashed by the claim to install a modern water park there, with floating objects occupying a surface area of 2,000 square meters, Enrique Vega provides a curious fact: “This is not the first time this space serves for aquatic recreational activities”.

Balneario Mazatlán, the background:

During the 1930s, after the Mexican Revolution, the “Balneario Mazatlán” was installed on Playa Norte.

“ There are old photogrpahs in which restaurants, umbrellas, beach chairs and tables can be seen”.

Wooden structures were placed in the water so that people could swim or dive, but especially for activities other than those that could be done in the sand.

For the historian, the idea of placing a water park on Playa Norte is not something disruptive with the vocation of this site. However, the conditions are different and there are other implications that, in his opinion, should be taken into account.

Back in the time of the Balneario Mazatlan, the beach was wider. The entrance was located where the Aquiles Serdán street is today. There were no constructions of any kind.

But when they opened the avenue the land was divided and then the Balneario was closed, in return the first palapas were installed for tourism purposes, where the monument to the Fisherman is located today (it was built in 1958).

Space and human interaction

In the 1940s, construction work began to expand the pier towards the south of the city, in the area known as Estero del Astillero and where the port area is located today. The fishermen who had their berth in South Beach moved to North Beach, where more than 200 boats of three different cooperativas are still sheltered today.

“In addition to the interaction of fishermen with the coastal and maritime environment, there is now an intense traffic of vehicles and tourists”, said Enrique Vega Ayala.

“There are situations that must be taken into consideration by local authorities, in order to properly authorize this type of projects, such as vehicular traffic and lack of parking space, today there is a more intense human interaction and less room, besides, tourism is a priority nowadays,” he continued.

“Academics and environmentalists have to analyze the possible environmental damage that this project may trigger, habitat of marine organisms, such as algae, snails, sea turtles, fish and spawning point of the “pajarito“, one of the most traditional fisheries in the town”, stated the historian.

On Monday July 23, they began installing the inflatable blocks. The next day the park was cancelled by the municipal government for not having the corresponding permits, although the company’s representative claims to have a favorable resolution of the Environmental Impact Statement allegedly approved by federal authorities.

Through history, Mazatlan has had three port areas. The oldest was the San Félix Bay (now Playa Norte), which was marked as a shelter area for boats since the time of the first Spanish explorations, at least since 1602, when Sebastián El Vizcaíno left it reflected in his travel chronicle in this area. That’s why it is known as Puerto Viejo.

Fuente: Los muelles de Mazatlán