I like a little Mexico when I visit Mexico. I found a mountain of it in Mazatlán, including the El Faro Lighthouse, the world’s second highest, high atop a mountain marking the port from the Pacific just below the Sea of Cortez.
A sky-high, glass-bottom observation platform to reward the climbers and hikers is a nod to tourism, but I liked Mazatlán’s Mexican authenticity as opposed to some south of the border beach and golf resorts that supply no sense of place. Mazatlán, established in 1531, has a colonial feel rich with arts and culture. And for those who prefer to stroll for their steps instead of climb, it’s 8.5-kilometer, seafront Malecon is one of the longest on earth.
Mexican-owned Pueblo Bonito Resorts has two of their eight oceanfront, all-inclusive luxury resorts in Mazatlán, and as excited as I was to explore both their Pueblo Bonito Beach Resort and Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay Resort and Spa, my driver didn’t mind a roadside stop on the way from the airport when I thirstily requested some cerveza. “Coke or Pepsi? McDonalds or Burger King,” he joked pointing out two extremely basic competing convenience shacks beside each other. The real question was the brand of beer – Modelo or Pacifica – and I chose two bottles of the latter since the driver told me it was brewed locally since 1900.
The driver tolerated the suds stop but as we motored on, he refused to reveal, for the sake of privacy, any of a number of celebrities he’d chauffeured to Pueblo Bonito. En Espanol I teased him by guessing names of Spanish-speaking starlets. “Bonita senoritas? Eva Mendes? Eva Longoria? Sofia Vergara? Penelope Cruz? Selma Hayek?”
The driver laughed. “No, Miguel. But thank you for sharing your collection,” he said as I exited his vehicle and tried to hurry into the hotel with my luggage. A grinning greeter eased my bag from my hand. “Relax, amigo…you are here,” he said. The phrase provoked a cascading calm…and so did the margarita I swallowed poolside while watching the wind puff up a parasail above the Pacific moments later. At water level I spotted a group of people swimming to the south out toward nearby Deer Island and a man fishing with a long pole off the rocky outcropping to the north.
A most authentic element of this very local resort is the regional, live, brassy Banda beach music and Spanish singing reverberating through the resort from the beach. I asked the bartender if the performers played on special days? “No sir. Every day. And…all day,” he groaned over the persistent percussion. It’s a real party!
Before the band, the Los Palomas breakfast buffet bursts with cultural cuisine: sopes de papa chorizo; chilaquiles verdes and rojos; marlin ala Mexicana; chicharron salsa verde and frijoles. I asked to add a tequila sunrise. “Why not?” asked the smiling server Ricardo in the definitive tone of a strong statement rather than a question. Enthusiastically enabled, I drank dos of them. The resort operates the intricate Casa 46 Restaurant in the city with a view overlooking stately Plazuela Machado.
Smiling Jose Gamez, Pueblo Bonito Mazatlán’s director of sales showed me all of it. Upon learning I was from Michigan, he told me of a time he flew into Detroit and rented a car to drive to Windsor, Canada.
“My colleague kept insisting we drive south. I told her, “South of the USA is Mexico! Canada is to the north!”
Gamez came to understand the trivial geographic anomaly that below Detroit a little portion of the Province of Ontario sticks out to the south.
Gamez also cites his visit to Detroit, with all due respect, when asked about news reports of crime in Mexico.
“We drove to Canada through the Windsor tunnel and back over the Ambassador Bridge which let us off downtown at midnight. I looked around and was praying to God not to get stuck at a red light. So, I wasn’t feeling so safe in Detroit.”
Gamez wishes to return to see Detroit’s civic renaissance, but likely not in winter. The average high temperature in his Mazatlán hometown is never below 77-degrees.