Mazatlan means “place of the deer” in the ancient Nahuatl language. It’s a more of a working-person’s city, and less of a resort town than its more glamorous and famous “Night of the Iguana” neighbor Puerto Vallarta. There’s more actual culture here with the Angela Peralta Opera House, which has nightly performances of all kinds. There are also numerous arts organizations in the city. Mazatlan is considered to be the only working Pacific coastal town with a strong manufacturing infrastructure along with a rich cultural and arts community.
If I were going to stay or live here for any extended time it would be in El Centro, the more interesting, historic city center and the spiritual, cultural, and emotional heart and soul of the city. And the place I’d stay would be the Old Mazatlan Inn, an artfully designed residence with a spectacular hilltop view in a charming, though hilly, neighborhood. Guests can either rent a unit or purchase one — all smartly furnished in rustic Mexican chic and with kitchens (www.oldmazatlaninn.com). Living in El Centro, however, one sacrifices the beautiful beaches of the suburban “gringo zone” to live downtown.
Strolling in the evenings in lovely Plaza Machado, one would think they were in some affluent North American city because it has been taken over by gringos.
Of course there is the presence of the drug cartels, and in fact I heard what I didn’t know was a shoot out the other morning. Apparently someone — not drug related — was trying to steal the car of the mayor’s body guard. They caught the thief. I’ve seen no crime or problems here, otherwise, and it feels peaceful and safe. Sadly, the cruise ships have stopped coming because of the drug wars, which is really a shame and hurting the economy here greatly. But as far as I’m concerned and from my recent visit I can report that Mazatlan feels totally safe.