History of Sinaloa in English: Pre-Columbian era, colonial period, 1500s, 1600s, 1700s, 1800s, 1900s and the 21st century including the administration of New Spain, Jesuit missionaries, Indian wars,
Mexican independence and revolution, gold and silver mining, argiculture, fishing, economic development, current information about Sinaloa State, Mexico including 2016 statistics and demographics


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History of Sinaloa book cover

History of Sinaloa

• CHAPTERS AND LINKS •

Sinaloa before the Spanish Conquest of Mexico



Spanish Conquistadors invade the Americas in 1519 and the Aztec Empire falls in 1521



The Amerindian Nightmare Arrives:
Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán enters
northwest New Spain in 1527




Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán and his Conquistadors march through Sinaloa in 1531 sowing death and destruction



1500s Spanish adventurer-explorers
find mineral riches in Sinaloa




English privateer Thomas Cavendish seizes the Spanish galleon Santa Ana
after hiding at Mazatlan in 1588




Jesuit Missionaries enter Sinaloa
in the 1590s




Mining and missionaries become engines of change and harbingers of conflict
in 1600s Sinaloa




The Acaxee Indians fight back in 1601



The Conquistadors test the strength of northern Sinaloa tribes in the early 1600s



The Jesuits succeed where Spanish military force had failed



Mining and agriculture bring prosperity
and problems to 1600s Sinaloa




The Birth of Mazatlán in 1600s New Spain



Sinaloa State takes form
in the 1700s




The Yaqui Wars convulse Sinaloa
in the 1740s




Agustín de Vildósola defeats the Yaqui and restores Spanish dominance in the 1740s



Expulsion of the Jesuits from Sinaloa
in the 1760s




1700s Mazatlán continues to grow



Mexico secedes from the Spanish Empire and Sinaloa becomes a Mexican State
in the 1800s




Independent Mexico -- and Sinaloa -- becomes ruled by criollos



1800s Sinaloa prospers while most of Mexico faces economic hardship and war



Run-up to the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848 along the Pacific Coast
and within Sinaloa




The United States and Mexico go to war in 1846 and Mazatlán suffers



The Reform War of 1858 - 1861 sets the stage for the French Intervention and the occupation of Mazatlán in the 1860s



In 1861 Napoleon III sets his sights on Mexico and Sinaloa silver mines



The French invade Mexico in 1861



Mazatlán is blockaded by the
French Navy in 1862




The Port of Mazatlán is blockaded by the French Navy in March, 1864



A divided Mazatlan struggles to survive the French blockade, March - November 1864



Mazatlan surrenders to the French Imperial Army on November 13, 1864



French Colonial Occupation of Mazatlán November 13, 1864 - November 13, 1866



The French Empire in Mexico collapses and Sinaloa is liberated in November 1866



English Blockade of Mazatlán in 1868



Porfirian Era brings increased prosperity
to Sinaloa -- and all of Mexico




Two American Utopian Socialists fundamentally change Sinaloa in the late 1800s



Albert Kimsey Owen first sees Topolobampo harbor in the 1870s and imagines its future as an international port



The sinking of the SS City of Veracruz on August 29, 1880 off Florida sets the founding of Topolobampo, Sinaloa, back seven years



Albert Kimsey Owen founds Topolobampo in 1887 and creates a port of inestimable value for Sinaloa State



Benjamin F. Johnston founds Los Mochis in 1893 and radically expands the economy of northern Sinaloa by cultivating sugarcane



Sinaloa in the 1900s



Mexico drifts toward revolution while Sinaloa continues to prosper in the early 1900s



Inept vote fraud triggers the Mexican Revolution in 1910



The Mexican Revolution explodes in 1910 and Sinaloa suffers



Álvaro Obregón, conqueror of Sinaloa
and future President of Mexico




Obregón clears Sonora of Mexican federal troops in 1913 and sets his sights on Sinaloa



Obregón marches his army to the Sonora - Sinaloa border and prepares to drive south toward Culiacán



Obregón drives the Constitutional Army of the Northwest into Sinaloa State in November 1913



The Battle of Culiacán, November 5
to November 14, 1913




Obregón finds allies among the Constitutionalists in Sinaloa



General Álvaro Obregón drives rapidly south through Sinaloa in 1914 and isolates
the Port of Mazatlán




Obregón gets a gunboat at Topolobampo and Sinaloa witnesses four of the rare naval battles of the Mexican Revolution



Naval engagements at Topolobampo, Sinaloa, March 4 - June 16, 1914



The First Battle of Topolobampo,
March 4, 1914




The Second Battle of Topolobampo,
March 13, 1914




The Third Battle of Topolobampo,
March 31, 1914




Topolobampo Air Raid of April 9, 1914



Aerial bombing in Mazatlan, Sinaloa,
during the Mexican Revolution
turns lethal on May 6, 1914




The Fourth Battle of Topolobampo
June 15 - 16, 1914




The gunboat Tampico drifts towards her destruction on June 15, 1914



The gunboat Tampico is sunk on
June 16, 1914 and a Constitutionalist
civil war hero commits suicide




Mazatlan falls to the Constitutionalists
and Federalists troops evacuate the port
on August 8, 1914




Major events of the Mexican Revolution in Sinaloa come to a close in the Fall of 1914

Visit Sinaloa Mexico in 2017!

GOVERNORS OF SINALOA
1831 - 2016


1831 Agustin Martinez de Castro

1832 Fernando Escudero

1832-1834 Manuel María Bandera

1835 Manuel María de la Vega y Rábago

1836-1837 Pedro Sánchez

1838 José Francisco Orrantia y Antelo

1838-1842 Luis Martínez de la Vega

1843 Francisco Ponce de León

1844 Agustín Martínez de Castro

1845-1847 Rafael de la Vega

1848-1850 Pomposo Verdugo

1851 José María Gaxiola

1852 Francisco de la Vega

1853 Pedro Valdéz

1854 Pedro Díaz Mirón

1855 Miguel Blanco

1856-1857 Pomposo Verdugo

1858 Pedro Espejo

1859-1862 Plácido Vega

1863 Jesús García Morales

1864-1865 Antonio Rosales

1866-1871 Domingo Rubí

1872-1875 Eustaquio Buelna

1875-1876 Jesús María Gaxiola

1877-1879 Francisco Cañedo

1880-1884 Mariano Martínez de Castro

1885-1887 Francisco Cañedo

1888-1892 Mariano Martínez de Castro

1893-1909 Francisco Cañedo

1910-1911 Diego Redo

1911 Celso Gaxiola Rojo

1912 Carlos C.Echevarría

1913-1914 Felipe Riveros

1914-1916 Manuel Rodriguez Gutiérrez

1917-1920 Ramón F. IturbePRI Party Sinaloa Governor Ramon F. Iturbe PRI

1920-1924 Ángel FloresPRI Party Sinaloa Governor Angel Flores PRI

1925-1926 Alejandro R. VegaPRI Party Sinaloa Governor Alejandro R. Vega PRI

1926-1927 Juan de Dios Bátiz ParedesPRI Party Sinaloa Governor Juan de Dios Batiz Paredes

1928 Manuel PáezPRI Party Sinaloa Governor Manuel Paez PRI

1929-1932 Macario GaxiolaPRI Party Sinaloa Governor Macario Gaxiola PRI

1933-1935 Manuel PáezPRI Party Sinaloa Governor Manuel Paez PRI

1935-1936 Gabriel Leyva VelázquezPRI Party Sinaloa Governor Gabriel Leyva Velazquez PRI

1936 Guillermo VidalesPRI Party Sinaloa Governor Jesus Aguilar Padilla PRI

1940 Alfredo DelgadoPRI Party Sinaloa Governor Guillermo Vidales PRI

1941-1944 Rodolfo T. LoaizaPRI Party Sinaloa Governor Rodolfo T. Loaiza PRI

1944 Teodoro CruzPRI Party Sinaloa Governor Teodoro Cruz PRI

1945-1950 Pablo Macías ValenzuelaPRI Party Sinaloa Governor Pablo Macias Valenzuela PRI

1951-1952 Enrique Pérez ArcePRI Party Sinaloa Governor Enrique Perez Arce PRI

1953-1956 Rigoberto Aguilar PicoPRI Party Sinaloa Governor Rigoberto Aguilar Pico PRI

1957-1962 Gabriel Leyva VelázquezPRI Party Sinaloa Governor Gabriel Leyva Velazquez PRI

1963-1968 Leopoldo Sánchez CelisPRI Party Sinaloa Governor Leopoldo Sanchez Celis PRI

1969-1974 Alfredo Valdés MontoyaPRI Party Sinaloa Governor Alfredo Valdes Montoya PRI

1975-1980 Alfonso Calderón VelardePRI Party Sinaloa Governor Alfonso Calderon Velarde

1981-1986 Antonio Toledo CorroPRI Party Sinaloa Governor Antonio Toledo Corro PRI

1987-1992 Francisco LabastidaPRI Party Sinaloa Governor Francisco Labastida PRI

1993-1998 Renato Vega AlvaradoPRI Party Sinaloa Governor Renato Vega Alvarado PRI

1999-2004 Juan S. MillánPRI Party Sinaloa Governor Juan S. Millan PRI

2005-2010 Jesús Aguilar PadillaPRI Party Sinaloa Governor Jesus Aguilar Padilla PRI

2011-2016 Mario López Valdez PAN Party Sinaloa Governor Mario Lopez Valdez PAN

Tour Pueblos Magico in Sinaloa

Culiacán, Sinaloa, official government website culiacan.gob.mx

Mazatlan, Sinaloa, official government website mazatlan.gob.mx

Ahome, Sinaloa, official government website ahome.gob.mx

El Fuerte, Sinaloa, official government website elfuerte.gob.mx

San Ignacio, Sinaloa, official government website sanignacio.gob.mx

El Rosario, Sinaloa, official government website rosario.gob.mx

Cosala, Sinaloa, official government website cosala.gob.mx

Guasave, Sinaloa, official government website guasave.gob.mx

Concordia, Sinaloa, official government website concordia.gob.mx

Badiraguato, Sinaloa, official government website badiraguato.gob.mx

Angostura, Sinaloa, official government website angostura.gob.mx

salvador Alvarado, Sinaloa, official government website salvadoralvarado.gob.mx

Escuinapa, Sinaloa, official government website escuinapa.gob.mx

Visit Sinaloa Mexico in 2017!

Visit Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico in 2017!

Click here to read a
history of Mazatlán!



Sinaloa history
History of Sinaloa, Mexico
Sinaloa history from pre-Columbian times to the 21st century

Sinaloa before the Spanish Conquest of Mexico

1500s | 1600s | 1700s | 1800s | 1900s


Geography, climate, economy and demographics of Sinaloa in 2016

Location and geography | Climate, flora and fauna

Population since 1895 | Demographics in 2016 | Political organization

Farming and agriculture | Ranching, livestock and poultry

Commercial fishing and aquaculture | Mining and mineral resources

Infrastructure | Tourism and seasonal residents


Sinaloa State -- officially the Free and Sovereign State of Sinaloa (Estado Libre y Soberano de Sinaloa) -- is one of the most beautiful and historically fascinating states in all of Mexico! We invite you to learn more about Sinaloa, and how Mazatlan has played a central role in the history and development of Sinaloa State.

Sinaloa history before the Spanish
conquest of the Americas


Pre-Columbian figurine at the Mazatlan Museo Arqueologico Mazatlan Archaeology MuseumOnly a limited amount is known of the history of the indigenous Indian tribes who were the early inhabitants of Sinaloa prior to the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors in 1531.

Because the indigenous Amerindians in Sinaloa built largely with wood and other impermanent materials, there are precious few archaeological ruins or artifacts for historians to examine that would document their societies.

What historians do known is that, before the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors, Sinaloa was inhabited by a number of major indigenous Indian tribes including the Acaxee, Cáhita, Pacaxee, Tahue, Totorame and Xixime. Historians are certain that these indigenous Indian tribes were not nomadic -- they lived in fixed settlements that were scattered throughout the hills and valleys of the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains that run north-south along the spine of modern Sinaloa.

Ulama-player statue in El Quelite Sinaloa MexicoThere is also a general historical consensus that many of these pre-colonial Indian groups -- with the notable exception of the Cáhita, fierce warriors who practiced human sacrifice and ritual cannibalism -- were hunter-gatherers who appeared, at least generally, to be at peace with their neighbors prior to the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors.

Historians also believe that the Indians we refer to as Cáhita consisted of 18 tribes whose languages were closely related. While the Cáhita left precious few archaeological artifacts, they gave Sinaloa its name -- the word Sinaloa means "rounded Pitaya", a fruit native to Sinaloa, in the Cáhita language.

History also records that one of their tribes, the Yaqui, also proved to be a thorn in the side of the Spanish -- and later Mexican -- authorities for nearly 400 years.


Spanish Conquistadors invade Mexico in 1519 and the Aztec Empire falls in 1521
16th Century / 1500s Sinaloa History

For the indigenous Indians living in what would become the State of Sinaloa, the first twenty years of the 1500s was a halcyon period of history where the darkening storm of the Spanish colonization of Mexico was unimaginable.

To the tiny degree that Spaniards -- or other Europeans -- had visited Sinaloa, it was an infinitesimal number of explorers who posed no direct threat to tribes, and had virtually no impact on Indian communities.

But the information that these early explorers reported back when they returned to more connected parts of the Spanish Empire in the Americas would ignite interest in Mexico that would prove devastating for Indian populations throughout Mexico and, in Sinaloa, within just decades would change the history of the region forever.

Cortez and the Spanish conquest of MexicoHernán Cortez (1485 - December 2, 1547) was a Spanish Conquistador who led an expedition to the Americas that ended indigenous rule in what is now Mexico, and began 300 years of Spanish colonial rule in the Americas.

A veteran of the campaigns that secured Hispaniola (now the Dominican Republic) and Cuba for the Spanish Crown, in 1519 Cortez set sail for Mexico and landed in the Yucatan Peninsula with just 500 men, little more than a dozen horses and a few cannon.

His invasion of Mexico was an act of open mutiny -- history clearly shows that his charter to conquer in the name of the Holy Roman Emperor had been revoked -- but his ambition was boundless: he set his sights on Tenochtitlán (now Mexico City), the heart of the Aztec Empire that controlled south-central Mexico.

He aimed to conquer Mexico, whether authorized to do so or not.

Moving up the Gulf Coast he established a base camp at the Port of Veracruz. By mid-August 1519 he was ready to march inland and, leaving about a hundred men at Veracruz, Cortèz marched on Tenochtitlan in mid-August 1519, leading an army of 600 conquistadors, 15 horsemen and 15 cannon supported by hundreds of indigenous Indian warriors and carriers.

Skilfully manipulating Indian tribes to fight against each other along the way, Cortez made a circuitous march westward, his ranks swelling as he moved inland.

In August, 1521, Cortez captured Cuauhtémoc, the ruler ("Tlatoani") of Tenochtitlán, and the Aztec Empire collapsed, with Cortez claiming it for Spain and renaming the Aztec capital Mexico City.

Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, appointed Cortez as Governor, Captain General and Chief Justice of the newly conquered territory, effectively making Cortez a quasi-emperor in his own right who ruled over a territory that dwarfed Spain itself by more than an order of magnitude.

Perhaps concerned that he had given Cortez too much power, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V hedged his bets by appointing several royal officials to "assist" him in governing what was now New Spain and, of course, to spy on him.


The Amerindian Nightmare Arrives: Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán enters northwest New Spain in 1527
16th Century / 1500s Sinaloa History

Conquistador Nuno Beltran de GuzmanThe first Spanish exploration of the northwest part of Mexico -- ironically, given the presence of the spectacular natural harbors at moden-day Mazatlan and Topolobampo and the expertise of 16th century Spanish sailors -- was destined to be by land, not by sea.

In 1525 Conquistador and failed law student Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán was appointed Governor of the autonomous territory of Pánuco -- now part of modern Sinaloa. Sailing from Spain that year, he arrived in Hispaniola (present-day Dominican Republic) in 1526, but fell ill and did not arrive in Mexico until May, 1527.

Beltrán de Guzmán immediately marched overland from the Gulf Coast to his new fiefdom near the Pacific coast in western New Spain.

Guzmán's appointment to the governorship of Pánuco was opposed by Cortez supporters in Spain, but the King of Spain and his closest advisors clearly felt that Guzmán would be a useful counterweight to Hernán Cortez, whose longer-range political aspirations were suspect.

Guzmán's actions in the governorship were in direct opposition to Cortez -- and those who supported him -- in the struggle for power in early colonial Mexico.

Guzmán was exceptionally brutal and avaricious during his tenure as Governor of Pánuco, whether when appropriating the property of Cortez-supporters or when robbing and enslaving indigenous Indian tribes.

Guzmán accused Cortez-supporters in Pánuco of being disloyal to Charles V by supporting Cortez's claim to title of Viceroy of New Spain. A number were stripped of their property, with other pro-Cortez Spaniards being tried in kangaroo courts and executed.

In turn, Bishop Juan de Zumarraga -- who had traveled with Guzmán from Hispaniola and, allegedly, shared confidences -- accused Guzmán of being having been a sworn enemy of Cortez long before he set foot in New Spain.

Guzmán also seized lands from adjacent provinces, and these actions brought New Spain to the brink of civil war between Guzmán and supporters of Cortez when Governor of New Spain Alonso Estrada -- a Cortez-supporter -- sent a military expedition to reclaim land expropriated by Guzmán.

If Guzmán's tenure as Governor of Pánuco was harsh for Spaniards who supported Cortez, history clearly records that it was far more brutal for the native Amerindians.

As Governor of Pánuco, Guzmán instituted a system of wholesale slave harvesting in Pánuco province that had no historical precedent.

The start was, while barbaric, relatively modest: in 1528, during a small-scale raid along the Las Palmas River (Río de Las Palmas), he allowed every mounted Conquistador to take twenty Indian slaves, with each foot soldier authorized to capture fifteen.

Apparently this gesture toward his troops whetted Guzmán's appetite for slaving.

In 1529 Governor Guzmán issued a slew of slaving permissions authorizing the capture of more than 1000 Amerindians. There were, at the start, restrictions: soldiers were not allowed to sell slaves for export from New Spain except in exchange for livestock.

Governor Guzmán soon reversed his no-export policy for new slaving permits and, in just eight months, issued more than 1500 slave licenses that allowed export -- each of which permitted the capture of between 15 and 50 Amerindians.

The math on this is, obviously, ambiguous because 15 and 50 are substantially different numbers and anthropologists' estimates of the Amerindian population in the Pánuco Territory of New Spain in the 1520s and 1530's vary widely, but it is clear that Guzmán issued licenses for the enslavement of a substantial percentage of Indians within the Territory of Pánuco.


Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán and his Conquistadors march through Sinaloa in 1531 sowing death and destruction 16th Century / 1500s Sinaloa History

Prior to 1530s the area that is modern Sinaloa State was part of a virtually unexplored part of the Spanish Empire in the New World known to history as Nueva Galacia, a massive territory totaling over 235,000 square miles which, in addition to Sinaloa, also included present-day Chihuaha, Coahuila, Durango and Sonora States.

Illustration from Guzman's report about AmerindaiansIt took a crisis in Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán's life to open the door to this region of vast mineral wealth.

The taking of slaves in New Spain was neither outlawed nor explicitly legal, but regulations issued September 19, 1528 by the King of Spain began to assert royal control over the trade, including requiring slave owners to present proof that they were authorized to take a slaves before before their faces were branded.

Guzmán appeared to believe that he could authorize the taking of an effectively unlimited number of slaves, and his slaving operation in Pánuco continued to expand in 1529, with indigenous Amerindian slaves being exported wholesale to Spanish possessions in the Caribbean.

The bitter struggle between Guzmán and Cortez reached a fever pitch in 1528 - 1530 and triggered a series of events that would propel Guzmán deeper into the then largely unexplored territory that is now the State of Sinaloa.

Cortez had continued to campaign in the Americas throughout New Spain, including modern-day Honduras, essentially operating without authorization from his King, Charles V, who historians unanimously agree was very uneasy about Cortez's rising power.

His enemies -- including Guzmán -- caused a commissioner to be appointed to investigate Cortez' conduct in the Americas. The commisioner was granted the power to arrest him if necessary.

The primary charge was deadly serious: Cortez was accused of not rendering unto The Crown the requisite Quinto (1/5th) of the treasure he had stolen in the Americas.

During the investigation of Cortez in 1529, Guzmán piled-on, accusing Cortez of being a rebel and a traitor.

Cortez sailed for Spain, intent on pleading his case directly to Charles V, and the strategy worked.

Presenting himself to the Holy Roman Emperor and his court, Cortez convinced Charles V that he had not shorted the Spanish Crown but, in fact, had delivered more than a Quinto in treasure -- as well as having spent massive amounts of his personal funds to rebuild Tenochtitlán, which had been badly damaged during the siege and battles that caused the Aztec Empire to collapse.

Charles V decorated Cortez with the Order of Santiago and made him the Marquis of the Oaxaca Valley (Marqués del Valle de Oaxaca), one of the wealthiest regions in New Spain according to every historical record.

While Cortez would eventually lose most of his wealth and become estranged from the Emperor, in 1529 - 1530 his stock was very high within the royal court -- which was very bad news for Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán.

By the end of 1529 Guzmán was hated not only by Cortez, personally, but by a large number of powerful Spaniards both in Spain and New Spain who supported Cortez, and the Crown began a formal investigation into his slaving operation in Pánuco.

When Guzmán learned that Cortez was planning to return to New Spain in 1530 he decided to get out of Pánuco -- rapidly -- but he dreamed of much more than flight.

Guzmán dreamed that victory and vindication could be wrested from the jaws of defeat and disgrace.

Guzmán reasoned that Cortez, despite his insubordination, owed his popularity at the royal court to his having won a new kingdom for Charles V and delivering him substantial treasure. He imagined that he, too, could atone for past offenses by finding new sources of wealth in New Spain -- and he had an idea where to find it.

Guzmán was very knowledgeable about the information that explorers had amassed about the geography and people of the northwest part of New Spain and what is now Sinaloa, and there is some historical evidence that he had considered an expedition to the north even before he became so widely reviled.

Some historians also believe that thought he had unique information: an Indian in his service from north of Punuco whose father had visited far north-western Mexico allegedly told Guzmán that the father had spoken of rich and populous towns and natives adorned with gold and silver.

He had also been privy to testimony given at the trial of Cortez for the murder of Monteczuma II, and had become familiar with the history of the strategic plans Cortez had communicated to others, and how Cortez envisioned the conquest of the northwest part of New Spain.

Guzmán decided to make those plans his own, and to take advantage of the fact that Cortez was absent from New Spain to reap the resulting benefits for himself.

In 1529 Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán began his march from Panuco up the Pacific coast leading an army comprised of just 300 Conquistadors that were supported by 10,000 Aztec, Tarascan and Tlaxcalan Indian mercenary fighters that had been recruited in south-central Mexico.

Historians universally agree that Guzmán was remarkably rapacious and cruel on his marches of 1529 - 1531 -- even when compared to other Conquistadors.

Map of Nuno Beltran de Guzman marches 1529 - 1531

Map of Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán marches across Mexico, 1529 - 1531

Before arriving in Sinaloa, Guzmán's Conquistador army had marched west and then north from the site of modern-day Mexico City -- at that time Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire that had been conquered by Hernán Cortez in 1521 -- and rampaged through what are now Michoacán, Jalisco, Zacatecas and Nayarit states, slaughtering indigenous Indians, sacking their villages and taking slaves all along the way.

In American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World the historian David Stannard succinctly describes the history of the entire campaign as a "genocidal enterprise".

Historian Peter Gerhard agrees that Guzmán's Spaniards and their Indian allies were exceptionally brutal, observing in The North Frontier of New Spain that Guzmán's army "engaged in wholesale slaughter and enslavement" during their epic march west through central Mexico to the the Sea of Cortez and north along the Pacific coast.

Guzman paused at Aztatlan, on the River Acaponeta in what is now northern Nayarit State, in December 1530, his army suffering terribly from tropical diseases and a shortage of food. It is said that he almost aborted his march, but but instead decided to send runners back to Michoacan for supplies and more Indians to fill the places of the thousands that had perished.

In early 1531 Guzmán's army entered what is now modern Sinaloa from the south and the nightmare for the indigenous Indians began.

The history of the behavior of Guzmán's Conquistadors in Michoacán, Jalisco, Zacatecas and Nayarit foreshadowed what would happen in Sinaloa.

The group of Indian tribes that spoke the Cáhita language would bear the brunt of the Spaniards brutality in Sinaloa.

The Cáhita inhabited the northwest coast of Mexico along the lower courses of the Sinaloa, Fuerte, Mayo, and Yaqui rivers, with their villages located largely in what are now the states of Sonora and Sinaloa.

Historically, Cáhita speakers were the largest indigenous group in northwestern Mexico in the 1500s, with the population of their society estimated to have been as many as 115,000 at that time.

The Cáhita were fearsome warriors, and were not going to be subjugated without a fight, but the inexorable tide of history was against them.

The Spanish Conquistadors simply had overwhelming military advantages over the native peoples of the Americas.

Spain -- like much of the rest of Europe as it approached the dawning of The Age of Enlightenment -- was more militarily advanced, having developed superior war-fighting tools and technologies like firearms and artillery. Spanish Conquistadors wore armor made of steel that largely made Indian bows and arrows ineffective, and the Conquistadors arrived in New Spain equipped with domesticated war horses to ride and mules to carry their supplies in -- and the spoils of war out.

The indigenous Amerindian tribes usually had substantial numerical superiority -- and clearly superior knowledge of the local terrain at any given battle -- but these military advantages could not counter the weight of Spanish war-making technology and the war fighting experience that the Spaniards had gained in countless conflicts within Europe and elsewhere within the Empire of Spain.

The result in Sinaloa was no different than what Cortez achieved battling the Aztecs and other tribes in southern Mexico: when Beltrán de Guzmán and his battle-tested conquistador army reached the location of modern Culiacán in 1531 they engaged, defeated and slaughtered a force of 30,000 Cáhita warriors almost overnight.

Guzmán decided to leave a small garrison at the site of the battle, founding San Miguel de Culiacán on September 29, 1531.

The Cáhita defeat at Culiacán suspended, briefly, Cáhita resistance to the Spanish invasion, but the battle also marks the start of what history has come to know as the Yaqui Wars, an epic struggle for control of northwest Mexico between Spaniards -- and later post-colonial Mexicans -- that lasted until 1929, or nearly 400 years!

Colonial Spain smallpox epidemic among Sinaloa IndiansAfter the victory Guzmán established a Spanish and allied-Indian garrison at Culiacán (formally San Miguel de Culiacán) and seemingly intended to stay there and explore north, but measles and smallpox decimated his troops and spoiled his plans for further conquest.

Guzmán and most of his army rapidly withdrew south from Culiacán as a result of disease, but the Cáhita and other indigenous Indian tribes suffered far worse from the European strains of the diseases the Spaniards had brought to Sinaloa -- even after their withdrawal.

History records that within a decade of the appearance of Guzmán’s army in Sinaloa, the indigenous Indians -- who, like all New World people, had never been exposed to the strains of the diseases the Spanish brought from Europe, especially measles and smallpox -- suffered devastating depopulation of their villages. Historians estimate that as many as 130,000 indigenous Indians died in northern Sinaloa during the measles pandemic of 1531-1534 and the smallpox pandemic of 1535-1536.

Despite the withdrawal to the south, Guzmán’s Conquistadors and their Indian allies had clearly won the first round of the fight for control of the Sinaloan part of the west coast of Mexico, and the first capital of the Spanish Colonial Province of Nueva Vizcaya was established as Villa de San Sebastián, the beautiful Rural Sinaloa town which we now know as Concordia (GPS N23°17'18" W106°04'03").

1531 also saw the founding of Navolato, now the 4th largest municipality in Sinaloa and a very important agricultural center, not only for Sinaloa, but for all of Mexico.


1500s Spanish adventurer-explorers find
mineral riches in Sinaloa
16th Century / 1500s Sinaloa History

Spanish pieces of eight silver coinsWhatever role the goal of spreading the Catholic faith played in the various conquests of the Spanish Empire -- and it was certainly central for the earliest Jesuit missionaries -- most modern historians believe that the primary motive for the Spanish Crown and most Conquistadors exploring the Americas was purely economic: the government of Spain wanted to exploit the resources of territories it had claimed, and individual Spanish adventurers wanted to accumulate wealth for themselves.

The area that is now Sinaloa State was rapidly found to be rich in natural resources of many types, but the earliest, strongest, draws were gold and more importantly -- because of quantity -- silver, a precious metal that was second only to gold as the international currency of rapidly globalizing 1500s trade and national commerce.

Conquistador Francisco de IbarraSoon it became common knowledge in Spain that silver and other precious metals were plentiful in Sinaloa, and by the mid 1560's Spaniards began arriving in force to mine them.

The most important of the early Spanish adventurers to impact the history and future of what would become Sinaloa State was Francisco de Ibarra, a Spanish explorer of Basque descent.

Born in Eibar, Gipuzkoa, Spain around 1534, Ibarra sailed for Mexico at the urging -- and with the financing -- of his uncle, conquistador and wealthy Spanish-Basque mine owner Diego de Ibarra.

In 1564 -- after conquering the area that is now the Mexican state of Durango and founding the city of the same name -- Ibarra headed further west across the enormously rugged Sierra Madre Occidental mountains chasing rumors of rich mineral deposits in what is now Sinaloa State.

One of his stops was at the present-day location of the town of El Fuerte (GPS N26°42'15" W108°61'98"), which he founded in 1564.

For nearly three centuries thereafter El Fuerte was one of the most important commercial and agricultural centers anywhere within the sprawling northwestern region of Mexico, and the most important trading post in early Sinaloa history for miners from the Batopilas and Urique mines in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains to the east in what is now Chihuahua State.

Part of his route basically followed the path of the modern Mexican Federal Highway 40 / 40D between Durango and Mazatlan and, en route, he struck pay-dirt.

Near the present-day Rural Sinaloa towns of Panuco (GPS N23°06'97" W105°84'16") and Copala (GPS N23°23'41" W105°55'57" ) -- both of which he founded -- Ibarra discovered rich veins of silver that were heavily mined for hundreds of years and that still yield ore to this day!

Ibarra named Copala after the mythical "Golden City" which he had been searching for his entire time in Mexico.

By the 1570's Francisco de Ibarra had become a very wealthy and very well known man, and was appointed the first Governor of the Spanish territory of Nueva Vizcaya.

He died in Panuco on June 3rd, 1575. At the time of his death, Ibarra was probably only 41 years old.


English privateer Thomas Cavendish seizes the Spanish galleon Santa Ana after hiding at Mazatlán
in 1588
16th Century / 1500s Sinaloa History

In the late 1580s Spain and England were at war, and often granted charters to privateers -- essentially licensed pirates -- to raid each others possessions in the New World.

Sir Thomas Cavendish Pirate / PrivateerTwentyseven year old English privateer Sir Thomas Cavendish thought he could use Mazatlan harbor as a staging point to operate in the waters between Sinaloa and Baja to capture the Manila Galleon Santa Ana as she was returning from the Philippines.

Manila Galleons were Spanish cargo vessels that sailed between ports on the western coast of New Spain to Manila in the Spanish East Indies, now the Philippines. They would carry silver mined in Peru and Mexico which was traded for spices, silk, gold and other high-value merchandise.

Known to history as "The Navigator", Cavendish was trying to repeat the successes of Sir Francis Drake, who raided and pillaged Spanish towns and ships in the Pacific on his circumnavigation of the globe in 1578.

The Santa Ana was a large ship weighing over 600 tons manned by 100 sailors and carrying passengers, including women, under the command of Captain Tomás de Alzola. For her ill-fated voyage of 1587 she lacked cannon because on her previous trip the Spanish authorities in Acapulco had decided to keep her cannon for defense of the outpost.

Cavendish had sailed from Portsmouth, England, with three vessels: his flagship Desire, a 120 ton warship armed with 18 cannon; the 60 ton Content armed with 10 cannon and a 40 ton supply ship, Hugh Gallant.

Cavendish sailed up the Sinaloa coast in September 1587 and anchored his small fleet off Deer Island to do maintenance on the ships, replenish supplies and wait for the Santa Ana -- all the while being observed by Spanish horsemen from the villa of San Sebastian de Chametla.

Repaired and re-stocked, Cavendish made the short voyage across the Sea of Cortez to Cabo San Lucas and on Nov 4, 1587, spotted and ran down the Santa Ana after a several hour chase.

Spanish Galleon sant Ana Capture 1588History records that fierce hand-to-hand combat erupted when marines from the Desire attempted to board the Santa Ana, but the initial attack was repulsed.

The Desire then began firing her cannon and rammed the Santa Ana, with some shells piercing her hull below the waterline, and English sailors boarded the ship once more.

Only a few sailors died in the fighting, but Captain Alzola knew that the Santa Ana was sinking and surrendered.

The haul was staggering and, because the Santa Ana was so much larger that Cavendish's boats, the English had to pick and choose what they would steal.

Estimates vary, but many historians put the loss to Spain at between 500,000 to 800,000 pesos, and all agree that it was the largest loss suffered by a galleon during the over two hundred year history of Acapulco - Manila trade.

Cavendish burned the Santa Ana and left her crew and passengers in Cabo with some supplies. The survivors managed to re-float the wrecked ship and limped across the Sea of Cortez to the Sinaloa coast and then south to Acapulco.

Cavendish sailed across the Pacific, returning to England in 1588 a wealthy hero and a permanent fixture in English maritime history.

Word of his exploits spread and Pirates worldwide took note: the harbor at Mazatlan was a great place to hide if you wanted to ply your trade in the Sea of Cortez.


Jesuit Missionaries enter Sinaloa in the 1590s
16th Century Sinaloa History

Jesuit Seal1591 witnessed the entry of the first Jesuit missionaries into what is now modern Sinaloa, an invasion that proved to have an effect on the indigenous Indian tribes almost as profound as that of the arrival of the Conquistadors.

The Jesuit order -- formally The Society of Jesus -- was founded in Rome in 1540 by Ignatius of Loyola, a Spaniard of Basque origin born Íñigo López de Loyola and now known as Saint Ignatius.

After Ignatius he was severely wounded in the Battle of Pamplona in 1521 he experienced a religious epiphany during his recovery that led him to the priesthood, and set him on a course that would affect Colonial Spain and the history of its subjects for generations.

1600s JesuitProbably as a result of Ignatius' military background, missionaries from the Jesuit order (often referred to as The Soldiers of God) were more willing than any other Catholic order to travel to far-flung and dangerous locations, live in extreme conditions, and attempt to convert often hostile indigenous populations.

By 1580 the number of Jesuits working to convert Indians in Mexico is estimated to have been as many as 1,500, and the Jesuit presence had expanded far west of their first missions in central Mexico.

Two Jesuit missionaries, Fathers Gonzalo de Tapia and Martin Pérez, entered Sinaloa in early 1591. Guided by an experienced frontiersman, Rodrigo del Rio Losa, they made their way to a location on the Rio Sinaloa river north of present-day Culiacán, set up a mission, and reached out to try to convert the nearby Indian tribes to Catholicism.

The settlement at Culiacán was at that time largely lost to history and little more than the remnant of the camp established by Nuño de Guzmán in 1531. It was effectively isolated from the burgeoning mining communities like Copala, Cosala and Panuco that were rapidly developing in what is now south-central Sinaloa.

Despite the fact that in 1594 Father Tapia was killed by an Indian named Nacaveva -- an important chief and revered shaman -- new Jesuit missionaries continued to arrive and the mission grew substantially throughout the 1590's.

Friar converting Indians to CatholicismThus began the long, complex and sometimes brutal effort to convert the Indians of Sinaloa to Catholicism, a process that, while ultimately virtually 100% successful -- whether by conversion or extermination -- would help fuel major conflict between Spaniards and indigenous people in Sinaloa for close to 300 years.

The establishment of the Jesuit mission at Culiacán in 1591 had an important consequence for the future history of the development of cities in Sinaloa.

Hernando de Villafañe, another Spanish Jesuit priest and missionary, was inspired and emboldened by the presence of more Spaniards and missionaries at Culiacán.

In 1594 -- just three years after Fathers Tapia and Perez founded the Culiacán mission -- Villafañe journeyed up the coast and founded a Jesuit mission at Guasave, now the 3rd largest municipality in Sinaloa with a population that is exceeded only by Culiacán and Mazatlan.


Mining and missionaries become engines of change and harbingers of conflict in 1600s Sinaloa

Additional significant silver deposits were discovered by Spanish adventurers elsewhere in Sinaloa in the latter 1500s, including major deposits in remaining Acaxee-controlled areas east of Culiacán in northern Sinaloa that had previously seen limited Spanish presence.

Concordia Municipal Palace MuralEach further discovery expanded the scope and weight of Spanish rule and settler presence in Sinaloa, and increased the friction between the Spanish miners and surviving indigenous Indian populations.

The number and scale of mining operations in Sinaloa had ramped up rapidly in the late 1500s, usually with subjugated indigenous Indians working as de facto slave labor in Sinaloa mines alongside black slaves from Africa, a situation that only became more widespread over the last decades of the 1500s and early years of the 1600s as more and larger mines required more miners.

The tensions between miners and Indians and Spanish military and Indians were in many instances exacerbated by the presence of increasing numbers of Jesuit missionaries preaching conversion among the tribes.


The Acaxee Indians fight back in 1601
17th Century / 1600s Sinaloa History

Some indigenous Indians tribes in Sinaloa tried to fight back, notably the Acaxee who were, historically, more warlike than some of their neighbors.

In late 1601 an Acaxee Indian leader named Perico ignited a rebellion aimed at restoring indigenous social and religious practices that had been destroyed by the Spanish conquest.

Blending a eclectic mixture of traditional Indian religious beliefs and myths with new-found Catholic symbols and rituals that was unique in the early history of Sinaloa, Perico convinced his followers that the Spanish could be driven from their ancestral lands by warfare.

Defined by Perico's messianic leadership, the Acaxee Rebellion was the first of several attempts over the next 150 years by surviving indigenous Indian tribes in Sinaloa to throw off the yoke of New Spain and the Jesuits.

Acaxee raids at the start of the rebellion in 1601 killed about fifty Spaniards in just a few weeks, with Indian raiders burning Spanish mining camps, churches and other buildings.

The Acaxee Rebellion had substantial military successes and caused the cessation of most silver mining activities on Acaxee lands in Sinaloa for nearly two years.

In 1603 the Conquistadors responded with their usual brutality. The Spanish raised an army of Indian allies -- drawn largely from other parts of Mexico -- and ruthlessly suppressed the Acaxee by burning villages, capturing and executing Perico and 48 other Indian leaders, and selling many captured Acaxee warriors into slavery.


The Conquistadors test the strength of northern Sinaloa tribes in the early 1600s 17th Century / 1600s Sinaloa History

The Acaxee Rebellion was unusually violent, but in the history of the early and middle years of the 1600s there was no shortage of causes for discord between the Spanish immigrants and indigenous Indian populations in Sinaloa.

The Spanish confrontations with the Yaqui, a Cáhita-speaking tribe, in 1609 - 1610 were one of the earlier tests of the willingness of northern Sinaloa indigenous tribes of to accept an expanded and permanent Spanish military and settler presence in northern Sinaloa.

When the growing numbers of Conquistadors began making substantial contact with the Yaqui in 1609 - 1610 they didn't know what to expect.

Inhabitants of the northern coastal region of Sinaloa, the Yaqui had strongly and largely successfully resisted Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán's army in 1531, but had cordial dealings with Francisco de Ibarra in 1565.

Historians speculate the Yaqui thought, in 1565, that Ibarra might become an ally in their long-running struggles with the related Cáhita-speaking Mayo tribe.

Whatever the thinking of the Yaqui's had been in 1565, the encounters in 1609 and 1610 turned out to be more of a re-run of 1531 than the Spanish had hoped for.

Spanish soldiers and their Indian allies were defeated in bloody battles in both 1609 and 1610 and were forced to retreat south.


Jesuits succeed where Spanish military force
had failed
1600s Sinaloa History

Just three years after the Spanish military defeats in the northern part of modern Sinaloa State in 1609 and 1610, the Jesuits began having successes with Cáhita-speaking Sinaloan Indian tribes where the Spanish military forces had been defeated and driven south.

Traditional Mayo maskIn 1613 the Mayo Indians, who had been gingerly approached by particularly brave Jesuit Friars, requested and accepted Jesuit missionaries on their lands.

Father Pedro Mendez established the first Jesuit mission in Mayo territory that year, and in just the first two weeks of its existence Father Mendez had baptized nearly 3,000 Mayo indians.

By 1620 -- just seven years later -- history records that 30,000 Mayo had been baptized. This effectively made the entire tribe at least nominally Catholic, and most Mayos had moved to seven mission towns that the Jesuits had created.

Traditional Yaqui masksAs the Mayo were converted to Cathlocism, the Yaqui tribal leaders took note. The Jesuit presence and message had several facets, some philosophical, some practical.

The Jesuit messages of eternal life and redemption appear to have resonated with the Yaqui in Sinaloa as did -- on a more practical level -- both the general Jesuit concern for Mayo welfare and their efforts to insulate the Mayo from exploitation by mine owners and the new Spanish colonial landlords.

Reaching out through Mayo intermediaries, the Yaqui's invited the Jesuits to send missionaries to their communities.

The apparently sincere Jesuit concern for the well being of the ordinary Yaqui won the confidence of the Yaqui people -- and the Yaqui apparently understood that concern for Yaqui tribal interests put the Jesuit missionaries in some peril from the civil governors of New Spain.

In seeking to protect the Yaqui from exploitation by mine owners and encomenderos, the Jesuits came into direct conflict with the Spanish political authorities because these Spanish landowners and mine owners had been granted their rights directly from the King of Spain.

Priests baptizing Sinaloa IndiansOver the three years from 1617 to 1619 nearly 30,000 Yaquis were baptized and by 1623 the Jesuit missionaries had concentrated the Yaqui population from about eighty rancherías -- Jesuit mission communities.

This concentration of the Yaqui into rancherías would, ironically, be the seed of future conflict because it enabled the easier exploitation of Yaqui Indian labor by encomenderos and other Spanish settlers.

The relative harmony of the early decades of the 1600s also enabled the founding of San Ignacio -- formally San Ignacio de Loyola, named after the founder of the Jesuit order -- in 1633, now a beautiful town that continues to play an important role in the life of northern Sinaloa State.


Mining and agriculture bring prosperity and
problems to 1600s Sinaloa
17th Century / 1600s Sinaloa History

The early 1600s saw mining operations continue to expand in Sinaloa, with a proportionate negative impact on Indian communities.

Beyond mining, many Indians were forced to until, plant and harvest land that they no longer controlled under conditions that amounted to, at the least, indentured servitude and, at the worst, slavery.

Encomendero beating an Amerindaian from the Codex KingsboroughLike much of New Spain in the early 1600s, Sinaloa was organized into "encomiendas", Spanish-administrated economic zones where indigenous Indians had few rights or power, and where they were required to work for "encomenderos", Spaniards who had been granted the rights to farm and otherwise exploit the zone.

Officially, indigenous Indians living in encomiendas were only required to provide labor a handful of weeks per year but, in practice, they were often required to work much longer and, as historian Susan Deeds has written, "some apparently became virtual chattels of Spanish estates."

The sometimes-coerced concentration of Indians into larger, denser, communities by the Jesuits, whatever the Jesuit motive, made them easier for encomenderos to exploit their labor, and many Indians resented it and came to hate the Jesuits for it.

As a result of the harsh treatment that many Indians received at the hands of Spanish immigrants, 1600s Sinaloa saw several uprisings of indigenous tribes that resulted in significant loss of life among the Spanish settlers and far greater devastation within surviving Indian communities as the Spanish inevitably delivered massive retaliation.

The Tepehuán Revolt of 1616 was particularly bloody and costly. Originating the the Sierra Madre highlands just east of the border of modern-day Sinaloa, Tepehuán Indian warriors spilled across the future border to sack a number of mining towns including Copala, which was burned to the ground.

The Tepehuán uprising had its roots in deep resentment of the cultural chages the Spaniards had wrought within Tepehuán communities, and a strong association of the Conquistadors with death, whether by warfare or disease.

It is difficult to be critical of the Tepehuán position.

Life in the colonial Sinaloa mining-machine in the early 1600s was mostly -- to quote Hobbes from Leviathan -- "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short" for many native Indians that had the misfortune to interact with the Spanish.

But hidden beneath the bleak history of this dark 1600s Hobbsian struggle, a small light was emerging that would forever connect Sinaloa to the rest of the world by ship.


The Birth of Mazatlán in 1600s New Spain
17th Century / 1600s Sinaloa History

Mazatlan, Sinaloa, official government website mazatlan.gob.mxThe port of Mazatlan is one of the most magnificent natural harbors anywhere in the world. Deep and beautifully sheltered from storms, it is unmatched as a natural anchorage on the west coast of Mexico.

But in the early 1600s the port was little more than a often-empty natural harbor which English and French pirates used intermittently as a hiding place from which to attack the treasure-laden Spanish galleons that sailed Mexico's western coast.

The modern history of Mazatlan really begins with Spain's war on piracy: in response to pirate activity in the Sea of Cortez and points south the Spanish government established a modest military garrison at the location of present-day Mazatlan to support naval operations against the pirates.

Thus began a multi-generational struggle between Spanish colonial naval forces and pirates that lasted through the 1600s -- and the 1700s -- that served as a foundation for the developments that made Mazatlan the world-class port and destination community that is is today.

But 1600s and 1700s Mazatlan history wasn't primarily about pirates, it was about what they coveted: the ever-increasing tonnage of gold and silver shipments coming from nearby mines in the Sierra Madre mountains of what would become Sinaloa State.

Sinaloa's mountain mining communities like Concordia and Copala and the deep-digging at flatter mining locations like El Rosario were in full production mode.

Spanish colonial shipping in New SpainAs the tonnage of mineral treasure produced by these and other Sierra Madre mining towns in Sinaloa increased, hauling heavy loads east through the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains on crude trails became increasingly impractical.

The port of Mazatlan simply had to be utilized -- whatever the pirate threat.

This sea trade was the Genesis of the birth of Mazatlan and its increasingly important role in the history and economic development of Sinaloa State: ships must be serviced and re-stocked with food and water; sailors need to be on dry land and perhaps see a doctor better than the "doctor" on board the ship; cloths need to be replaced; men who have been at sea want female companionship.

These activities, and more, require permanent populations in ports and -- being a port on the Pacific Ocean -- Mazatlan began to draw immigrants from Asia in addition to those from Spain and other countries in Europe.

As awareness of Mazatlan spread worldwide it became the most active immigration portal in Sinaloa and enabled Sinaloa to absorb and benefit from international influences and money that reached far beyond the Spanish Empire, and that would expand the economy of Sinaloa far beyond mining. (Click here for a detailed History of Mazatlan)


Sinaloa State takes form in the 1700s
18th Century Sinaloa History

While still somewhat distant from being the modern Mexican state we know today, the outlines of modern Sinaloa were already present in the 1700s.

Beyond the clear permanence and growth of mining towns that continue to exist to in the 21st century like Concordia, Copala and El Rosario, many of today's major population centers in Sinaloa were already established communities by 1800.

In addition to the military garrison and expanding town at Mazatlan (GPS N23°19'68" W106°42'60"), Navolato (founded in 1531, GPS N24°76'49" W107°70'17"); Culiacán (our present-day capital founded in 1533, GPS N24°78'98" W107°40'11"); El Fuerte (founded in 1564, GPS N26°42'15" W108°61'98"); Guasave (founded in 1592, GPS N25°57'96" W108°46'40"); Badiraguato (founded in 1605, GPS N25°29'47" W107°44'06"); Choix (founded in 1607, GPS N26°62'33" W108°25'19") and San Ignacio (founded in 1633, GPS N23°94'17" W106°42'88") were all stable communities with growing populations.

Of the important towns and cities in Sinaloa State today, only Topolobampo (founded in 1884, GPS N25°43'20" W109°04'00") and Los Mochis (founded in 1893, GPS N25°79'74" W108°99'58") -- both of which were driven by the dreams of American utopian socialists -- did not exist in the 1700s.

The geographical boundaries of Sinaloa were also becoming more defined as the history of the 1700s progressed.

Map of Sonora y Sinaloa circa 1750'sLong a sub-section of the province of Nueva Vizcaya, the two modern Mexican states of Sonora and Sinaloa were officially recognized by the Spanish Crown as the State of Sonora y Sinaloa in 1733, a recognition that the coastal part of northwest Mexico had mining, ranching and farming interests that were distinct from those of other parts of Nueva Vizcaya and the rest of colonial New Spain.

But despite all of this progress, the Spanish settlers in the new province of Sonora y Sinaloa still felt plagued by the Indian threat, and no group of Indians were viewed as more threatening than the tribes that shared the Yaqui / Cáhita language -- despite the fact that the northern part of modern Sinaloa State where they were concentrated had been fairly tranquil for 30 years.


The Yaqui Wars convulse Sinaloa in the 1740s
18th Century Sinaloa History

Yaqui, Pima and Mayo Indians in Sinaloa had largely coexisted peacefully with Spaniards since the early 1700s but, during this peaceful period, there had been growing resentment in their communities over a lack of Indian control over the choice of village officials -- who were selected by Jesuit bureaucrats -- and, at least as importantly, control of resources and revenue from resources.

The tipping point came in 1740, was triggered by a rebellion, and resulted in a partial Indian victory -- although the Spaniards, as was often the case throughout colonial history in the Americas, exacted a very high price.

Corn harvestSubstantial agricultural surpluses were being produced most years in the early decades of the 1700s in Sonora y Sinaloa -- so much that storehouses had been built and filled with the precious harvest, virtually all of which was held under Jesuit control.

Jesuit bureaucrats decided that the surpluses should be used by missionaries to support missions that were being established far outside Sinaloa -- and the homelands of the Sinaloan Indians who had grown the crops.

Historians differ, but the proximate cause of the Yaqui rebellion in Sonora y Sinaloa is generally thought to have been back-to-back poor harvests in 1739 and 1740 which created severe food shortages within Yaqui Indian communities within the state of Sonora y Sinaloa.

Yaqui communities in Sonora y Sinaloa were very hungry, but the Yaqui leaders original goals were modest: to get some food for their people and regain some autonomy over the governance of their territory and villages.

Two of their leaders, Juan Ignacio Muni and an Indian known only to history as Esteban, chose to directly petition the local Spanish civil authorities.

The Jesuit hierarchy -- angry that Muni and Esteban had gone behind their backs -- used their influence with the Spanish colonial administration to have them arrested by the same civil authorities they were petitioning.

The arrests were a tripwire for Yaqui resentment, and an estimated 2000 armed Indians besieged the Spanish authorities demanding the release of their leaders.

The Spanish refused to release Muni and Esteban, and the Yaqui uprising began.

Initially, the Yaqui rebellion was uncoordinated, but nonetheless deadly. Catholic churches in Sonora y Sinaloa were burned and Jesuit priests and Spanish settlers in what is now northern Sinaloa were forced to flee to Alamos in what is now southern Sonora State.

Gradually the Indians coordinated their resources.

An Indian leader named Juan Calixto formed an army of 6,000 composed primarily of Yaqui, Mayo and Pima Indians. This was one of the most potent Indian armies in the history of Sinaloa, and at one point Calixto's army held control of most of the towns and villages that spanned the Sinaloa - Sonora border along the Yaqui and Mayo rivers.


Agustín de Vildósola defeats the Yaqui and restores Spanish dominance in the 1740s 18th Century / 1700s Sinaloa History

The Spanish, operating under orders from Governor of Sonora and Sinaloa Manuel Bernal de Huidobro, struck back hard and, in August 1740, forces led by Captain Agustín de Vildósola defeated Calixto's insurgent army.

The victory came at a very high price -- the uprising had cost the lives of a thousand Spaniards, more than 5,000 Yaqui Indians, and had seen the destruction of enormous amounts of Spanish mining property and Catholic church assets.

The Yaquis had demonstrated themselves to be fierce and formidable warriors and had clearly spooked the Spanish colonial administration.

While the Yaqui rebellion in Sonora y Sinaloa of 1740 had been quashed, it actually achieved perhaps the most central of the Yaqui goals -- the heavy hand of Jesuit domination of Yaqui communities was noticeably lifted after the rebellion of 1740 by none other that the man who defeated them, Agustín de Vildósola.

Vildósola replaced Manuel Bernal de Huidobro as Governor of Sonora and Sinaloa in 1741 in the wake of his defeat of the Yaqui.

The war with the Yaqui had made a deep impression on Vildósola. He apparently concluded that continuing conflict with the indigenous Indians was not good for Spanish interests in Sonora y Sinaloa -- or for himself, personally.

As a result, Vildósola moved to address at least some Yaqui demands and rapidly initiated a program that posted Spanish military garrisons on Yaqui lands to assert secular government control -- and curtail the power of the Jesuit bureaucracy.

An official peace agreement was signed to codify this new arrangement.

In 1743 Vildósola -- while not reneging on other elements of the peace treaty that granted the Yaqui increased autonomy in Sinaloa -- ordered Juan Ignacio Muni, Esteban and Juan Calixto arrested.

Vildósola either felt a personal grudge against the leaders of the rebellion or was simply seeking to set an example for future potential Yaqui and other Indian leaders -- the historical record is unclear.

Whatever Vildósola's motive, he ordered Muni, Esteban and Calixto executed by firing squad at El Presidio de San Carlos de Buenavista at the southern end of the Yaqui river.

At the time of the executions the Yaqui Wars in Mexico had gone on for 210 years -- and were barely half over.


Expulsion of the Jesuits from Sinaloa in the 1760s
18th Century Sinaloa History

The expulsion of the Jesuits from Sinaloa in 1767 was an important event that altered the course of Catholic missionary activities within the state, and paved the way for the Franciscan and, to a lesser degree, Dominican orders to become the primary ministers to both Spanish and Indian Catholics in Sinaloa.

Expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767The cause for the expulsion was outside Sinaloa -- and outside New Spain as well.

The consensus of modern historians is that the suppression of the Jesuit order was the result of economic and political conflicts between the Catholic Church and various European monarchies, rather than theological disputes, as earlier historians had believed.

As the 1700s in Europe progressed, resentment of the Jesuits had grown exponentially within the monarchies in Europe because both the concepts of "civil society" and the "nation-state" were relatively new, and the monarchs and associated "royalty" -- who were actually upstarts in the longer historical view -- were directly competing with the Catholic Church for everything from revenue from taxes and trade to the hearts and minds of the people.

Fairly or unfairly, the opponents of the Jesuits painted them as avaricious greedy plotters prone to use their close ties to influential members of royal courts to manipulate state policies to enrich themselves and the Vatican.

The monarchs chose to assert independence from the Catholic Church in a very harsh way. Beginning in the late 1750's, a rolling series of expulsions of Jesuits took place in Portugal, France, Sicily and in Spain on the orders of King Carlos III.

The King's order was soon extended to cover New Spain as well.

Gaspar de Portola de RoviraIn late 1767 Gaspar de Portolá de Rovira -- a Spanish soldier who became the first Governor of Alta California, a massive Spanish colonial territory extending over 500 miles north of present-day Baja California and Sonora Mexico -- arrived in New Spain to assume his position and to deliver the bad news.

The expulsion of the Jesuits from Sinaloa was swift, with the priests and missionaries being expelled from their missions throughout New Spain at gunpoint -- and with most being deported back to Spain.

The expulsion of the Jesuits was also of substantial financial benefit to the Spanish civil authorities in Sinaloa. As it was throughout the Americas, other Spanish colonies and territories, and within Spain itself: when the Jesuits were expelled the King of Spain and the Spanish monarchy confiscated the Jesuits accumulated wealth, including substantial landholdings, warehoused agricultural surpluses and massive numbers of livestock.

The Jesuit missions in Sinaloa were turned over to Franciscan Brothers very rapidly by the King of Spain, with the "black robes" (as the Jesuits were commonly known) replaced by "gray robes" -- Fransciscans -- all in a historical blink of an eye.


1700s Mazatlán continues to grow 18th Century / 1700s Sinaloa History

Despite the Yaqui Wars and other challenges, Mazatlan blossomed in the 1700s.

By the end of the 1700s the pirates had been driven from Sinaloa's coasts, and while Mazatlan -- despite over 200 years of Spanish presence -- remained little more than a far-flung colonial outpost and harbor, the engines of economic change were beginning to transform our port.

Virtually all of the massive amount of mining treasure produced by Sierra Madre mines in Sinaloa was flowing through Mazatlan, and through its port.

This commerce fed local wealth, and the latter part of the 1700s saw other signs of development: Mazatlan got its first church -- and first proper jail.

Eradicating the pirate threat had allowed Mazatlan to enter the 1800s strong and to begin to fulfill its historical destiny as Mexico's premier Pacific coast port.


Mexico secedes from the Spanish Empire and Sinaloa becomes a Mexican State in the 1800s

The Spanish colonial period in Mexico lasted exactly 300 years -- 1521 to 1821.

Though law in colonial Mexico evolved over those three centuries, the basic dynamic of the social order within New Spain remained constant: pure-blooded Spaniards born in Spain ruled, all others were ruled by them.

The social stratification of people in New Spain by was based on the concept of "Casta", a Spanish term that embodied the colonial view of the various flavors of mixed-race people who were the result of interbreeding between Spanish Conquistadors and settlers with members of pure-blooded indigenous populations and slaves.

Unlike ordinary racial prejudice -- which might, for example, have a made general distinctions between pure-blooded Spanish, mixed-race and Amerindian people -- the classification of people by racial makeup by the Spanish authorities in New Spain was spectacularly complex and was codified in excruciating detail by the Spanish colonial administrators.

This list of 10 racial distinctions made by the Spanish colonial administrators illustrates the main racial divisions that the Spanish saw among the population in New Spain, and provides a sense of just how complicated and nuanced the concept of Casta was:

Peninsulares (Spaniards and other Whites born in Europe); Criollos (Spaniards and other Whites born in the Americas); Indios (Pure Amerindians); Mestizos (mixed Amerindian and White); Castizos (primarily White with some Amerindian); Cholos (primarily Amerindian with some White); Pardos (mixed White, African, and Amerindian); Mulattos (mixed African and White); Zambos (mixed Amerindian and African) and Negros (Pure Africans).

16 New Spain Casta illustrationsBut these 10 Spanish-colonial racial classifications in New Spain were just the tip of the iceberg.

By the end of Spain's colonial rule in the Americas over 100 possible variations of racial mixture had been codified, with lavishly illustrated books created to help colonial administrators decide the proper racial classification of every individual in any Spanish colony.

The book pages to the right are typical. The captions on the pages define the specific pairing and the appropriate name for children produced by it -- which would define that childs' entire life.

The racial parsings that were "Casta" were also unlike ordinary prejudice in very concrete ways.

Casta in New Spain wasn't just about simple discrimination, or about how the pure-bred Spaniards looked at -- or looked down upon -- their fellow man.

The system of Casta was fully embedded in the law of New Spain and had very important practical consequences for each group including in the realm of taxation -- the bottom line being that both the Spanish colonial administration and the Catholic church demanded more tax and other forms of payment from those lower down the social ladder.

While the concept of Casta most impacted the progeny of mixed-blood marriages and unions in New Spain, even pure-blooded Spanish men born in New Spain were seen as inferior to a Spaniard born in Spain: by law, a person born in New Spain could not be appointed Viceroy of New Spain, no matter how illustrious his family was or how "pure" his genetic heritage.

Miguel Hidalgo official portraitAll of the classes that were discriminated against by the pure-blooded Spanish authorities may have disagreed about many things, but the historical record is clear that by the early 1800s resentment of the miniscule number of pristine-pure blooded Spaniards who filled all of the most important posts in colonial Mexico was universally shared among them.

In 1810, inspired by the revolutions in the United States and France in the late 1700s, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Jesuit priest often referred to as the Father of Mexican Independence, ignited a revolt in that fused the resentments and anger of many of the disenfranchised classes in New Spain and set Mexico on a course that would make it an independent nation.

Sinaloa was spared the worst ravages of the biggest battles of the war of independence that took place near the seat of Spanish colonial government in Mexico City, and within other large population centers in the south.

While Hidalgo's living role in the struggle for Mexican independence was short-lived -- he was captured and executed by firing squad by the Spanish in 1811 -- his words inspired others to continue the struggle that, after 11 bloody years, ended colonial Spanish rule in the Americas and gave birth to the country of Mexico in 1821.

The man who turned the tide in the war for Mexican independence and finally defeated the Spanish in the Americas was General Agustín de Iturbide (formally Agustín Cosme Damián de Iturbide y Arámburu), an upper-class Mexican crillo military man who had been raised raised among the privileged class of Valladolid, Morelia.

Iturbide had commanded royalist forces -- rather successfully -- for virtually all of the conflict until he switched sides at the very end of the war that created a soverign Mexico.

It is worth noting that Iturbide may well have been part Amerindian, and how his fierce denial of that possible genetic heritage illustrates the power of the concept and history of Caste in New Spain.

While historians agree that it is clear that Iturbide's father was a pure-blooded Spaniard, some historians believe that his mother was a mestiza -- meaning that she was part Indian, making him part Indian.

Iturbide fiercely maintained that he was a criollo -- a pure-blooded Spaniard born in New Spain -- but his position that criollo's should have equal rights and privileges as Spaniards born in Spain was disruptive enough.

Iturbide's Plan of Iguala demanded equality for creoles, and also demanded the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in Mexico, which would effectively end the rule of the Spanish Crown in The Americas.


Independent Mexico -- and Sinaloa -- becomes ruled by criollos and the modern history of Sinaloa begins
19th Century / 1800s Sinaloa History

King Ferdinand of Spain had enormous internal problems to cope with and the idea of a military adventure in the Americas in 1820 - 1821 was not an option.

On September 28, 1821, Agustín de Iturbide and the Spanish Viceroy, Juan de O'Donojú y O'Ryan, signed the Treaty of Córdoba which ended Spanish rule in the Americas.

The Mexican Empire (Imperio Mexicano) was the official name of newly independent Mexico, and it benefited from the long and extensive history of Spanish colonial dominance in the southern and western parts of the Americas.

It encompassed the the provinces and territories of both New Spain and of the former Captaincy General of Guatemala which included Chiapas State in modern Mexico and the territories of the modern nations of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

The newly born nation had sovereignty over lands bordered by Panama in the south and stretching all the way to the Pacific northwest in the United States, including the current countries of Central America and the U.S. states of California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.

The independence achieved under the leadership of Iturbide would probably have disappointed Father Hidalgo.

Established as a constitutional monarchy -- a congress was supposed to monitor the actions of the monarch -- the first Mexican Empire lasted just two short years, from 1821 to 1823.

Iturbide -- who proclaimed himself Emperor Augustin I of the Mexican Empire -- was not at all concerned about the plight of the lower classes. His intent was to preserve and expand the privileges of the criollo class and he succeeded: only Iturbide, personally, and other criollos really benefited from the expulsion of the Spaniards.

But discontent with Iturbide, personally, blossomed almost immediately -- even among his fellow criollos.

His self-appointment as emperor -- he crowned himself, as Napoleon had done in France -- broke with Spanish tradition and offended those who believed that Kings and Emperors should show subservience to the Catholic Church.

The most vigorous opposition to Iturbide's reign came from the newly-minted Mexican congressmen, a significant number of whom held republican ideas, and many of whom were Masons, a group that would advocate for greater democracy in Mexico for another century.

Iturbide dissolved the Congress on 31 October 1822 and created a new junta that answered only to him to legislate in its place, arresting and jailing numerous opposition members of the disbanded congress who protested these moves.

Mexico was spiraling downward economically: no European nation recognized Mexico's independence and most broke off economic ties.

But an even darker cloud was looming: a resurgent King Ferdinand was initiating a military intervention in Mexico the intent of which was to re-colonize New Spain -- an effort that lasted in fits and starts until 1829.

Iturbide's reign lasted just ten months -- from May 19, 1822 until March 19, 1823, when he abdicated and began his journey to exile in Tuscany, Italy.

On March 31, 1823, the Mexican congress granted executive power to a troika of prominent politicians: Nicolás Bravo, Pedro Celestino Negrete and Guadalupe Victoria.

The new Mexican government began to restructure the administrative districts within the country almost immediately, and in 1824, Sonora and Sinaloa were combined to form the Estado de Occidente (Western State), with El Fuerte as its capital.


1800s Sinaloa prospers while most of Mexico faces
economic hardship and war
19th Century / 1800s Sinaloa History

Mexico, overall, suffered economically after independence, with historians calculating that the average Mexican was actually poorer in 1870 than in 1821, but Sinaloa was an exception.

Throughout the 1800s Sinaloan mining communities like Concordia, Copala, El Rosario, Panuco and others continued to yield massive amounts of silver and gold, large-scale agriculture in Sinaloa was thriving, and the port of Mazatlan experienced steady growth exporting gold, silver and agricultural products.

The pirate threat having been eliminated, the first decades of the 1800s brought the Port of Mazatlan steadily increasing ship traffic and the frequent arrival of cargo and passengers that hailed from very distant places.

Mazatlan had become one of the three most important ports on the Pacific coast of the Americas -- the others being San Francisco and Valparaiso in Chile -- with many ships arriving from Europe and the Middle East.

Much of this traffic -- an estimated sixty ships per year were arriving by the early 1800s -- was related to supplying mining operations in Concordia, Copala, El Rosario and Panuco, as well as bringing tools and materials that were used to continue to build Mazatlan and other towns in Sinaloa.

Seal of the Congress of SinaloaThe Federal government in Mexico city understood the historical destiny of the northwest and, in March 1830, Estado de Occidente was officially divided into present-day Sonora and Sinaloa States, with El Fuerte named the capital of the new state of Sinaloa.

In recognition of its importance to the state, Mazatlan was made the capital of Sinaloa in 1859, an honor it would continue to hold until 1873 when the capital was moved to its present-day location, Culiacán -- and then only as a result of federal government legislation triggered by the occupation of many of Mexico's ports in the mid 19th century.

The middle of the 1800s were prosperous times for Sinaloa, but Mazatlan experienced several occupations and disruptions of the operations of the port from 1847 - 1868, the first being as a result of the Mexican - American War of 1846 - 1848.


Run-up to the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848 along the Pacific Coast and within Sinaloa
19th Century / 1800s Sinaloa History

When war with Mexico broke out on May 12, 1846, the United States Navy had already been conducting naval operations against Mexico along the Pacific coast for almost four years, the first incident being a case of profound misunderstanding in 1842.

In 1842, Commodore Thomas Catesby Jones was in command of the United States Pacific Squadron, a fleet which included the frigate USS United States, the USS Cyane, the USS Saint Louis, the USS Yorktown and USS Shark, as well as a number of other ships.

At harbor in Lima, Peru, Jones was told that England had signed a secret treaty with Mexico ceding to the British Empire what is now the State of California for payment of 7 million dollars.

Jones believed that the Monroe Doctrine -- which asserted American hegemony over all of North America -- obligated him to take action immediately.

Without waiting for authorization from Washington -- or even confirmation of the "information", which would take weeks at best, months at most -- Jones ordered his squadron to set sail north towards Monterrey Bay, California, now San Francisco, which was the capital of the Mexican province.

On October 19, 1842, the United States Pacific Squadron entered Monterrey Bay and Commodore Jones sent his second-in-command, Captain James Armstrong, ashore to demand the surrender of not only of the small provincial outpost, but of the entire Mexican State of California.

The Mexican Army commander was given until 9:00 am the following day to surrender. He chose not to respond.

Commodore Jones ordered a landing, and the United States Pacific Fleet sent 100 of its best sailors and 50 heavily armed marines ashore shortly after 9:00 am. The Mexicans -- who had only a poorly built fortification and 58 minimally-equipped troops -- were wildly over-matched and offered no resistance, surrendering their "fort" without a shot being fired.

The United States sailors celebrated, and proudly planted the American flag.

The worm can turn rapidly in military matters, and virtually overnight Commodore Jones was revealed as a credulous fool.

When Jones went ashore on October 21, 1842, he discovered that the supposed "treaty" between Mexico and England was nothing more than a totally inaccurate rumor, and that war between the United States and Mexico, or England, or whomever were pure figments of his imagination.

Jones immediately ordered the American flag his men had planted two days before lowered, and publicly saluted the Mexican flag that had been hoisted in its place.

While Commodore Jones reportedly made a sincere attempt to mollify the Mexican Army commander whose fort he'd seized, no lives had been lost, and the Mexican government was soon informed that Jones had been relieved of his command, the Incident at Monterrey had left a very bad taste in Mexico City -- and was used to support the argument among Mexican leaders and government officials that 1840s America was both expansionist and trigger-happy.


The United States and Mexico go to war in 1846
and Mazatlán suffers
19th Century / 1800s Sinaloa History

American marines coming ashore at Veracruz in 1847The bloodletting of the Mexican-American war of 1846 to 1848 only lightly touched most of Sinaloa.

But while Sinaloa was largely isolated from the most-lethal battles of the Mexican-American war -- which blossomed out of land and border disputes originating far to the east, and related to ownership of present-day Texas and a vast amount of land to the west and north that extended to the Pacific coast of California -- during the Mexican-American war the Port of Mazatlan was blockaded, invaded and occupied by the American Navy in from 1847 to 1848.

To be continued soon...

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed in 1848, put and end to the war and permanently stripped Mexico of land that now forms the states of California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, most of Arizona and Colorado, and parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Wyoming.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was largely portrayed as consensual by press in the United States, with newspapers often emphasizing in their reporting that Mexico had been paid $15,000,000 USD -- and was forgiven another $3,000,000 USD of existing debt -- as part of the peace agreement.

With the Americans gone, Mazatlan -- and all of Sinaloa -- breathed a sigh of relief, and the business of creating wealth resumed.

It is hard to believe when viewing the beautiful and extraordinarily tranquil watercolor painting below, painted by British Admiral Edward Gennys Fanshawe in 1850 from the foot of the El Faro lighthouse atop Cerro del Creston, that Mazatlan had ever experienced war.

Mazatlan 1850 by Admiral Edward Gennys Fanshawe


The Reform War of 1858 - 1861 sets the stage for the French Intervention and the occupation of Mazatlán in the 1860s 19th Century Sinaloa

In the late 1850s Mexico was convulsed by a civil war that was the culmination of a struggle between Conservative and Liberal factions within the country that began immediately after Mexico seceded from Spain in 1821.

After a decade of war with Spain, Mexico was a fractured nation.

The 36 years between 1821 to 1857 saw fifty different national governments ranging from the monarchy of 1821 - 1823 under Emperor Agustín de Iturbide to constitutional republican governments and even a brief dictatorship.

Some Mexicans began to believe that the social order needed to be fundamentally reformed, and a group of parties, political thinkers and aspiring leaders that we now group together as Liberals began to emerge.

Many historians believe that much of Liberal politics in Mexico had its origin in the meetings of Freemasons, and the history of privacy that their Lodges -- and the secret nature of their society -- provided.

Liberals supported the establishment of a Federalist Republic in Mexico based upon the political ideas and ideals that were emerging from the European Enlightenment, which was secular and democratic in nature and would, by definition, impose limitations on the Church’s privileges and abolish statutes that exempted military officers from being charged with civil crimes or being tried in civil courts.

Conservatives -- many of whom were royalists who had opposed separation from Spain in the first place -- advocated maintaining most of the institutions inherited from the colonial period, notably tax and legal exemptions for the Catholic Church.

The Liberals had won some political victories at the state level as early as the 1820s, and the Presidencies of Valentín Gómez Farías in the 1830s and 1840s saw him shrink the ranks of the military and abolish the military's exemption from civil trials; outlaw mandatory tithes to the Church; seize Church properties; secularize education and appropriate 15,000,000 pesos of church funds to help finance the Mexican-American War.

The seizure of church funds in 1847 triggered a brief military rebellion -- the Revolt of the Polkos -- which was supported by Conservatives and the Church and was a small-scale preview of the Reform War of 1858 - 1861.

To be continued soon...


In 1861 Napoleon III sets his sights on Mexico
and Sinaloa silver mines
19th Century / 1800s Sinaloa History

Napoleon III in 1865Mazatlan experienced another serious siege and occupation in the 1860s, this time by the Napoleon III and his Second French Empire.

Variously referred to as the Second Franco-Mexican War, the Second French Intervention, the Maximilian Affair or the War of French Intervention, this attempted recolonization of Mexico by France was initially supported by both England and Spain.

Both the trigger for, and the underlying causes of, the Second Franco-Mexican War were economic.

Mexico was a seriously indebted nation in 1861: France, Britain and Spain had extended credit and loans to the Mexican government in the four decades since it achieved independence, with France owed 135 million gold francs, Britain 85 million and Spain 40 million, and Mexico was behind on its interest payments to all three.

Napoleon III Grandes Armes Imperiales ShieldBeyond the debt issue, Napoleon III coveted access to Latin American markets and -- unfortunately for Mazatlan and Sinaloa State -- the gold and silver that was being mined in Sinaloa and elsewhere in Mexico.

In early 1860s historians estimate silver worth as much as $5,000,000 USD was flowing through the Port of Mazatlan annually, which only represented a fraction of Sinaloa's silver output, because silver also left the state via overland routes.

To put the value of $5,000,000 USD in the mid 1800s in historical context -- and overlooking the value of gold and other precious minerals mined in 1860's Sinaloa -- the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo only obliged the United States to pay Mexico $18,000,000 USD in cash and debt relief for land that encompassed the modern states of California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, most of Arizona and Colorado, and parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Wyoming.

Napoleon III needed a pretext to intervene in Mexico, and in 1861 he got it.

Benito JuarezLiberal former governor of the State of Oaxaca and sitting President of the Supreme Court of Justice Benito Juárez was elected President of Mexico in March 1861.

On July 17, 1861 he suspended interest payments on Mexico's foreign debts entirely, a decision that would have dire consequences for Sinaloa State and, in particular, Mazatlan.

Napoleon III understood that with the United States, embroiled in civil war, would be unlikely -- and probably simply militarily unable -- to assert its claim to military hegemony in the Western Hemisphere.

The ill-advised decision by Benito Juárez to suspend interest foreign loan interest payments made Britain and Spain amenable to Napoleon III's plans.

On October 31, 1861, France, Great Britain and Spain signed the Treaty of London which united them in a common cause to invade and reestablish a European monarchy in Mexico -- the Second Mexican Empire.

Napoleon III knew he could count on having allies within Mexico: the history of post-colonial Mexico had disenfranchised many menbers of the former ruling class.

There were many closet -- and not so closet -- monarchists among the criollo class in in Mexico who had not only opposed Juárez in the 1861 election, but had opposed independence from Spain in the first place, and welcomed the idea of the return of a European-descended monarch.

The animosity felt toward Juárez by the criollos was amplified by caste hatred: Juárez's parents were, in his own words, "indios de la raza primitiva del país" -- "Indians of the primitive race of the country" -- and his first language was Zapotec, not Spanish.

Maximillian I of MexicoBeyond criollo monarchists, Napoleon III could count on the Catholic Church and clergy who fiercely opposed not only the specific Liberal Reform Laws that were passed in 1855 - 1857 and the reform constitution of 1857, but the entire progressive agenda for the evolution of Mexican society that was being promoted by the Liberals throughout mid 1800s Mexico.

Habsburg family crestDespite Juárez's Indian ancestry, Napoleon III even had reason to hope that his invasion might be welcomed by at least some indigenous communities: the unofficial perpetuation of the caste system in mid 1800s Mexico supported a system of land tenancy that effectively perpetuated the history of serfdom for many Indian tribes and communities.

Napoleon III needed a member of the European monarchy to be his puppet, and he had one in mind that had impeccable credientials and an astoundingly long lineage: Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph, who was a younger brother of Austrian emperor Franz Joseph I and a member of the House of Habsburg which traced its roots to Guntram the Rich, a pre-Medieval noble from what is now Breisgau, Germany, who died in 973 A.D.


The French invade Mexico in 1861
19th Century / 1800s Sinaloa History

A flotilla made up of British and French flotilla warships arrived off Veracruz, Mexico, in December 1861 and wasted no time landing 7500 French and 700 British heavily armed soldiers, who were soon reenforced by 6000 Spanish soldiers who were redeployed from their bases in Cuba, which was still a Spanish colonial possession.

Benito Juárez attempted to negotiate with the French -- who were the leading force both numerically and in terms of the formal military chain of command -- but soon realized that the French had a more ambitious agenda than simple debt repayment.

The British and Spanish also began to realize the scope of Napoleon III's goals and soon withdrew their land armies, but continued to support the French with their naval assets.

French General Conde de LorencezDespite the reduction of his fighting force by nearly fifty percent -- and being strongly advised to wait for reinforcements -- Commanding General Conde de Lorencez arrogantly marched the French army toward Mexico City, writing, "We are so superior to the Mexicans in race, in organization, in discipline, in morality and in elevation of feeling, that I beg your Excellency to be so good as to inform the Emperor that, at the head of 6,000 soldiers, I am already master of Mexico."

The Master of Mexico got his hat handed to him at the First Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862 by a wildly understrength Mexican army division numbering just 4,000 soldiers led by Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza -- a stunning defeat that was the first for French forces since the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

An enraged Napoleon III relieved his losing commander and sent General Élie Frédéric Forey and 23,000 fresh French sloldiers to Mexico. Napoleon III's instructions to Forey nakedly reveal the motives for the invasion and the economic origins of the conflict:

"...we have no interest that they (the United States) take over the entire Gulf of Mexico and be sole provider of products in the New World...If on the contrary Mexico preserves its independence and the integrity of its territory, if a stable government can be established with the assistance of France...We will have established our benevolent influence in the center of America, and this benevolence, in creating immense outlets for our commerce, will obtain for us the materials necessary for our industry."

French General Elie Frederic ForeyGeneral Forey led his troops on an offensive that began in March, 1863, and culminated in the fall of Mexico City on June 7, 1863 and the establishment of a puppet French government in Mexico.

Military commanders handled the formal surrender: Benito Juárez and most of his remaining Republican army fled into the mountains where he would lead them in a guerrilla war against the French until their expulsion in 1866.

A puppet government needs a puppet leader and, seeking to legitimize French rule, Napoleon III sent Maximilian to establish a new Mexican monarchy.

With the support of the French army and a group of conservative Mexican monarchists, Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph traveled to Mexico City where, on April 10, 1864, he declared himself Maximilian I, Emperor of Mexico.


Mazatlán is probed by the French Navy in 1862 - 1863
1800s Sinaloa History

Long before Maximilian arrived in Mexico and declared himself Emperor, warships from the French Navy had arrived off the coast of Sinaloa and were probing Mazatlan's harbor and shore defenses, and harassing merchant ships attempting to enter and exit the port.

Mazatlan was the capital Sinaloa State in 1862 and the most important city in northwest Mexico, but Napoleon III wasn't focused on the political or propaganda benefits capture of the city might bring, this was about money.

The silver and gold coming out of Sinaloa's mines was the prize and the port was the key to securing it: Napoleon III was willing to commit substantial resources to take Mazatlan, whatever was happening in the Mexico City Theater of the Second Franco-Mexican War.

Corvette Bayonnaise French Navy warshipAs early as May 1862 -- barely more that five months into the French Intervention -- the French spardeck corvette Bayonnaise arrived off the Port of Mazatlan and blockaded the harbor.

Commanded by French Vice Admiral Jurien de la Gravière, the corvette Bayonnaise was a formidable warship. Built in 1857, the she was a powerful three-masted craft that carried 30 cannon and a crew of over 220 sailors.

French Vice Admiral Jurien de la GraviereThe blockade caused significant economic hardship throughout Sinaloa and lasted until June 18, 1862, when the Bayonnaise sailed down the Sinaloa coast, rounded the tip of the Baja Peninsula and sailed north to San Francisco, harassing ships bound for Mexico all along the way.

The Bayonnaise and Vice Admiral Jurien de la Gravière would remain a bane of merchant ships all along the Pacific coast of Mexico for most of 1862: her next port-of-call after San Francisco was Acapulco, where she began harassing commercial vessels on August 16th.

The French Navy returned to Mazatlan with more force in February 1863, with a heavily armed frigate and three corvettes shadowing traffic outside the mouth of the harbor for a few days before leaving the area.

For a year, Mazatlan and Sinaloa State were spared further French attempts to disrupt trade. All that changed dramatically on March 26, 1864.


The Port of Mazatlán is blockaded by the French Navy
in March 1864
19th Century / 1800s Sinaloa History

On March 26, 1864, the French flagship La Cordelière under the command of Captain Marlineau Des Chenez appeared off the coast of Sinaloa near Deer Island just off what is now the Golden Zone / Zona Dorada, and was soon joined by the British Pearl Class sail-steam corvette HMS Charybdis.

The arrival of the La Cordelière at Mazatlan was not a surprise: earlier in the month she was sighted prowling the waters off the small Port of San Blas in Nayarit State just south of Sinaloa, and she had captured a Mexican-flagged boat coming from San Francisco, California, that was carrying letters intended for deposed-President Benito Juárez.

The defensive strategy and fortifications at Mazatlan had been designed by Colonel Gaspar Sánchez Ochoa.

A veteran Mexican army officer who had served under General Ignacio Zaragoza during the Mexican triumph at First Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, Ochoa understood well the historical precedents for defending Mazatlan from invasion.

Colonel Sánchez Ochoa was an optimist: he thought that the French could be defeated at the waterline -- and that history informed him how to do it.

On the afternoon of March 26th the La Cordelière began to shell the fortifications at North Beach (Playa Norte) and put out a single small landing craft which approached to within about 400 yards of the shoreline before drawing cannon fire from Mexican troops positioned just dozens of yards off the beach.

The French landing craft returned small arms fire and the La Cordelière continued to fire on the Mexican artillery positions with her cannon.

Artillery Captain Jesus Gamboa fired two shells that struck home and the French retreated, with the La Cordelière sailing to Deer Island to perform repairs.

The landing craft withdrew unscathed, but there were injuries among the Mexican troops on the shore as a result of near-misses and explosions of shells from the French naval guns.

The skirmish had been a probe: despite their long history plying the waters off Mazatlan and familiarity with its defenses, the French wanted to see the Mexican artillery in action before making a serious attempt to land troops.

March 27th was quiet, with both sides preparing for a fight.

Aboard the La Cordelière French Marines prepared for a beach landing, and ashore Colonel Gaspar Sánchez Ochoa and his second-in-command Captain Marcial Benítez readied their troops, particularly the artillery, which Sanchez Ochoa hoped would sink or disable French landing craft before the reached the shore.

On March 28th the La Cordelière, still anchored off Deer Island, put out 14 landing craft that began to cautiously move toward the beach.

When the French boats were about a mile from the shore the La Cordelière began firing her naval guns at the artillery positions that had been identified two days before. Captain Marcial Benítez ordered his battery to return fire, but the six shells the Mexican gunners fired missed the La Cordelière.

Eleven of the landing boats made a dash towards the beach and managed to disembark their troops without casualties. The French marines now had a beachhead in Mazatlan, but it wouldn't last long.

With Captain Marcial Benítez continuing to direct artillery fire at the three landing craft that remained offshore, Colonel Sánchez Ochoa and his infantry troops attacked the French who who had made it to the beach.

After a fierce sharp firefight, the French re-boarded their landing craft and fled back to the La Cordelière, carrying several dead and wounded marines.

Colonel Sánchez Ochoa's troops had also taken casualties on the 28th: one dead and three wounded.

The 29th and 30th were quiet, with the French apparently trying to decide whether to attempt another landing. They decided not -- they would punish the Mexicans from afar.

At 2:00 pm on March 31, 1864, the La Cordelière turned broadside toward Mazatlan and opened up with all of its cannon on the side of the ship facing the city. The firing was largely indiscriminate and aimed less at the Mexican artillery positions than at the town in general.

By sunset the La Cordelière had fired between 300 and 400 shells -- the historical record is unclear -- while the Mexican artillery had fired 158 times.

Colonel Gaspar Sánchez Ochoa and his men had won the battle: the French would not attempt another beach landing. But the war -- and the suffering of the populace of Mazatlan -- was just beginning.

What followed the battles of March 26 to March 31, 1864, was a more than seven month naval blockade of the port by the La Cordelière, the hardships of which caused substantial dissent between Republican and Imperial factions within the population.

Colonel Gaspar Sánchez Ochoa had come out of the defense of Mazatlan a hero, with President Benito Juárez first promoting him to General and later appointing him Governor of Sinaloa State.

The La Cordelière briefly left the Sea of Cortez, but by March 1865 she sailed north up the coast of Sinaloa, past Mazatlan, and onward to the Port of Guaymas, Sonora, to harass shipping there.


A divided Mazatlán struggles to survive the
French blockade, March - November 1864

19th Century / 1800s Sinaloa History

The blockade of Mazatlan caused great hardships for the populace of the city.

Sea trade -- historically the foundation of Mazatlan's economy -- was completely disrupted, and only a small fraction of the products produced near the port could be transported out overland.

The people of Mazatlan were divided.

Officially, the city was controlled by supporters of deposed-President Benito Juárez, but the leadership was fragmented between several competing pro-Juárez factions, paralyzing government and effectively ending city services.

A substantial fraction of the citizens of Mazatlan didn't care whether the Juaristas or the Republican forces won -- they just wanted the conflict to be over as rapidly as possible so that commerce could be re-started.

Added to this dysfunctional mix were the not inconsiderable number of Mazatlecos who were monarchists who, openly or covertly, hoped for a French victory in the Franco-Mexican war.

Governor and General Placido VegaThe first military guardian of blockaded Mazatlan was General Plácido de la Vega Daza -- formally Don Plácido de la Vega Daza y Colon de Portugal -- and his Central Army 3rd Division, a volunteer Republican force that were garrisoned in the city.

One of the more colorful characters in Sinaloa history, Plácido Vega was a direct descendant of Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne and a 13th generation descendant of Cristopher Columbus.

A native of Sinaloa born in El Fuerte in the northern part of the state in 1830, Vega's family owned vast tracts of land and gold and silver mines.

Unlike many Mexicans born into privilege in the mid 1800s, Vega somehow managed to grow up liberal, and had been an early and ardent supporter of both the reform Constitution of 1857 and of Benito Juárez.

Plácido Vega was appointed Governor of Sinaloa State in 1859 -- at age 29 -- and served until 1862. He had formal military training and, under his leadership, Mazatlan remain relatively calm in the earliest months of the blockade.

But his friendship with Benito Juárez was going to deprive Mazatlan of his leadership: in mid 1864 Juárez sent Plácido Vega to the United States on a secret mission to seek support -- and raise funds for -- the Constitutionalists fight against the French.

With Vega out of the picture, open conflict between two Juárez supporters broke out in October 1864 that led to the fall of Mazatlan to the French.

Jesus Garcia MoralesGeneral Jesus García Morales, who had served briefly as Governor of Sinaloa in 1863, and General Ramón Corona were uneasily sharing control of Mazatlan and the area surrounding the municipality.

The two intensely disliked each other for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that Morales had attempted to have Corona brought up on misappropriation-of-state-funds charges when he was Governor of Sinaloa.

The long and bitter history of personal animosity between Morales and Corona would be the beginning of the undoing of the defense of Mazatlan.

General Ramon CoronaGarcía Morales was residing in the Centro Historico and Corona outside the city in the Presidio military base southeast of Mazatlan.

On October 11, 1864, Corona marched 600 infantry soldiers and 200 of his cavalry -- he had an additional 1000 men in reserve -- to the edge of Mazatlan and demanded that Morales surrender to him.

Morales had just 500 men under his command, but he also controlled Mazatlan's artillery, 48 heavy cannon. Refusing to surrender, Morales had his men turn all of the guns around -- they had been pointed in the direction of the Sea of Cortez and the French -- and re-sighted them on the land approaches to the city.

At 2 am on October 16th, 1864, Corona launched an all-out assault from his positions south of the Centro Historico.

After a brief but intense battle, Corona's troops overwhelmed Morales' positions, with Morales being captured by Corona, personally, and over 35 Republican soldiers lying dead and wounded in the streets of Mazatlan.

Hearing of the chaos, Sinaloa Governor Antonio Rosales decided that he needed to act.

Arriving in Mazatlan in late October he managed to gain control of the city, but he was in for a surprise: the bloodletting between the Juarista factions had shifted public sentiment and many Mazatlecos wanted to surrender to the French and go about re-building their lives.


Mazatlán surrenders to the French Imperial Army
on November 13, 1864
19th Century / 1800s Sinaloa History

On the October 24, 1864, three French warships, the D'Assas, Diamant and Victoire left Acapulco harbor loaded with a substantial compliment of fighting men.

French MarineAboard the ships were several hundred French Marines, 70 Egyptian soldiers and two companies of Zouave riflemen, French light infantry soldiers largely hailing from North Africa and battle-tested in French colonial campaigns there.

Zouave officerThe French battle plan was to fully envelope the city: Manuel Lozada, an Imperialist officer, was marching 5000 French Imperial infantry toward the city from the southeast and preparing fighting positions where he would wait for the French fleet to seal the city from the water.

Lozada's Imperialist army's ranks had been swelled by the arrival of several hundred Cora Indians from the rugged mountainous part of northern Nayarit State, a tribe who fiercely resisted Christian conversion who had a long history of warfare and demonstrated fighting skills.

The citizens of Mazatlan knew what was coming and many chose to evacuate their homes and businesses, particularly those structures closest to the water.

The French warships arrived on November 12, 1864.

Sinaloa Governor Antonio Rosales and many of the Republican defenders knew they had no chance against the array of crack French troops aboard the ships -- and the naval cannon -- but when the D'Assas, Diamant and Victoire joined the La Cordelière off Mazatlan they were met by a delegation led by Governor Rosales, who attempted to finesse the situation and open negotiations.

The French infantry commander, Captain Thomas Louis Le Normant de Kergrist, was having none of it: he issued an ultimatum for surrender of the port that had a deadline the following day.

Written notice was given to the Mexican commanders that any resistance would result in immediate hostilities, and that neutral -- mostly American -- ships in the harbor would also be targeted should that occur.

Governor Rosales responded by putting his coastal batteries on alert with orders to fire on any ship coming within range.

Governor Rosales knew that he didn't have the military strength to defend the port and was determined to march north with his troops to El Habal and El Quelite, where they felt they could establish defensible positions from which to execute guerrilla operations against the French army and its Indian allies and mercenaries.

The French warships began firing early on the morning of November 13 -- arguably before the ultimatum deadline had expired -- and the shelling immediately damaged a number of buildings in the Centro Historico.

Governor Rosales and the Republican commanders could see firsthand the scope of damage that the French naval gunners could inflict if they continued firing.

The Governor and his senior commanders hastily sailed to the flagship of the French fleet accompanied by city leaders to inform the French commander that the General Corona had argued that the Republicans surrender -- and had evacuated his garrison as requested, fulfilling one of the terms of the French ultimatum.

They also offered formal surrender of Mazatlan and its port.

General Manuel LozadaFrench troops from the D'Assas, Diamant and Victoire were landed and Manuel Lozada's infantry surged into the city. There was minimal exchange of gunfire, but an American citizen was shot on sight.

Martial law was immediately imposed by the French and the carrying of firearms and the trading of firearms were prohibited.

Republican units got out of Mazatlan just in time: heading north they were forced to fight a sharp engagement with Lozada's encircling Imperial forces that resulted in significant casualties.

Reaching El Quelite, the Republicans established defensive positions and a plan began to take form: Governor Antonio Rosales would command the Republican guerrilla forces in northern Sinaloa while General Ramón Corona would be responsible for southern Sinaloa.

Mazatlan was destined to endure an occupation that would last exactly two years -- the city was liberated on November 13, 1866.


French Colonial Occupation of Mazatlán November 13, 1864 - November 13, 1866 19th Century / 1800s Sinaloa History

The French occupation of Mazatlan from November 1864 to November 1866 was the longest in the city's history, and took place withing the context of the larger war between French and allied Imperial forces and the remainders of Benito Juarez's Republican government and military.

It also took place within the context of the French Imperial forces attempt to extend their military control throughout Sinaloa State -- particularly the parts of which where mines were located.

General Manuel Lozada's leadership had served France and the Empire of Mexico well in terms of the capture of the port and city, but administration of those assets and pressing the ongoing war in Sinaloa were another matter.

In early January 1865 a fresh French army marched from Durango to Mazatlan.

Following a route over the "Devil's Backbone" of the Sierra Madre Occidental that roughly mirrors that of the modern Mexican Federal Highway 40 / 40D, General Armando Alexandre de Castagny and his troops got their first taste of Republican resistance near the Durango / Sinaloa border.

Though many Republicans died and the battle is regarded as a French victory, the experience was sobering and sewed the seeds of further bloodletting: a number of Republican prisoners were summarily executed -- and the Republicans knew it.

The French Imperial forces continued to advance toward Mazatlan and at the village of Veranos the Rebublicans ambushed them, this time with much more success, killing over 100 Cazadores de Vincennes and Regimiento de Zuavos soldiers -- elite French infantry who were veterans of the Battle of Puebla.

The bitter nature of the battles of The Second French Intervention in south-central Sinaloa was taking form: Republican units executed Imperialist prisoners in the village of Jacobo, Sinaloa, in retaliation for the executions at the "Devil's Backbone" just days before.

By late January 1865 French Imperial General Armando Alexandre de Castagny was firmly ensconced in a Centro Historico mansion, but local cooperation was, to say the least, disappointing.

General Castagny decided that a firm hand was what was needed, setting up military courts that were empowered to order executions of Mexican citizens.

The executions began just days later, on January 31, 1865.

But executions alone weren't enough -- General Castagny had a war to pursue in the Sinaloa countryside.

Towns throughout south Sinaloa like Concordia, El Castillo, La Embocada, Malpica, Siquieros and Villa Unión were burned in punitive raids and -- on orders -- captured defenders were shot on the spot.

When a subordinate officer, Colonel Garnier, protested the actions, General Castagny dismissed him from the Imperial Army.

Concordia was the worst hit -- and the Imperial forces seemed to want to march further up into the Sierra Madre -- but while sacking nearby Copala they met substantial republican resistance.

Losing several dead and injured in a sharp firefight -- and hearing word that there were even more Republican troops massed near Pánuco -- the Imperialist forces retreated to the relative security of Concordia.

Republican victories were not unheard of in Spring 1866. Imperialist forces being substantially challenged outside Mazatlan: sharp engagements on March 19 - 21 and on April 1, 1866, at Villa Union and Concordia were clear Republican triumphs, with the defeated Imperialists withdrawing in disarray to the port.

General Castagny was determined to win by using brute force against civilian populations, and March 1866 brought even more terrible news to Mazatlan and the remaining unoccupied towns and villages in Sinaloa.

Imperialist General Manuel Lozada had marched south and sacked Escuinapa near the border with Nayarit. After destroying Escuinapa, Lozada fell back upon a Republican hospital in Maloya and executed all the patients and staff.

The Republican fighting forces and the civilian populations that supported them in south - central Sinaloa were exhausted by April 1866.

The majority of the important south-central Sinaloa towns had been looted and burned; the fields were unplanted; the cattle, pigs and poultry had been stolen; the few remaining horses were dying due to lack of fodder and everyone -- soldier or civilian alike -- was hungry.

But America's darkest day, April 15, 1865, had ironically be the beginning of a new dawn for Sinaloa and all of Mexico -- whether that was recognized in Sinaloa at the time or not.


The French Empire in Mexico collapses and Sinaloa is liberated in November 1866 19th Century / 1800s Sinaloa History

The position -- and actions -- that the United States would take with regard to the French Intervention in the Americas of the 1860s were always a consideration for Napoleon III and Maximilian I, but were discounted by both because of the American Civil War and the limitations it put on the actions of President Abraham Lincoln.

It was clear that President Abraham Lincoln and much of the government of the United States had been sympathetic to Benito Juárez and the republican Mexican Government in 1864: Lincoln refused to recognize Maximilian I, and formally opposed the French invasion, but the titanic struggle that was the American Civil War prevented him from doing anything concrete -- just as Napoleon III had predicted.

When Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865, at Appomattox the world changed for the French Imperialists, and not for the better.

Maximilian I attempted to diffuse American sympathy for Mexico by first offering Juárez amnesty and later the post of Prime Minister, but Juárez refused both saying that he would not support a government "imposed by foreigners" or a Mexican monarchy of any type.

The combined forces of the Mexican monarchists and the French Army won numerous battles in 1864 and early 1865 -- including those in Sinaloa -- but in the second half of 1865 the tide began to turn against them, in part because the American Civil War had ended.

After Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 15, 1865, his successor, US President Andrew Johnson invoked the Monroe doctrine and demanded that the French evacuate Mexico -- but in war-weary America congressional support was lacking.

When Johnson failed to get support in Congress in late 1865, history suggests that he clandestinely ordered the Army to "lose" military supplies near the border with Mexico where Benito Juárez' guerrilla fighters could pick them up.

By 1866 Johnson felt able to order the open use of military force: with the American Civil War over the United States Navy was freed up, and in February 1866 the United States imposed a naval blockade of French-occupied Mexico.

The military situation in Southern Sinaloa in mid 1866 is a perfect microcosm of the position Emperor Maximilian I found himself in throughout Mexico at that moment.

Within Sinaloa, the French controlled a major city and the major port which were, of course, the same place: Mazatlan.

But outside Mazatlan in the Sinaloa countryside, Republican guerrillas owned -- or could own if they chose to do so -- most of the roads. Without unfettered access to roads, the French could not be said to "control" Sinaloa at all.

Republican guerrillas were also the de facto government in countless small towns and villages throughout Sinaloa that the French simply didn't have the manpower to police, particularly in the Sierra Madre foothills and mountains.

Facing a blossoming guerrilla war and a financial catastrophe, Maximilian I became increasingly depressed, effectively allowing his wife, Empress Carlotta, to rule Mexico during his increasingly long physical and mental absences.

Napoleon III had known that the war in Mexico was lost for months by mid 1866, and was facing a mounting military threat in Europe from Prussia. Not willing to challenge the American blockade, he had begun quietly withdrawing French troops from Mexico soon after the blockade was announced.

As 1866 wore on, General Ramon Corona's south Sinaloa guerrilla army was strengthening, with arms smuggled south from the United States and captured weapons equipping ever increasing numbers of soldiers.

Just in the general neighborhood of Mazatlan, 1866 saw battles at Atravesada, Concordia, El Camarón, Las Higueras, Los Callejones de Barrón, Venadillo, Veranos, Villa Unión and Urías -- plus countless unnamed firefights and ambushes.

By Fall 1866, General Manuel Lozada had switched sides -- Emperor Maximilian I hadn't been paying him or his troops for several months -- and the defeat of the French garrison at Mazatlan had become only a matter of time.

On November 13, 1866, two years to the day after French occupation, General Ramon Corona expelled Maximilian's French Imperial Army from Mazatlan, and colonial rule in The Pearl of The Pacific was ended -- as was the entire French colonial adventure in Mexico the following year.

The last French strongpoint was La Garita de Palos Prietos, just north of the Centro Historico. The Republican guerrilla army took Palos Prietos by bayonet, and French defenses in the Centro Historico and the port collapsed almost immediately.

The French army left Mazatlan by ship -- as it was doing from several Mexican ports at the end of 1866 -- but Maximilian I refused to leave Mexico, and continued to fight Benito Juárez' growing partisan army.

In 1867 the last of Maximilian I troops were defeated and -- history suggests in retaliation for his orders earlier in the conflict to execute Republican prisoners of war -- he was sentenced to death by a military court. Despite international and domestic pleas for amnesty, Benito Juárez refused to commute the sentence.

Maximilian execution in 1867Maximilian was executed by firing squad on June 19, 1867 at Cerro de las Campanas in Querétaro. His last words were "¡Viva México!"

The disaster of the Mexican Intervention was a humiliation for Napoleon, and he was widely blamed among European royals for Maximilian's death -- which was unjust because letters show that both Napoleon III and King Leopold of Belgium had warned Maximilian not to depend on European support.

The consequences for France of the defeat in Mexico were enormous: six thousand French soldiers died in the conflict; the war had cost over 330 million francs, it had aroused hostility both in the United States, which felt the Monroe Doctrine had been disrespected, and in Austria, which had lost a member of its royal family; and it weakened France on the eve of its coming war with Prussia.


English Blockade of Mazatlán in 1868
19th Century / 1800s Sinaloa History

President Johnson's assertion that European meddling in Mexico would be met by United States military force under the Monroe Doctrine turned out to be hollow -- at least with regard to Mazatlan and military actions in the Americas that weren't really government sanctioned.

Captain William H. Bridges HMS ChanticleerIn 1868, just two years after the French were expelled, Mazatlan was briefly blockaded again, this time by the British warship HMS Chanticleer, a Camelion class sloop armed with 17 cannon under the command of Captain William H. Bridges.

HMS ChanticleerUnlike the American and French occupations -- which were driven by international politics and economics -- the English blockade of Mazatlan was essentially comical.

Historians believe that the motives that drove Bridges' actions were petty and personal -- the captain apparently resented that local customs authorities had seized a small amount of gold from his ships' paymaster when on shore leave.

The effects of the naval blockades Mexican ports in the mid 1800s reverberated through the federal government in Mexico City.

Mazatlan and had not been the only port to be captured by American naval forces during the Mexican - American War of 1846 -1848 and the French Colonial Occupation of 1864 - 1866.

Guaymas, Sonora, an important port just north of the Sinaloa border, Veracruz and Tampico on the Gulf Coast and many other important harbors had been occupied by the Americans or French -- or both.

The Mexican federal government responded by passing a law in July 1867 which forbade state capitals from being located in ports. It took six years to implement, but in 1873 the state legislature of Sinaloa voted to relocate the capital from Mazatlan to Culiacán, which is inland.


Porfirian Era brings increased prosperity to Sinaloa
-- and all of Mexico
19th Century / 1800s Sinaloa History

Porfirio DiazSinaloa's dramatic economic expansion was particularly robust under President Porfirio Díaz, a soldier turned politician who served seven terms as President of Mexico and governed for nearly three decades: one month in 1876; from 1877 to 1880; and from 1884 until he was voted out of office in 1911 at the start of the Mexican Revolution.

By the late 1800s the demands of agriculture and mining in Sinaloa had actually created a labor shortage: Sinaloa's small population -- in 1880 it was well under 250,000 -- limited its ability to continue expanding economically.

In addition to Europeans, Japanese, Chinese and other Asians began arriving at the Port of Mazatlan in the late 1800s, drawn by jobs and seeking economic betterment. The peak period of Asian migration to Sinaloa roughly coincides with the presidencies of Porfirio Díaz: 1880 to 1910. Diaz was trying to modernize Mexico -- particularly the railroads -- and couldn't attract enough European immigrants.

The Chinese also brought a new cash crop to Sinaloa: poppy cultivation, the precursor crop for opium production, which was a legal drug in the 1800s and for which there was substantial demand in the United States not far to the north.

But the Chinese weren't the only foreigners bringing valuable ideas and skills to Sinaloa in the late 1800s, and particular debts are owed to two Americans: Albert Kimsey Owen, founder of the city and port of Topolobampo, and Benjamin F. Johnston, founder of Los Mochis.


Two American Utopian Socialists fundamentally change Sinaloa in the late 1800s 19th Century / 1800s Sinaloa History

Most of the important cities and towns in Mexico are some of the oldest cities in the Americas, with many dating their founding to the earliest years of the Spanish colonial presence in the New World.

Sinaloa is home to two very exceptional examples of towns founded in the late 1800s that have become important Mexican cities: the port of Topolobampo, founded in 1884 by Albert Kimsey Owen, and the city of Los Mochis, now home to over 250,000 and the seat of government of Ahome municipality in north Sinaloa, founded in 1893 by Benjamin F. Johnston.

Both founders were Americans, and both professed a vision of urban and economic development that was defined by Utopian Socialism, an ideology that imagined a future where labor was respected and valued.


Albert Kimsey Owen first sees Topolobampo harbor
in the 1870s and imagines its future as an
international port
19th Century / 1800s Sinaloa History

Albert Kimsey Owen, founder of Topolobampo, SinaloaThe Genesis of the Port of Topolobampo -- a tremendously valuable economic resource for the State of Sinaloa, second only to Mazatlan in millions of tons of cargo handled annually -- was Albert Kimsey Owen's single-minded drive to see his vision of a major port in northern Sinaloa realized.

Born in Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1847, Owen became a surveyor, and in the spring of 1872 the 25 year old was hired to survey the west coast of Mexico for an extension of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad.

It was during the 1872 expedition that Owen first set foot in Sinaloa and saw Topolobampo Bay. It was love at first sight -- he instantly realized Topolobampo's potential as a port, and for the wealth that could be created by linking the port by rail to railroads in the United States.

After his employer, Palmer and Rosecrans, failed to obtain a railroad concession from the Mexican government, Owen struck out on his own.

Owen used his surveys to plan a town at Topolobampo Bay, and for railroad and highway connections to it. From 1873 through 1880 he worked tirelessly to implement his plan.

In early 1880, Owen convinced President Porfirio Diaz to personally support his plan which, given the rubber-stamp nature of the Federal legislature in Mexico under Diaz, was everything he needed.

He had partnered with American investors to form a corporation called the Texas, Topolobampo and Pacific Railroad and Telegraph Company, which was rapidly granted a concession to establish a colony at Topolobampo and to build the first section of track.

It was time for Albert Kimsey Owen to go back to Mexico.


The sinking of the SS City of Veracruz on August 29, 1880 off Florida sets the founding of Topolobampo, Sinaloa, back seven years

On August 25, 1880, Owen and fourteen of his investors and advisors met at Pier 8 on the North River in New York City and boarded the SS City of Vera Cruz, which was bound for Veracruz, Mexico.

The Vera Cruz was a modern late 1800s mixed-use steam-sail ship that carried both passengers and cargo.

For this voyage -- the route was New York City to Havana, Cuba, and then on to Veracruz, Mexico -- she was heavily laden, including a substantial amount of cargo lashed to her deck, which made her somewhat less seaworthy because it raised the center of gravity of the ship.

The Captain, Edward Van Sice -- a highly regarded seaman known to be conservative and safety-conscious -- intended to reach Cuba via the Florida Straits.

Owen and his party made up nearly half the ships' passenger list, as it was only carrying 29 passengers, along with its normal crew of 49.

The journey would end in one of the greater tragedies of late 1800s American maritime history -- unknown to the Captain, a rapidly-building hurricane was roaring towards southern Florida just as the Vera Cruz was approaching the southern tip of the state.

At 1:00 pm on August 28th, 1880, Captain Van Sice, alarmed by his precipitously falling barometer, ordered the deck cargo to be thrown overboard -- including a newly manufactured streetcar bound for rapidly modernizing late 1800s Mexico City.

Lightening the load didn't save the SS City of Vera Cruz.

The Vera Cruz was battered by the hurricane all through the night of August 28th and, at 5:30 am on August 29, 1880, the SS City of Veracruz sunk thirteen miles northeast of Cape Canaveral.

Though Captain Edward Van Sice had given the order to abandon ship, it proved impossible for the crew of the SS City of Vera Cruz to deploy the life boats in the maelstrom: the waves were reported to have been fifty feet high.

The SS City of Vera Cruz sank suddenly, carrying with it Captain Van Sice and all of the crew and passengers, save a few who had jumped into the fury of the ocean before the final catastrophe.

Eight of the crew and three lucky passengers miraculously survived. Owen was one of them.

Despite Owen's miraculous survival of the sinking of the SS City of Vera Cruz, the tragedy was a tremendous blow to the Topolobampo project -- heirs to investors who died weren't interested in participating, concessions lapsed and needed to be renewed, contracts had to be renegotiated.

It would be five long years before Owen managed to re-assemble the pieces of the puzzle that were the foundation upon which Topolobampo, Sinaloa, was built.


Albert Kimsey Owen founds Topolobampo in 1887 and creates a port of inestimable value for Sinaloa
19th Century / 1800s Sinaloa History

In late 1885, Owen returned to Mexico with new investor backing and a a clear vision of the type of community he wanted to create.

Owen's ideas of urban planning and societal organization were primarily influenced by four things: his Quaker upbringing; his experiences living within a utopian colony in New Harmony, Indiana; his belief in Socialism and the utopian urban planning ideas that were circulating in intellectual circles in the latter 1800s.

His plans for Topolobampo called for a cooperative colony where the organization of labor and distribution of wealth followed the principles put forth in his essay "Integral Co-Operation". This utopian manifesto argued that labor was the source of all wealth, and that wealth, the end product of labor, should be fairly distributed to workers through a system of credits.

In addition to the rail connection to the United States, plans for the colony included an ambitious town called Pacific City that would be based on Owen’s utopian ideals, as well as several satellite agricultural colonies along the El Fuerte River to the north of Topolobampo Bay.

A private bank -- essentially a credit union named the Credit Foncier Company -- issued stock and scrip that could be spent locally in return for labor. It was also the vehicle used by Owen to acquire and hold land collectively for the colony.

Credit Foncier of Sinaloa issued 200,000 shares of stock at ten dollars each, with half the proceeds designated to pay for the railway, and half for the construction of Topolobampo.

Settlement began in October 1886 when a small group of colonists arrived and began building houses and irrigation systems. There were a number of tangible accomplishments in the first years of the Topolobampo colony, including the completion of a seven mile irrigation channel to siphon water from the El Fuerte River to their lands in anticipation of large-scale sugarcane cultivation.

In April 1889 a much larger group, three hundred colonists, set sail from New York. When they arrived in Sinaloa in July they found that Owen had returned to the United States seeking additional financial support for his efforts.

In 1890 Owen returned with a small number of additional colonists, who were joined by another 70 in 1891.

Despite the infusion of manpower and money, Owen's his plans weren't turning out as he had expected.

Virtually immediately the earliest colonists began to squabble and the squabbles turned into outright feuds, with various factions forming within the community.

New colonists arrived in Sinaloa and some -- notably Christian B. Hoffman, a businessman from Kansas City -- tried to infuse a renewed sense of purpose within the colony and mediate between factions, but their efforts failed, with the colonists becoming further divided between Owen supporters, who favored collective land ownership, and Hoffman supporters who advocated private land ownership.

The battle was fought publicly in the press in Mexico and the United States, through two newspapers: Owen’s New City and Hoffman’s Integral Co-Operator.

At one point Hoffman supporters tried to form their own co-operative which was to be called the Freeland Co-Operative Society and would be based in Libertad, Sinaloa. Though the co-operative never became a reality, the group managed to complete an irrigation canal that provided substantial benefit for agricultural production in northern Sinaloa.

The concession for the railroad lapsed in 1889 with little progress having made, but was renewed in 1890 for a seven year period ending in 1897.

Things began to fall apart in a big way in 1892, with over 200 discouraged Topolobampo colonists returning to the United States, fatigued by the difficulty and slow progress of the work and persistent tropical diseases within the community.

Albert K. Owen left the colony permanently in 1893, and never returned. He continued to publish positive stories about the colony at Topolobampo in his newspaper New City, but they were largely fiction: by the latter part of the 1890s the colony was, for all intents and purposes, moribund.

But despite the failure of the utopian experiment, Owen had put Topolobampo Bay on the international map.

While his proposed railroad was not fully realized until 1962 in the form of Arthur E. Stilwell’s Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railroad, there were important stirrings in the north Sinaloa economy -- including another, bigger, city-building experiment just up the road at Los Mochis.


Benjamin Francis Johnston founds Los Mochis in 1893 and city-building in northern Sinaloa expands
19th Century / 1800s Sinaloa History

Benjamin F. Johnston circa 1890sBenjamin F. Johnston was born in 1865. Eighteen years younger than Owen, he was raised in very modest circumstances, selling newspapers to help support his family when he was only a child.

Johnston was ambitious and, despite his family's means, managed to go to business school, graduating with a degree in accounting in 1887.

While in school he had befriended a businessman named Edward Lycan who was planning to build a sugar refinery in Mexico with a Mexican partner, Zacarías Ochoa.

When Lycan offered Johnston a job he declined, but the fundamental idea that a fortune could be made in sugarcane production in Mexico was planted firmly in his mind.

In 1890 Johnston traveled to the Port of Guaymas, Sonora State, to pursue his dream, having become aware of the potential for sugarcane cultivation in Sinaloa -- and of the difficulties that Owen's colony at Topolobampo was already experiencing.

Johnston is viewed in two very different ways by historians.

On the one hand, some believe that he held sincere Socialist beliefs and -- beyond profit -- genuinely wanted to create a Utopian Socialist community. Proponents of this view paint him as intelligent, honest and generous.

Others historians hold a very different view, depicting him as a manipulative schemer who used a false interest in Utopian Socialism, intricate financial manipulations and Machiavellian subterfuge to become the sole owner of the sugar mill and surrounding sugarcane fields that became the economic foundation of Los Mochis.

Whatever Johnston's motive -- and he left a very scarce paper trail for historians to study regarding his motives -- what the historical record is clear on is that Johnston created far more economic development in northern Sinaloa in just a few short years than Owen did in his entire lifetime.

In 1891 Johnston re-connected with his friend Edward Lycan -- who had moved forward with Zacarías Ochoa -- and partnered with them to establish a small sugar mill.

The venture benefited from the economic and social climate the Mexican Porfirio Diaz had created in the 1890s that encouraged foreign investment and international business partnerships.

When Ochoa died suddenly, Johnston used his financial and legal skills to secure sole ownership of the assets of the venture and re-named it Compañia Azucarera Aguila S.A., which later became United Sugar.

In less than a handful of years Johnston had also come to control a great deal of the land that Owen's Topolobampo colony had begun irrigating and cultivating, and worked tirelessly to use the Topolobampo colony's irrigation to establish large scale, sustainable, sugarcane fields to feed the sugar mill he was planning.

Profits began to roll in and in 1898 he laid the cornerstone of much larger sugar mill and expanded his vision for the city -- it is said that he personally drew the master plan for Los Mochis with its wide streets and boulevards and strict rectilinear design.

Johnston became very wealthy very quickly and was accumulating land at a rapid rate: by the time of his death in Hong Kong in 1937 he owned over 500,000 acres in northern Sinaloa, making him one of the largest landholders in the state's history at that time, and certainly the largest non-Mexican landholder.

Unlike most "Socialists", he wasn't shy about flaunting his new-found wealth.

The mansion (La Casa Grande) that he built for himself within the quickly growing Los Mochis was fit for a king and included a huge indoor swimming pool, sumptuous furnishings and an elevator, one of the first in Sinaloa.

The grounds and gardens surrounding La Casa Grande were, if anything, even more spectacular that the building itself.

Designed by Florence Yoch, an acclaimed landscape architect from California, they were a wonderland of exotic plants from around the world including species from Africa, Australia, India and Java that were artfully intermingled with majestic palm trees and other local Sinaloa flora.

Sadly, La Casa Grande was torn down, but the gardens survive to this day as the Jardin Botanico Benjamin Francis Johnston, Los Mochis' world renowned botanical garden.

To be continued soon...


Sinaloa in the 1900s 20th Century Sinaloa History

On the surface, the dawn of the 20th century in Sinaloa appeared to be a seamless extension life within the state in the late 1800s.

Porfirio Diaz had ruled Mexico for 16 consecutive years -- he was elected to his final series of presidential terms in 1884 -- and the Porfirian Era had brought Sinaloa both peace and prosperity.

Diaz was the opposite of a small-d democrat: he governed Mexico as if it were his personal fiefdom, which wasn't far from being the case.

A skilled manipulator, Diaz packed the federal legislature with his closest friends and most loyal political allies, suppressed media criticism and appointing judges to the courts that would rubber stamp any of his decisions that were challenged in court.

Despite -- or perhaps because of -- Diaz's strong hand guiding the state according to his personal vision and values, Mexico prospered under his rule.

UCLA Spanish professor and historian John A. Crow put is succinctly, writing that "It was the golden age...Mexico was compared economically to (the great) economic powers of the time such as France, Great Britain, and Germany."

By the early 1900s, Sinaloa was one of the wealthiest states in Mexico.

Nearly 300 years of mining and increasingly profitable agricultural surpluses and exports had enabled major cities in Sinaloa like Culiacán and Mazatlan to be able to afford construction of infrastructure and amenities similar to major urban centers anywhere in the world.

Early street trolly in Mazatlan MexicoBoth Culiacán and Mazatlan had achieved large-scale electrification, and both had developed modern forms of public transportation, like trolley cars.

In Mazatlan alone, Ferrocarril Urbano de Mazatlan had constructed one of Mexico's first -- and Sinaloa's very first -- horse-drawn street railway in 1876, and by 1905 Ferrocarril Urbano de Mazatlan boasted nearly 4 miles of urban railway track and was experimenting with mechanized propulsion that did not require animals to pull the trollys.

In 1879 Mazatlan built El Faro, its unique lighthouse. The lighthouse replaced various earlier navigational beacons that had been placed atop Cerro del Creston -- the hill on which it is located -- since the earliest Spanish explorers and adventurers began using the port in the early 1600s, two centuries before Sinaloa existed.

El Faro lighthouse in Mazatlan MexicoEl Faro's original oil lamp was fabricated in Paris and was focused with mirrors and a Fresnel lens. Though powerful, the light source did not move and it was sometimes mistaken for a star.

In another sign of the prosperity and technological progress being made in 1900s Sinaloa, El Faro's oil lamp was replaced in 1905 by a modern 1000 watt revolving hydrogen gas lamp. Standing at over 520 feet above the ocean at high tide, El Faro remains the highest lighthouse in the Americas, can be seen by ships 30 nautical miles off the Sinaloa coast, and is still serving as an useful navigational tool in the era of GPS!

Many Chinese immigrants in Sinaloa who had originally intended to return to China never did, and many of the Chinese that stayed in Sinaloa turned out to be very skilled merchants.

The Ley grocery stores that can be seen throughout Sinaloa and elsewhere in Mexico are a perfect example of the successes of the Chinese immigrants in Sinaloa: the nearly 150 Ley supermarkets in Mexico are the legacy of the business successes of Ley Fong who left Guangdong province in 1910 and stowed away on a boat bound for Mazatlan.

His family controls this enormous Sinaloa-based business to this day.

But despite the economic successes and technological marvels manifesting themselves in early 1900s Sinaloa, a dark cloud hung over the future -- and not just in Sinaloa, but throughout Mexico.


Mexico drifts toward revolution while Sinaloa continues to prosper in the early 1900s
20th Century / 1900s Sinaloa History

The prolonged and bloody civil war that was the Mexican revolution of 1910 -1917 stands as the watershed moment in the history of Mexico -- the true birth pains of the modern Mexican state.

Porfirian-era prosperity was wildly unevenly distributed.

The creole class, pure-blooded descendants of Spanish settlers born in Mexico, benefited the most from Diaz's rule -- he generally handled wealthy creoles with kid gloves and was conspicuously careful not to interfere with their business dealings and financial assets, particularly landholdings.

The Catholic church was also largely left to do business as it saw fit -- which is somewhat surprising for two reasons.

Freemason Square and Compass iconPorfirio Diaz was the head of the Freemason's in Mexico -- membership in a Freemason lodge can actually be grounds for excommunication from the Catholic church -- and his party, the Liberals, had historically set itself in opposition to the power of the Catholic clergy in Mexico.

Catholic cross iconBut whatever his personal feelings about the Catholic clergy in Mexico -- or even of Catholicism itself -- may have been, Porfirio Diaz knew he had a vested interest in sustaining a working relationship with the Church: he wanted to keep the peace and not give an expansionist United States an excuse to once again take military action in Mexico and seize territory as it did at the end of the Mexican - American War of 1846 - 1848.

Diaz publicly stated, "Persecution of the Church...means war, and such a war that the (Mexican) government can win it only (by going) against its own people, through the humiliating, despotic, costly and dangerous support of the United States. Without its religion, Mexico is irretrievably lost."

In addition to the creoles and the Catholic church, some politically connected and wealthier Mestizos saw a part of the Porfirian-era wealth.

The situation for many rural and lower-class Mexicans, indigenous Indians and members of other lower castes, was quite different. For them, the Porfirian Era was a mutli-generation disaster, with large-scale appropriations of land becoming widespread, commonplace, occurrences.

Mexico by 1910 had become a powder-keg of resentments and anger, and the ineptly rigged election of 1910 was the spark that blew the Porfirian Era apart and changed Mexico forever.


Inept vote fraud triggers the Mexican Revolution
in 1910
20th Century Sinaloa

Francisco I. MaderoPorfirio Diaz jailed his most formidable political opponent, Francisco Ignacio Madero González, during the run-up to the presidential election of 1910 -- which would have been his sixth term as President of Mexico.

When the votes were counted, had Diaz declared victory by a modest margin he might have retained power and Mexican history -- particularly that of the 20th century -- might have been entirely different.

When Diaz announced ludicrous vote totals that reported that he had received virtually all the votes there was near-universal consensus among Mexicans that massive vote fraud had taken place.

Madero -- having been freed from jail before Diaz understood the public reaction -- rallied his allies both within and outside government and called for revolt against Díaz, and the Mexican Revolution began.


The Mexican Revolution explodes in 1910 and
Sinaloa suffers along with the rest of Mexico

20th Century / 1900s Sinaloa History

The Mexican Revolution was not centrally directed, despite Madero being a central figure and symbol, and his Anti-Reelectionist Party certainly playing a leading role.

Francisco I. Madero and advisers, 1911Rather, many factions, political parties and local leaders formed private armies that worked to battle federal forces -- and other factions independently supporting Díaz -- in a dazzling and ever-shifting array of alliances, side-switches and betrayals.

In early 1911 Madero took command of a Constitutionalist force numbering 800 men that was operating in Chihuahua State, and engaged a Federal force garrisoned at Casas Grandes.

The Federalists were at a numerical disadvantage at the start of the fight -- they had little more that 500 men -- but were well entrenched.

After the battle began on March 6, 1911 the Federalists were reenforced by an additional 500 troops equipped with mortars, which Madero's forces lacked.

Francisco I. Madero wounded at Casas Grandes, 1911The results of the battle were not favorable for the Constitutionalists: they lost nearly 100 men killed and wounded, over 300 horses and mules, and over 100 precious firearms. Both Madero and his field commander, Colonel Samuel G. Cuellar, were injured and Cuellar subsequently died of his wounds.

Madero was undeterred: he released a statement saying that his scouts failure to detect the reinforcing federal column caused the defeat, and he summarily executed all of the scouts.

But the outcome of the battle of Casas Grandes and the relative strength of Madero's forces were just elements in a bigger history of Profiro Diaz's collapsing control over Mexico, and the weight of the rebellion that was spreading throughout the country forced Diaz to hold another election in early 1911.

Madero won by an overwhelming margin.

Under enormous pressure from a multitude of directions, Porfirio Díaz resigned the Mexican presidency on May 25th, 2011, and immediately fled to exile in Spain.

Madero and his Anti-Reelectionist Party -- which historians consider to be the precursor of the modern PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional) -- attempted to gain control of the Mexican federal government.

Unfortunately for Mexico, the transition of power was one of the roughest ever recorded in the history of democracies in the Western World.

Madero did assume the presidency -- or what was left of it -- but in the roughly 18 months he was in office he never really gained control of Mexico.

Victoriano Huerta in 1912On February 18, 1913 Victoriano Huerta, commander of the Mexican federal government's armed forces, staged a coup d'état, forcing Madero to resign.

The duplicitous Huerta further convinced Madero that he needed "protection" against his other enemies -- protection that Huerta offered and Madero accepted.

Madero had made a fatal mistake: he was shot and killed just four days later -- February 22, 1913 -- while being escorted by Huerta's men and, historians agree, virtually certainly on Huerta's orders.

After Madero's death Mexico slid into a free-for-all of faction against faction with shifting alliances that lasted for 4 more bloody years, with the next victim of the turmoil to be Victoriano Huerta, the coup plotter.


Álvaro Obregón, conqueror of Sinaloa and
future President of Mexico
20th Century / 1900s Sinaloa History

Sinaloa -- and its sister state Sonora -- played a major role in the Mexican Revolution, and was both the site of important military actions and the staging ground for rebel marches south toward Mexico City.

Alvaro ObregonThe history of the Mexican revolution in the northwest part of Mexico is not characterized by large-scale battles like the bloodletting that took place at The Battle of Zacatecas, where Francisco (Pancho) Villa's Constitutionalist Division del Norte (Division of the North) slaughtered and estimated 6000 - 7000 Federalist troops commanded by General Luis Medina Barron; or the Battle of Celaya, where Villa -- having switched sides -- lost around 4,000 men because he employed suicidal frontal attacks.

Álvaro Obregón -- who was destined to become Mexico's second president under the constitution that was enacted after the revolution ended in 1917 -- was the most important General in Sinaloa during the part of the Mexican Revolution when battles were being fought within the state, and a tremendously important military actor in the final phases of the revolution that set the stage for a true constitutional democracy in Mexico.

Obregón -- formally Álvaro Obregón Salido -- came from impoverished circumstances.

Born in Sonora, the Obregón family had once been wealthy, and had owned a sprawling estate in the early 1800s.

But support for Emperor Maximilian I during the French colonial adventure in Mexico (1861 - 1867) cost the family its fortune: the estate was confiscated when the French were driven from the country long before Obregón was born in 1880, and leaving him to be raised in poverty in Huatabampo, Sonora.

Ironically for a man destined to become the president of a great nation, Obregón was not political in his youth: he sold shoes door to door, was a lathe operator at sugar mill in Navolato, Sinaloa, and was a tenant farmer for a time.

As his economic circumstances gradually improved, Obregón managed to buy a small chickpea farm -- and even invented a machine to harvest chickpeas that he successfully sold to other chickpea farmers throughout the Mayo Valley.

Obregón did not fight with Madero's forces in the struggle against Porfirio Diaz, but had come to support Madero over the period of his brief rule, 1910 - 1912.

Pascual OrozcoWhen Pascual Orozco -- a general who had fought with Madero during the early months of the Mexican Revolution -- launched a rebellion against Madero's regime in the northeastern state of Chihuahua that borders Sonora, Obregón decided to act.

In April 1912 he joined the Fourth Irregular Battalion of Sonora, hastily-assembled Maderista forces under the command of a General Sanginés.

The former shoe salesman with no military training whatsoever proved to be a gifted military commander from day one.

Immediately after joining the Battalion and being given modest command rank -- some historians suspect it was probably, initially, just because of his age -- Obregón began displaying signs of his substantial military gifts.

He won battles not by brute force, but by cunning: troops he commanded rapidly became known for luring their enemies into traps, staging surprise assaults and ambushes and executing rapid and devastating flanking and encircling maneuvers.

Obregón also became known for his insubordination, and for commonly disobeying his superior's orders.

Despite his insubordination, Obregón was rapidly promoted to Colonel.


Obregón clears Sonora of Mexican federal troops in 1913 and sets his sights on Sinaloa
20th Century / 1900s Sinaloa History

Obregón intended to return to civilian life in 1913 -- chickpea planting season was coming -- but when the Madero regime was overthrown by the Huerta coup of February 1913 he changed his mind.

Venustiano Carranza 1st Jefe of the Constitutional ArmyThe State of Sonora refused to recognize the Huerta regime in Mexico City -- which meant that the state was lurching perilously toward open war with the Mexican federal government -- and historians believe that the coup crystallized Obregón's thinking and locked him into permanent opposition to Huerta and his allies.

The Sonoran government contacted the government of Coahuila State in northeast Mexico -- which had also refused to recognize the Huerta regime -- and a Sonoran delegation headed to Monclova, Coahuila, to meet with the Governor, Venustiano Carranza.

Carranza had developed a plan to unseat Huerta -- the Plan of Guadalupe -- part of which made Carranza the "1st Jefe" (Commander) of a newly-proclaimed Constitutional Army that would unite a number of fighting forces located primarily in Northern Mexico that opposed the Huerta regime.

Obregon with Carranza and Maytorena, Hermosillo, 1913In recognition of his successes in 1912, Carranza appointed Obregón Commanding General of Sonora's War Department in March 1913, giving him command of all of Sonora's troops and other military assets.

By early May, 1913, his ranks at his base-camp in Hermosillo, Sonora had swelled, with as many as 7,000 Sonorans having enlisted to fight Huerta's Federalist army.

Obregón immediately set out on a blitzkreig campaign that in just a handful of days managed to defeat federal troops under the command of Federalist General Ojeda that were stationed in Cananea, Naco and Nogales in the northern Sonora -- largely clearing the northern part of the state of any federal presence.

Obregon with Yaqui staffObregón showed notably good judgment in his choice of advisors for the northern Sonora campaign: many were Yaqui Indians who, in addition to being formidable fighters, knew the terrain extremely well.

Marching his army 250 miles south in record time, Obregón followed up his victories at Cananea, Naco and Nogales by routing federal troops in a three day battle that began on May 9th 1913 at Santa Rosa near the port of Guaymas -- a battle that resulted in the death or desertion of over half of Federalist General Ruelas' troops.

By late May the Federalist troops had somewhat regrouped at their garrison at Guaymas and, curiously, had been put under the command of the defeated General Ojeda, who had survived the battles at Cananea, Naco and Nogales.

The reconstituted Federalist army began marching north toward the Sonora capital, Hermosillo, and Obregón ordered his army to retreat slowly, maintaining contact-by-skirmish but avoiding battles and thereby luring Ojeda and his Federalist forces into terrain that favored Obregón's Constitutionalist army.

On June 25th he struck at Santa Maria, and the result was a disaster for the Federalist army, the remnants of which fled south to Guaymas and the protection that the naval guns of Federalist ships provided.

Obregón intelligently kept his troops out of the range of the naval cannons at Guaymas and, instead of mounting a frontal assault, laid siege to the port.

The siege of Guaymas -- the only important port along the Sonoran coast -- lasted a year, and effectively cut off remaining federal forces in Sonora from re-supply by sea.

Bypassing the port of Guaymas sped Obregón's march south, and he would employ the strategy of bypassing Federalist-held ports a number of times during his march south to Mexico City, notably at Mazatlan, Sinaloa.


Obregón marches his army to the Sonora - Sinaloa border and prepares to drive south toward Culiacán
20th Century / 1900s Sinaloa History

Venustiano CarranzaVenustiano Carranza -- Huerta's primary rival for the presidency of Mexico, and leader of the "Constitutionalists" in Mexico -- was highly impressed by Obregón's military victories in Sonora.

In September 1913 Carranza appointed Obregón commander-in-chief of the Constitutional Army of Northwest Mexico, giving Obregón military jurisdiction within the states of Sonora, Sinaloa, Durango, Chihuahua, and Baja California.

Carranza's overall strategy for the capture of Mexico City -- the seat of national government -- had three axis' of assault, and divided command of the Constitutionalist armies among three Generals who would report to his Secretary of War, Felipe Ángeles -- who had served Porfirio Diaz.

Mexican General Alvaro Obregon Álvaro Obregón was tasked with driving the Constitutional Army of Northwest Mexico down the Pacific coast following the railroad line that remains the primary corridor for heavy freight transport in Western Mexico to this day.

His route-of-march was designed to take him south through Sinaloa, Nayarit, Jalisco, Guanajuato and Hidalgo states, driving on Mexico City after he had linked up with Pancho Villa's army at the city of Queretero.

Mexican General Francisco Francisco "Pancho" Villa was to drive his army, commonly referred to as the División del Norte (Northern Division), south through the center of the country following the central rail line that connects south-central Mexico with Chihuahua State.

His route-of-march would take his army south from Chihuahua through San Luis Potosi and Guanajuato states, where he would link up with Obregón at Queretero and drive southeast for the final push on Mexico City.

Mexican General Emiliano Zapata Emiliano Zapata -- formally Emiliano Zapata Salazar -- and his Liberation Army of the South were to build upon the rebellion that they had fomented across a large swath of Mexico that extended from the Southern edges of Mexico City to the Pacific Ocean.

Zapata's insurgency was designed to sap Federalist resources and prevent them from further strengthening fortified positions they were creating in anticipation of the Constitutionalist armies drive south.

Venustiano CarranzaObregón and other Sonoran military leaders were uneasy as they prepared for the Sinaloa campaign. They had a history of distrust of Carranza's Secretary of War, Felipe Ángeles, a holdover from the Diaz regime whose motives they viewed with suspicion.

The Constitutional Army of Northwestern Mexico commanded by Obregón was the largest and most effective fighting force within Carranza's coalition, and Carranza decided to at least appease Obregón and his comrades and demoted Ángeles to Sub-Secretary of War.

Angeles was on his way down -- and out of this life. After one of the countless re-alignments of loyalty that characterize the Mexican Revolution and its aftermath, Carranza caused Ángeles to be executed by firing squad on November 26, 1919.

In late October, 1913, Obregón marched his army south towards Sinaloa from their bases in Hermosillo, the capital of Sonora which is located in the south-central part of the state.


Obregón drives the Constitutional Army of the Northwest into Sinaloa State in November 1913 and closes on Culiacán 1900s Sinaloa History

Map of Obregon army march through SinaloaObregon's mandate -- defined by Carranza and amplified by his own ambition -- was to drive through Sinaloa in the shortest possible time.

Under Obregon's leadership, the Constitutional Army of the Northwest marched through the state in slightly less than six months.

The Sinaloa Campaign lasted from late October 1913 until April 1914 -- and exited the southern end of the state on April 25, 1914 to engage Federalist forces at Acaponeta, just five miles across the border in Nayarit State.

This represents an average rate of march of over three miles per day, a remarkable achievement for any army in history operating with virtually no mechanized transport.

The most important cities and towns in Sonora and Sinaloa that the Constitutional Army of Northwest Mexico would encounter along its march south from Hermosillo are, ordered from north to south, the Port of Guaymas (Sonora); Bacum (Sonora); Navajoa (Sinaloa); Bocabachi (Sinaloa); Charoy (Sinaloa); Guasave (Sinaloa); the Port of Mazatlan (Sinaloa); El Rosario (Sinaloa); Escuinapa de Hidalgo (Sinaloa) and, as the army exited the state to the south, Acaponeta (Nayarit State).

Obregón chose to march his army around the Port of Guaymas in southern Sonora 75 miles south of Hermosillo. Instead of battling the Federalists at Guaymas, he left troops behind to mount a siege that would bottle up troops garrisoned in the city, and prevent resupply of the three Federalist gunboats -- the General Guerrero, the Morelos and the Tampico -- that were operating out of the harbor.

Map of Constitutionalist - Federalist battles in north Sinaloa Mexican RevolutionObregón had bypassed Guaymas, but he wanted the next harbor south very much: Topolobampo in far northern Sinaloa, just south of the Sonora - Sinaloa border.

The populace of Topolobampo was heavily influenced by its history of progressive Utopian Socialist thinking.

That mind set was integral to the founding of the city, and caused large numbers of mexicans in Topolobampo to support the Constitutionalist cause.

Beyond wanting to liberate a sympathetic population, Obregón had very compelling military reasons to seize the port.

Topolobampo is a magnificent harbor and, while the Constitutionalist Navy was mostly just aspirational in late 1913, it could be immediately put to use as a conduit for supplies for his army delivered by merchant vessels brave enough to attempt to run the general military blockade of the Sinaloa coast that the Federalist gunboats operating from the ports of Guaymas, in southern Sonora State, and Mazatlan in south-central Sinaloa, were trying to impose.

Obregón did have to fight a minor battle at Los Mochis -- which lay astride his route-of-march southwest to the port from the Sinaloa village of San Blas -- and at Topolobampo itself, but the combination of a sympathetic populace and weak Federalist defenses allowed Obregón to gain control of the port largely bloodlessly.

Simultaneous with the drive southwest to Topolobampo Harbor, Obregón sent troops northeast into the Sierra Madre foothills. Their objective was to capture the capital of the northernmost municipality in Sinaloa, El Fuerte. After a brief but sharp battle, they succeeded in doing just that.

With Topolobampo and El Fuerte secured, Obregón had gained control of the northernmost portion of Sinaloa and resumed his march south towards the capital of Sinaloa State, Culiacán.


The Battle of Culiacán, November 5 to
November 14, 1913
20th Century / 1900s Sinaloa History

Despite the mounting disarray of the Federalist forces in northern Sinaloa, the Constitutionalists' march south was no cake walk.

The Federalists were busy fortifying Culiacan, and elements of their troops that were rapidly being cut off within Sinaloa towns in the Sierra Madre foothills that lay to the northeast of Obregón's line of march were sending out skirmishing parties to harass the Constitutionalst army and slow its advance.

The Federalists at Culiacan also did not appear to be disposed to surrender.

Two towns in the Sierra Madre foothills, Cabrera de Uzunza and the town of Sinaloa, were particularly problematic, and Obregón was forced to deploy troops to both which had to fight small but sharp engagements to take the towns and secure Obregón's northeastern flank.

To be continued soon...

By capturing Culiacan, Obregón achieved three important military objectives: he had secured his northwest flank; he had established the supremacy of the Constitutional Army throughout northwestern Mexico; and he had established the perfect headquarters, base camp and staging point for drives further south within Sinaloa State.


Obregón finds allies among the Constitutionalists in Sinaloa State and begins his march south towards Mazatlan 20th Century / 1900s Sinaloa History

When Obregón entered Sinaloa he linked up with many Constitutionalists who became allies that would both help him drive the Federalist forces from the state and swell the ranks of his army as he drove south toward Mexico City.

But history clearly records that his most important Sinaloan ally was a younger man who had fought against the Federalist forces since the earliest days of the rebellion following the Huerta coup.

Ramón Fuentes Iturbe circa 1913Ramón Fuentes Iturbe, a 24 year old born in Mazatlan, Sinaloa, in 1889, had substantial military experience prior to meeting Obregón: he had been fighting within Sinaloa from the earliest days of resistance to Porfirio Diaz's rigging of the 1910 election.

Iturbe had been active in the anti-reelection movement when he was just a teenager, and joined Madero's militia in Sinaloa at its formation. Arrested for his activities by Federalist forces in Culiacán in November 1910, Iturbe managed to escape and flee into the Sierra Madre mountains in northeastern Sinaloa.

From his mountain hideout he raised a militia of over 100 men who he marched through the Sierra Madre to Durango to join forces with others fighting the Federalists.

As a result of his remarkable leadership qualities and military acumen, Iturbe was promoted to Brigadier General in May 1911, and further promoted just three months later to commander of the Fuerzas Rurales de Sinaloa -- the Rural Forces of Sinaloa -- who were deployed to fight against the rebellion of Pascual Orozco in Chihuahua State.

After the Orozco rebellion in Chihuahua was suppressed, Iturbe briefly journeyed to the United States intending to study engineering, but the Huerta coup drew him back to Mexico and led him to join Obregón's army at Nogales, Sonora.

Unlike virtually all of the primary actors in the history of the Mexican Revolution, Iturbe lived not only an extraordinarily eventful life, but a long one.

Ramón Fuentes Iturbe after the RevolutionAmong Iturbe's many accomplishments: being appointed the Mexican Ambassador to Japan by Carranza in 1915; being elected the first post-revolution Governor of Sinaloa in 1917; fleeing to the United States after the failed Escobarista Rebellion of 1929, which he had supported; returning to Sinaloa after he received a pardon by the Mexican Federal Government in 1933; becoming a Federal Congressman representing Mazatlan in 1937; being re-appointed Ambassador to Japan in 1941; being imprisoned by the Japanese after Pearl Harbor in retaliation for the lack of Mexican support for the Axis Powers; serving as the second commander of the Legion of Honor of Veterans of the Revolution in the 1950s -- and living to 81 before passing away in Mexico City on October 27, 1970.

Without a doubt -- and historians universally agree -- Iturbide was one of the most colorful and important actors in 20th century Sinaloa history.


General Álvaro Obregón drives rapidly south through Sinaloa in 1914 and isolates the Port of Mazatlán
20th Century / 1900s Sinaloa History

Álvaro Obregón wasted little time continuing to push south through Sinaloa and, for the most part, the advance on land was rapid, and relatively cost-free, with Obregón's army taking few casualties.

But looming in the path of his army's advance was a significant potential problem: the Port of Mazatlan and its historically robust fortifications.

Because of both Mazatlan's importance as a gateway for Federalist supplies for its forces fighting in northwest Mexico and the history of the port, Mazatlan was much better defended than the state capital, Culiacán.

The Federalist troops stationed in Mazatlan were better trained and better equipped than those that Obregón had defeated at Culiacán or the Port of Topolobampo in northern Sinaloa.

Centuries of military presence in the Port of Mazatlan -- and the centuries-long history of military engagements there -- had left a legacy of robust military fortifications, as well as a substantial body of military knowledge about how to effectively defend land approaches to the city.

One thing was, while difficult to accept, clear to Álvaro Obregón: a frontal assault on Mazatlan was not a rational option.


Obregón gets a gunboat at Topolobampo and
Sinaloa witnesses four rare naval battles of
the Mexican Revolution

20th Century / 1900s Sinaloa History

There were few naval battles during the Mexican Revolution for the simple reason that the Federalist forces had most of the ships: Huerta had inherited the small Mexican Navy that had been built up during the Porfirian Era, and naval officers and seamen had mostly remained loyal to the central government in Mexico City.

But, fortuitous for Obregón as he began to campaign south in Sinaloa, there were exceptions.

Mexican Navy gunboat TampicoAt 8pm February 27th, 1914, a mutiny took place on the Mexican Navy gunboat Tampico which being overhauled and refitted in the besieged Federalist-controlled Port of Guaymas.

With half the officers and crew on shore leave, Executive Officer Lieutenant Hilario Rodríguez Malpica and other officers who had decided to switch sides and join the Constitutionalist forces changed history by rallying the crew remaining aboard the ship and arresting their captain, Manuel Azueta.

Malpica wasted no time and immediately drove the gunboat at flank speed westward out of the harbor at Guaymas. As he exited the port he was confronted by the Federalist gunboat General Guerrero, under the command of Captain Navio Torres.

Lieutenant Malpica attempted, but failed, to ram the General Guerrero and steamed south at flank speed down the Sea of Cortez.

Despite the Tampico experiencing a steering gear malfunction -- the re-fitting had not been completed at the time of the mutiny -- XO Lieutenant Malpica was able to safely guide the Tampico into the Constitutionalist-controlled port of Topolobampo in northern Sinaloa.

Malpica and the other mutineers were remarkably generous towards their former Captain.

Far from making Azueta "walk the plank", they put Manuel Azueta on the commercial steamship SS Herrerias, a merchant vessel bound for Mazatlan, Sinaloa -- the only remaining significant Sinaloa port open to Federalist sea traffic, and the largest city in Sinaloa still under Federalist control.

The mutiny and capture of the gunship Tampico was a significant coup for Obregón and the Constitutionalist Navy.

Built in the United States and launched just twelve years before the mutiny of February 27th, 1914, at Guaymas, the Tampico was a fast and modern 980 ton steel-hulled gunboat with 102mm cannon and a bow ram that was capable of carrying 98 sailors and 200 troops.

That said, the Tampico had a history of mechanical problems and was in relatively poor condition, which is why she had been withdrawn from combat by the Federalist Navy and was being refitted in the first place.

Map of the area of the Battles of TopolobampoWhen the Tampico docked at Topolobampo Alvaro Obregón officially placed the mutineer Executive Officer Lieutenant Hilario Rodríguez Malpica in command of the ship, but did not promote him to Captain.

Historians speculate that -- despite the obvious benefit to the Constitutionalist cause the mutiny on the Tampico conferred -- General Obregón was fundamentally uncomfortable with mutineers.

For a few days it appeared that the Constitutionalist Navy had gotten stronger overnight, and that the waters off the Northern Sinaloa coast would be far more dangerous for Federalist warships.

That dream would begin to die in less than a week.

Fearsome as the Tampico was on paper, the results she would be able to achieve as a Constitutionalist Navy vessel were of limited benefit to the Constitutionalist cause despite the enormous courage of her crew and Captain: she was destined to be sunk -- twice -- off the Sinaloa coast within months.


Naval engagements at Topolobampo, Sinaloa,
March 4 - June 16, 1914


There were four naval engagements during the Mexican revolution off the coast of Sinaloa at Topolobampo that are collectively referred to as the Battles of Topolobampo.

Federalist Captain Navio Torres, whose gunboat the General Guerrero the Tampico had tried to ram during her hasty exit from the port of Guaymas, was a very angry and determined man.

He immediately sailed south from the Port of Guaymas with not only the gunboat General Guerrero, but also another Federalist gunship, the Morelos, to the northern Sinaloa port of Topolobampo -- where he suspected the Tampico would be because Obregón's Constitutionalist Army held the port.

Arriving at Topolobampo on March 2 -- less than 72 hours after the mutiny -- the General Guerrero anchored outside the harbor and waited for the Tampico, which was out on patrol.

The gunboat Morelos arrived the following day, March 3, 1914.


The First Battle of Topolobampo, Sinaloa, took place on March 4, 1914, just five days after the mutiny at Guaymas.

The hastily repaired and re-manned Tampico -- half the crew and officers were left behind in Guaymas, and replacements had to be found overnight from among the Sinaloan sailors in the port -- was engaged as she returned to Topolobampo Bay by the General Guerrero and the Morelos, both under the command of Federalist Captain Navio Torres.

The General Guerrero opened fire first from a range of about 9,000 yards (nearly 4 miles) with the Morelos joining in from slightly closer range, and a naval gunnery duel ensued.

While the long-range naval artillery duel between the three ships produced no hits by either side and no casualties, it was clear to observers that the General Guerrero's guns were in much better condition and had greater range than the Tampico's.

The Tampico fled to the protection of the port, with the General Guerrero blockading the entrance to the harbor and the Morelos steaming north to Guaymas to load coal and additional supplies.

Historians generally view the First Battle of Topolobampo as a victory for the Federalist navy because the Tampico was now bottled up in the harbor.


The Second Battle of Topolobampo, Sinaloa, took place on March 13, 1914.

At 8:50 am the Tampico attempted to run the blockade the the General Guerrero and the Morelos -- which had returned from Guaymas -- had set up at the mouth of the port. The General Guerrero fired the first salvo at the Tampico, with the Morelos soon joining in.

USS New OrleansThe USS New Orleans was observing the battle -- officially neutral, United States warships had been cautiously shadowing naval battles in the Sea of Cortez and elsewhere along Mexico's coasts since the start of the Mexican revolution -- and briefly found itself between the two combatants and in the direct line of fire of the Tampico's guns when it was engaging the Morelos.

Lieutenant Hilario Rodríguez Malpica chose to turn the Tampico's cannon on the General Guerrero so as not to risk hitting the American cruiser New Orleans.

This naval artillery duel -- like the First Battle of Topolobampo -- was conducted at long range, with most shots fired by both sides from distances of 9,000 to 10,000 yards -- as much as 5 miles.

The General Guerrero fired thirteen shells, the Morelos nine, with the Tampico firing just six rounds.

As in the First Battle of Topolobampo, none of the shells fired in this long-range naval artillery duel struck their marks, but United States naval officer-observers aboard the USS New Orleans noted in their logs that the Tampico and its make-shift crew were more accurate, and the observers also noted that the Morelos and the General Guerrero broke off the engagement after particularly close misses.

While having more accurate gunnery might be considered a positive omen -- and historians generally view The Second Battle of Topolobampo to be a tactical victory for the Tampico and the fledgling Constitutionalist Navy -- at the end of the shooting, which lasted just 22 minutes, the Tampico was forced to withdraw to the relative safety of the harbor mouth and remained blockaded at Topolobampo.


The Third Battle of Topolobampo, Sinaloa, took place on March 31, 1914.

After the Second Battle of Topolobampo General Álvaro Obregón promoted Lieutenant Hilario Malpica to the rank of Captain.

On March 30, 1914 the Morelos sailed south from the blockade of Topolobampo to Altata, a small coastal town 45 miles west of Culiacán, Sinaloa, seeking provisions.

With just the General Guerrero blocking the entrance to Topolobampo Bay, newly-minted Captain Malpica saw what he thought was an opportunity to shoot it out with the General Guerrero one-on-one.

At 4:32 pm on March 31, 1914, the Tampico steamed out of Topolobampo harbor at full speed and immediately opened fire on the General Guerrero.

The Tampico's opening salvo missed the General Guerrero -- but not by much.

The General Guerrero returned fire with its six 4-inch guns. The ships continued to fire at each other from a range of about 9,000 yards (nearly 4 miles), with the General Guerrero's broadsides scoring the first hits of the Topolobampo battles.

Two shells from the General Guerrero's guns hit the Tampico's officers quarters, causing substantial damage, but no injuries.

The General Guerrero's gunners had found the range, and what followed was a withering firestorm of both armor-piercing and shrapnel rounds.

In the course of just a few minutes the Tampico was hit by several more shells in the area of the bow, with one striking beneath the waterline, and a further volley of five shells also impacted at the waterline, one amidship.

Miraculously, neither Captain Malpica or any of the sixty officers and crew aboard the Tampico sustained injuries.

All of the hits occurred when Tampico was making its first dash towards the General Guerrero.

Despite the damage, the Tampico continued to fire at the General Guerrero until 6:00 pm, when Captain Malpica ordered the Tampico to full speed with the apparent intent of making a ramming attempt.

This first ramming attempt of the Third Battle of Topolobampo by the Tampico failed, with the ship grounding on a sandbar.

By 6:15 pm the Tampico had freed herself from the sandbar and at 6:30 pm once again charged at the General Guerrero under "wild fire" according to observers aboard the USS New Orleans.

With darkness approaching, Captain Navio Torres ordered the General Guerrero to retreat, but continued firing at the Tampico.

The General Guerrero was not unscathed by the engagement, but the damage was minor.

She had been struck three times: one 4 inch armor-piercing round had impacted the starboard side of the ship but failed to detonate; another round landed on deck amid ship and also failed to detonate; the third struck just outside the bridge and exploded.

Because the last shell struck above the deck, three of the General Guerrero's crew were hit by shrapnel. None were killed, but all three were badly wounded.

Seeing the General Guerrero retreating, Captain Malpica decided to follow suit and broke off the engagement, ordering the Tampico to steam back into the shelter of Topolobampo's harbor.

Despite no one being killed, the Third Battle of Topolobampo had been a frenzied two hour gunnery duel, with massive amounts of ammunition expended: the General Guerrero had fired 142 four-inch armor-piercing shells and 20 shrapnel rounds and the Tampico had fired over 160 four-inch and 6-pounder rounds.

As darkness fell it was manifestly clear that the General Guerrero had defeated the Tampico at the Third Battle of Topolobampo, but neither Federalist Captain Navio Torres nor his crew knew by how much.

The Tampico, which had limped out of view into Topolobampo Bay, was completely disabled and had run aground as the result of her battle damage.

The Morelos returned to Topolobampo from Altata two days later, on April 2nd.

Even though 48 hours had elapsed since the end of the battle, the magnitude of the damage to the Tampico was still unclear to Federalist Captain Torres, and he ordered the Morelos -- which had more remaining ammo having not participated in the firefight of March 31st -- to fire on her.

From a range of 8,000 yards the Morelos fired eleven 4-inch armor-piercing shells at the stationary target.

The officers and crew of the Tampico had not abandoned the ship, and returned fire with eight shells of their own launched from the half-submerged gunboat.

No hits were scored by either the Constitutionalist or Federalist gunners, but Captain Torres concluded, correctly, that the Tampico was severely disabled, and no longer presented any immediate threat to the Federal government's naval operations in the Sea of Cortez.

Captain Torres felt free to resupply, and both Federalist ships left Topolobampo briefly to do so.

When they returned to reestablish their blockade of Topolobampo just days later they would experience something virtually unheard of in the history of naval warfare in 1914: bombardment from the air.


Topolobampo Air Raid of April 9, 1914, the Constitutionalist biplane Sonora piloted by Gustavo Salinas Camiña bombs the gunships General Guerrero and Morelos

As soon as planes were invented -- the Wright Brother's first flight took place in 1903 -- military minds set to work making aircraft weapons of war.

Most historians agree that the first instance of aerial bombardment was on November 1, 1911 when Italian Army pilot Giulo Gavoti tossed hand grenades out of his Blériot XI over a Turkish camp in Libya. Nobody got hurt.

In 1912 Giulo Gavoti's ineffectual stunt was mimicked by a Belgian pilot dropping real -- though, crudely made -- bombs during the Balkan Wars, with the Turks once again on the receiving end. Once again, there were no casualties or injuries.

Military air power was not a foreign concept in Mexico in 1914.

Sociedad Impulsora de la Aviación, (Society for the Promotion of Aviation) was established in Mexico City in 1909 and on January 8, 1910 a Mexican pilot trained in France -- Alberto Braniff -- succeeded in making the first airplane flight in Mexico by flying ovr 1500 linear feet in a 60-horsepower Voisin biplane.

Braniff's flight took place at Balbuena field in Mexico City, which was an astounding aviation achievement for the time: Mexico City lies at an elevation of over 7,300 feet, an altitude that challenges the take-off capabilities of many modern small aircraft to this day.

When Francisco Madero became President of Mexico in 1911 he instantly became an enthusiastic supporter of aviation, likely as a result of personal experience.

Madero had attended an air show in Mexico City staged by the Moisant International Aviators in March 1911, and was highly impressed.

Using the power of the Mexican Presidency, Madero arranged to get a newly-minted Mexican aviator to give him a ride in a Deperdussin monoplane -- a remarkably advanced mid-wing aircraft manufactured in France -- on November 30, 1911.

President Madero -- the first Chief of State of any country to have flown in an aircraft -- definitely enjoyed the ride, and Mexico was on its way to building an Air Force.

Before the invention of aircraft, militarily advanced armies in Europe had used balloons to get sufficient altitude to observe enemy troop displacements and movements.

But balloons had enormous limitations as military observation platforms: they were static, only provided a view of a limited amount of a single battlefield, and -- because they were awkward to move -- were of very little value if the battlefield was even modestly dynamic.

Aircraft, on the other hand, offered the potential for conducting military surveillance over wide areas and deep behind enemy lines, as well as the possible, imagined, capability for effectively shooting enemy soldiers from the air and dropping lethal bombs on them.

Mexican President Madero understood all of this perfectly, and he immediately funded flight training at the Moisant International Aviators School -- the same organization that had staged the air show in Mexico City that had so impressed him -- for five young Mexicans.

Famous Five Mexican pilotsDubbed the Famous Five -- left to right in the photo to the right -- Alberto Salinas Carranza, Gustavo Salinas Camiña, Juan Pablo Aldasoro Suárez, Horacio Ruiz Gaviño and Eduardo Aldasoro Suárez were the first pilots in the history of the fledgling Mexican Air Force.

Following Huerta's coup d'état of 1913, Constitutionalist General Venustiano Carranza was able to seize control of the Air Force's planes -- and, arguably more importantly, convince its pilots to fly for him -- and use the aircraft to support the efforts of Constitutionalist forces fighting Huerta's Federalist troops.

Carranza deployed two of the aircraft and two of the pilots to General Álvaro Obregón, who christened one of them, a Glenn Martin pusher biplane, the Sonora, in honor of his home state and the site of his first military triumphs.

The Third Battle of Topolobampo had concluded extremely unsatisfactorily for Obregón, who was getting very used to victories over Federalist forces.

Gustavo Salinas Camina with the biplane SonoraHe decided to see if his new surveillance tool could be used as a weapon.

The biplane Sonora was Gustavo Salinas Camiña's aircraft, and Obregón ordered him to fly to Topolobampo and attempt to bomb the General Guerrero and the Morelos, which had returned to the waters off Topolobampo and were once again blockading the port.

Military ships had been bombed less than a handful of times in the history of warfare.

A landing strip was hastily cleared north of Topolobampo, and five bombs were fabricated that contained a total of 52 sticks of dynamite, with each bomb rigged to explode on impact.

When Salinas Camiña flew into Topolobampo to pick up his bomb load there was general wonderment among the population: air shows in Mexico in the early 1900s had only been staged in big cities in the south like Mexico City and Veracruz, and virtually no one in Topolobampo had ever seen an airplane.

On April 9, 1914, Captain Salinas Camiña, along with his mechanic-turned-bombardier Teodoro Madariaga, flew the biplane Sonora out of the makeshift landing strip north of Topolobampo and headed southwest towards the mouth of Topolobampo Bay.

The mission carried substantial risks for Salinas Camiña and Madariaga.

While the Federalist gunboats General Guerrero and Morelos were not equipped with anti-aircraft machine guns -- as all warship built after the First World War would be -- the officers and crew of the ships did have rifles and pistols which, beyond being potentially lethal if their bullets hit Salinas Camiña directly, could also easily damage the fragile Glenn Martin biplane and cause it to explode or crash.

It is not known exactly what instructions, if any, Salinas Camiña was given about how much risk he should take with the Sonora on the mission, but one thing is clear: the aircraft was a very valuable military asset, the loss of which would reduce General Álvaro Obregón's immediately available aerial surveillance capabilities by 50 percent.

Salinas Camiña chose to fly fairly high and, sighting the General Guerrero and the Morelos anchored close together, began his bombing run.

The biplane Sonora had been spotted at a distance, and the officers and crew of both ships began firing on the aircraft with all of the small arms at their disposal.

Salinas Camiña courageously continued his bomb run and, despite bullets whizzing very close to the Sonora, he and Madariaga calmly dropped all five of the bombs.

All of the bombs that Salinas Camiña and Madariaga dropped from the biplane Sonora exploded, but none hit their intended targets. The closest near-misses were two bombs that narrowly missed the General Guerrero.

The air raid at Topolobampo on the gunships General Guerrero and Morelos carried out by Gustavo Salinas Camiña on April 9, 2014 took place little more than a year after the very first instance of airplanes being used to bomb ships, and is clearly one of the first aircraft vs. navy actions in history.

Documentary video about the aerial bombardment of ships off Topolobampo during the Mexican Revolution





Aerial bombing in Mazatlán, Sinaloa, during the Mexican Revolution turns lethal on May 6, 1914
20th Century / 1900s Sinaloa History

Far from being discouraged by the failure of the Constitutionalist biplane Sonora to do damage to the General Guerrero at Topolobampo, Captain Gustavo Salinas Camiña and his superiors believed that they had seen a new military weapon being born -- and had ideas how to improve it.

The bombs that Salinas Camiña had dropped on the General Guerrero were little more than pipe-bombs and lacked fins that would allow them to be dropped more precisely.

Obregon had another target in mind, the Federalist troops that occupied Mazatlan, and had found help designing better bombs and bombing techniques in the form of foreign aviators and mechanics sympathetic to the Constitutionalist cause.

Thomas Dean, an American mechanic, fabricated a rack that allowed bombs to be hung under the airplane -- one of the first such devices in history. Designed to be released by a foot pedal and equipped with fins that enabled more predictable and target-able drops, these new bombs and release mechanism promised more accurate drops.

On May 6, 1914, Gustavo Salinas Camiña took off with Teodoro Madariaga, carrying several bombs hanging under their airplane.

Their mission was to drop them on Federalist troops, but a navigational error caused the airplane to deviate from its planned path. One of the bombs fell on a housing and commercial area between Calle Ocampo and Calle Carnaval causing severe damage to the French consulate and destroying a number of houses.

The raid killed 4 and wounded 15, all civilians.

The death and injury of civilians by aerial bombardment was unprecedented in Mexican history -- it had only happened once before in Tripoli, Libya -- and consuls from several countries asked General Obregon to cease aerial bombardment of Mazatlan on humanitarian grounds and to create a safe zone for civilians.

Obregon agreed, at least with regard to purely civilian locations. Fortified positions were, however, a different matter.

Just a week after the civilian deaths in Mazatlan, Salinas and Dean attempted to drop bombs on a number of fortified positions within the city and near the port.

A bomb aimed at the fortification in Loma Atravesada fell harmlessly within the railroad yards, but another fell on a group of Federal soldiers who had gathered to watch the airplane, causing several casualties, and another bomb destroyed an 80mm cannon, killing its eight man crew.

By Summer, 1914, the Constitutionalist Air Force was receiving new aircraft and pilots, and Constitutionalist planes continued to attack Federalist gunboats operating out of other ports.

The aerial bombings in Mazatlan and elsewhere in Sinaloa later in 1914 clearly demonstrated that the days of ineffectual aerial bombardment were rapidly coming to a close, not just in Mexico, but worldwide.

Aerial bombardment became deadly in Europe on August 6, 1914 -- 31 years to the day before the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, in WWII -- when German General Erich Ludendorff ordered the first lethal air raid in history, using zeppelins to bomb the besieged city of Liege, Belgium, in the opening days of WWI in Europe.

Nine Belgian civilians were killed in the air raid on Liege, foreshadowing the nightmare of the widespread belief in the strategy of using the suffering caused by indiscriminate bombing of civilian populations to force the surrender of nation-states, a military concept that became ascendant in WWII and continues to this day.


The Fourth Battle of Topolobampo, Sinaloa, took place on June 16, 1914, and resulted in the destruction of the Mexican gunboat Tampico.

In mid April, 1914, the officers and crew of the Constitutionalist gunboat Tampico began the difficult task of salvaging their ship.

Lying partially submerged behind Shell Point at the mouth of Topolobampo Bay, the Tampico had, at first, appeared to be beyond repair. But herculean efforts by her crew got her re-floated, and makeshift repairs made one of her two boilers at least marginally operational.

Captain Hilario Malpica's plan was to steam south along the Sinaloa coast to Altata, where Malpica hoped he could find mechanics who could re-tube the Tampico's boilers, make additional repairs to the ship, re-fuel and obtain provisions for his men.

By June 14, 1914, Captain Malpica and his crew were ready: the Tampico was as repaired as it could be in Topolobampo and -- most importantly -- both the General Guerrero and the Morelos had momentarily returned north to their home port, the Federalist-controlled port of Guaymas, Sonora.

The United States -- which was officially neutral during the Mexican Revolution, despite the fact that a number of American captains and their crews appear to have favored the Constutionalists -- had taken a great interest in the naval battles underway at Topolobampo and south in Sinaloa at the Port of Mazatlan.

In addition to the cruiser USS New Orleans -- which had been on station at Topolobampo from the earliest days of the series of engagements -- the Sea of Cortez was now host to the Bainbridge-class destroyers USS Preble and USS Perry, the gunboat USS Yorktown and the Flagship of the fleet, the armored cruiser USS California.

USS California Admiral Howard flagshipRear Admiral Thomas B. Howard on the USS California was in overall command of the fleet, and on June 14, 1914, Admiral Howard received a report that the Tampico had steamed slowly out of Topolobampo Bay heading south.

Howard immediately radioed USS Preble -- which was operating in the waters off Mazatlan -- and ordered it to steam north, find the Tampico, and shadow her.

The Preble steamed north from Mazatln at approximately 3:30 pm, June 14, 1914.

Admiral Howard further ordered the destroyer USS Perry, which was stationed off La Paz on the Baja Peninsula side of the Sea of Cortez, to head for Topolobampo and report to the USS Preble, which he had designated as the lead United States warship in the operation.

USS Preble at anchor off Guaymas, 1913The USS Preble's young Captain -- Lieutenant Junior Grade Vance Duncan Chapline Jr. who would later graduate West Point and earn the Navy Cross for distinguished service as commanding officer of the USS Harvard during WWI -- had no concrete information about the course the Tampico was steering, what her destination was, or what speed she was capable of given the damage she had sustained in the Third Battle of Topolobampo.

Lieutenant Chapline decided that his best bet was to steam the USS Preble slowly north up the Sinaloa coast towards Topolobampo and hope to sight the Tampico somewhere along the way.

Chapline's instincts paid off the following morning: at roughly 7:30 am, June 15, 2014, the Tampico was sighted slightly to the west of the USS Preble's position -- drifting.


The gunboat Tampico drifts towards her destruction
1900s Sinaloa History

The Tampico hadn't gotten far from Topolobampo Harbor.

After cruising slowly south just thirty miles, her single boiler failed, leaving the Constitutionalist gunboat adrift between Topolobampo and Altata, her destination. The crew attempted aboard repairs to the boiler, but were unsuccessful.

Chapline ordered the USS Preble to approach to within roughly two miles of the Tampico and stop. What followed was the kind of formal cordiality that has been lost in modern warfare -- but which had zero effect on the gruesome fates that awaited most of the mutineers on the Tampico.

The Tampico launched a lifeboat commanded by a Mexican naval officer known only to history as Rebatet, the ships' paymaster, who crossed the small gulf between the ships and asked permission to come aboard.

Once aboard the USS Preble, Rebatet delivered formal compliments from Captain Malpica to Lieutenant Junior Grade Vance Duncan Chapline Jr.

Rebatet explained to Chapline what had happened to the Tampico in the Third Battle of Toplobampo and after, how the ship had been largely submerged for two months, and requested that the USS Preble tow the Tampico to Altata.

By this time the USS Perry had arrived -- making two United States warships potentially available to provide a tow -- but Rebatet wasn't destined to get the answer that he, Captain Malpica and the crew of the Tampico were hoping for.

Because of official American neutrality during the Mexican Revolution, Lieutenant Chapline was forced to deny the Tampico's request for a tow because it would be viewed as American aid to the Constitutionalist cause.

Rebatet then asked Lieutenant Chapline to radio Rear Admiral Howard, asking him to make an exception and authorize a tow on humanitarian grounds. He also extended Captain Malpica's cordial invitation to Lieutenant Junior Grade Vance Duncan Chapline Jr. to come aboard the Tampico at his earliest convenience.

Chapline authorized the radioing of Malpica's request to Rear Admiral Howard and, at about 5:30 pm, Lieutenant Chapline boarded the Tampico and saw first hand just how badly shot-up she was -- and the Tampico wasn't the only thing that was shot up.

Having miraculously survived the shelling by the General Guerrero during the Third Battle of Topolobampo unscratched, Captain Malpica had accidentally shot himself in the foot a week before with his own revolver while in port at Topolobampo, and he could barely stand.

Despite his heavily bandaged foot and being in obvious pain, Malpica expressed gratitude when Chapline told him that his request had been radioed to Rear Admiral Howard, and invited the Americans to inspect the Tampico in detail so that they could report just what bad condition the ship was in.


The Mexican gunboat Tampico is sunk on
June 16, 1914 and a Constitutionalist civil war
hero commits suicide

20th Century Sinaloa History

Chapline's inspection found the gunboat Tampico to be in very poor condition, with most of her guns and ammunition badly deteriorated -- which is not surprising given that she had been partially submerged in saltwater for several months.

Many of the officers and crew -- 61 men in total -- had wounds that were crudely bandaged.

Lieutenant Chapline informed Captain Malpica that a radio response from Rear Admiral Howard was not likely to happen immediately and the US sailors returned to the USS Preble as darkness fell.

Back aboard the Preble, Chapline was informed by his radio operator at 8:00 pm that he had intercepted a message from Commander Noble E. Irwin of USS New Orleans to Rear Admiral Howard that stated that the New Orleans was shadowing the General Guerrero as she headed south from Guaymas.

Chapline was able to estimate that the Guerrero would be arriving where the Tampico, Prebble and Perry were -- N25°28'30" W109°18'00" -- at about 7:00 am.

Further radio communications were received by the Preble that ordered Chapline and the Perry's captain to record and report the events of the coming battle but not to lend assistance to either combatant -- meaning that the American ships were not to warn Tampico that the General Guerrero would soon be arriving because it would be a violation of United States neutrality.

The Tampico's end was near and her luck was further deteriorating: sometime during the night of June 15 she drifted on to a shoal and ran aground, reducing her from a drifting target to a stationary one.

Just before dawn, June 16, 1914, men aboard the three ships spotted two vessels -- the USS New Orleans was closely shadowing the General Guerrero -- steaming down the Sea of Cortez from the north.

After-action reports note that the sky was clear, the sea clam and there was just a slight breeze.

The General Guerrero came to a stop at about 7:00 am over 10,000 yards from the Tampico and cleared for action, beginning her advance towards Tampico just a few minutes later.

United States naval officers reported seeing the Tampico's crew hoist a huge Mexican National Naval Ensign -- ironically, all of the warships involved in the Battles of Topolobampo flew the same flag -- and observed life boats being lowered on the unengaged starboard side of the gunboat.

The Tampico opened fire first -- 7:47 am -- firing her 4 inch guns at the now stationary General Guerrero, which responded moments later.

What followed was a inaccurate naval gunnery duel at a range of about 8,000 yards that the crews of the American Navy observer ships found entertaining according to Lieutenant Chapline, who also noted that his crew appeared to favor the Tampico, probably not for political reasons but, rather, sailors rooting for the underdog.

The Captain Torres gradually worked the General Guerrero closer to the Tampico and at 8:24 am -- after 37 minutes of firing -- found the range and hitting the deck near the center of the ship, but the Tampico appeared suffer little damage.

After the engagement was over, Captain Torres revealed that many of the earlier rounds that he had ordered the General Guerrero's gunners to fire were shrapnel: he was attempting to kill the Tampico's crew while doing as little damage to the gunboat as possible.

The engagement wore on for another hour with both ships scoring hits, but the Tampico's life was now measured in minutes.

By 9:40 am smoke was coming from the Tampico and at 9:42 am Captain Malpica ordered his crew to abandon ship. Men aboard the Tampico continued to fire at the General Guerrero with the single 4 inch gun that remained operational while their crew mates climbed into life boats.

The General Guerrero stopped firing at 9:50 am.

Most of the Tampico's crew boarded two intact lifeboats and headed toward shore to try to escape, with the General Guerrero following in hot pursuit, intent on capturing the mutineers before they could reach water too shallow for the Guerrero's draft.

The Preble steamed to the husk of the Tampico to give aid to several crewmen who had remained aboard the burning vessel. The Preble approached to within fifty yards of the Tampico, where her crew observed several of the crew waving white rags as a sign of surrender. The surviving crew climbed down the anchor cable but refused to swim to the Preble.

The fire on the Tampico was spreading -- with the boilers dead there was no way to pump water to fight the flames -- and it began to ignite crates of small arms ammunition that were scattered around the doomed ship.

When the fire reached the powder magazine a large explosion occurred that sent 4 inch shells flying in "every direction", according to Lieutenant Chapline's after-action report, with some of the exploding ammunition passing through the Preble's rigging.

The Tampico sank at 11:57am, slipping quickly into the 130 foot deep waters of the Sea of Cortez just outside the mouth of Topolobampo harbor.

The USS New Orleans lowered two life boats and sent them to pick up the Tampico's surviving crew members, a total of six sailors. The last man pulled from the water was the Tampico's paymaster, Rebatet, who was severely wounded and only remaining afloat by holding onto a charred wooden plank.

After about a thirty minute chase, the General Guerrero had caught up with the two lifeboats filled with the Tampico's crew -- and surviving Captain Hilario Malpica.

At this point there could be no illusion about possible escape, and Captain Malpica ordered his men to surrender.

While all but six of the Tampico's surviving sailors were climbing onto the General Guerrero, Captain Hilario Rodriguez Malpica stood up, drew his revolver, placed it calmly to his head, and fired.

It had been just 110 days since he mutinied at Guaymas.


Mazatlán falls to the Constitutionalists' army and Federalist troops evacuate the port on August 8, 1914
20th Century / 1900s Sinaloa History

By early April, 1914 -- even before the air raid of early May -- Obregon had largely completed his encirclement of Mazatlan from the landward side.

While some supplies were still flowing into the port, which the Constitutionalists lacked the naval resources to seal, Mazatlan was cut off from its primary sources of ammunition, food and, most importantly, water.

An increasingly desperate population grew increasingly unruly, with major merchants' warehouses looted by mobs in search of food they thought was stored within them -- which turned out to mostly be untrue -- and with Chinese merchants being particularly hard-hit.

The water shortage was particularly dire as the result of the Constitutionalist seizure of wells and storage tanks at Peña Hueca, then and now an important source of water for Mazatlan. Thirsty Mazatlecos re-opened both public and private wells that had been abandoned, and new trench wells were dug in the southern part of the city in a desperate attempt to find water.

Obregon left Mazatlan in late April and moved his army south into Nayarit State, bound for Guadalajara and Mexico City, but left a substantial number of troops and weapons to ensure that Mazatlan remained blockaded by land, and to sustain the pressure on the population and Federalist forces to surrender.

Obregon was committed to maintaining the timetable and responsibilities that his Constitutional Army of Northwest Mexico had to the overall strategy designed to defeat Federalists throughout Mexico, but Mazatlan, the top strategic prize in Sinaloa, was not forgotten.

In addition to the troops left behind to maintain the seige under the command of General Ramón Iturbe, Obregon even committed his one substantial remaining naval asset in the Sea of Cortez -- the gunboat Tampico -- to its ill-fated final mission in mid-June in an attempt to put her to some use against the Federalist Navy operating off the Port of Mazatlan and elsewhere along the Sinaloa coast.

The resignation of Federalist President Victoriana Huerta on July 15, 1914 and his subsequent flight from Mexico was a huge blow to Federalist morale throughout the parts of Mexico they controlled.

Foreign consuls in Mazatlan including representatives from Chile, England, France, Germany and Spain tried to use the moment to negotiate a peaceful settlement in Mazatlan, but meetings held on neutral United States Navy ships anchored just outside the port proved fruitless.

By early-August, 1914, General Ramón Iturbe and his senior commanders Generals Juan Carrasco and Macario Gaxiola were ready to make a final assault on Mazatlan.

Fighting broke out on August 4, 1914, at Olas Altas beach, and quickly spread to other areas as Constitutionalist troops advanced and Constitutionalist commanders, notably General Juan Carrasco and Lieutenant Colonel Juan Ramón Rangel, scored early tactical successes.

August 5 through August 7, 1914, saw the Federalist troops occupying Mazatlan in increasing disarray -- while there were many sharp firefights, the Constitutionalists took some important positions largely unopposed, the Federalists troops having fled in advance of battle.

Federalist Pier, Olas Altas Beach, August 1914The final assault began on August 9, 1914, and came at the Federalists from all directions as they had largely been driven back to Centro and points south on the peninsula that Mazatlan occupies.

The Constitutionalist advance was rapid, and increasing numbers of Federalist troops were withdrawing to a hastily constructed temporary pier that had been assembled at Olas Altas beach in order to allow troops to board rescue boats.

A number of Constitutionalist officers destined for larger roles later in the Mexican revolution distinguished themselves in the battle to free Mazatlan, notably Colonel Ángel Flores, who was promoted to Brigadier General and later served as Governor of Sinaloa State from 1920 to 1924.

When Captain Guillermo Nelson captured Colonel Francisco Reynoso and his 17 Federalist troops at the pier at Olas Altas beach it was effectvely all over: the Constitutionalist forces controlled the entire port.

Federalist General Miguel Rodríguez fled Mazatlan in the gunboat General Guerrero, along with nearly 100 other Federalist officers and frightened civilian sympathizers.

General Rodriguez and his friends were very lucky to get out of Mazatlan alive.

The seething resentment of the part of the population who had opposed the Federalist occupation was perfectly blended with the natural anger of victorious soldiers just after battle.

The consequences for Federalist prisoners of war, and even civilian Federalist sympathizers, were dark. The execution of a number of Federalist officers -- including those of relatively high rank such as Colonel -- was coupled with the execution of Federalist officials, and even some Mazatlecos who were just "denounced" as having been collaborators.

The battles of the Mexican Revolution that took place in Mazatlan August 4 - 9, 1914, were fierce urban street fights, and casualties were substantial.

Constitutionalist casualties are reported to have been over 200 dead, with an additional 250 wounded.

Federalists casualties were far worse: more than 400 dead, over 500 wounded, and over 300 captured.

Civilian casualties are unknown but, given the nature of urban warfare, are likely to have not been entirely insignificant.


The major events of the Mexican Revolution
in Sinaloa come to a close in the Fall of 1914

20th Century / 1900s Sinaloa History

The fall of Mazatlan to the Constitutionalist Army effectively ended the Mexican Revolution in Sinaloa, but the consequences of the fighting would echo for many years to come.

The cost of the Mexican Revolution in Sinaloa had been very high.

The economy -- which had been booming in the late Porfirian Era years of the early 1900s -- was in a shambles, and Mazatlan was particularly hard hit.

Not only had valuable urban and port infrastructure been damaged or destroyed by fighting, but international capital had long since fled Mazatlan -- and Sinaloa State -- if it had been able to do so.

While not the bloodiest theater of the Mexican Revolution, history clearly shows that Sinaloa was one of the most important theaters, and that securing the Pacific coast and its resources was a necessary condition for the Mexican Revolution to succeed, for three reasons.

No army driving south along Mexico's Pacific coast can, rationally, leave its flank exposed to attack from the Sea of Cortez.

It is enormously advantageous for an army driving south along Mexico's Pacific coast to be able to access supplies delivered by sea through the ports of Topolobampo and Mazatlan -- which are closer to its ever-southward position -- than via routes that come overland from far further north, or through the Sierra Madre mountains to the east.

Whatever the condition of the Sinaloa economy at the moment that Mazatlan fell to the Constitutionalists, Sinaloa remained a state with enormous potential wealth including highly-portable mineral wealth. The Constitutionalists understood that, within the foreseeable future after the Federalists had been driven out, they could begin to use the wealth of Sinaloa to further finance the revolution.

In securing the Port of Mazatlan for the Constitutionalists, General Alvaro Obregon had succeeded in the first two of these objectives by effectively ending the battles of the Mexican Revolution in Sinaloa and securing the ports -- and had created the conditions to achieve the third, bringing the wealth of all of Sinaloa under Constitutionalist control.

To be continued soon...

Statistics, geography, climate, economy and demographics of Sinaloa State, Mexico in 2015

Location and geography | Climate, flora and fauna

Population since 1895 | Demographics in 2015 | Political organization

Farming and agriculture | Ranching, livestock and poultry

Commercial fishing and aquaculture | Mining and mineral resources

Infrastructure | Tourism and seasonal residents

Location and geography

Overview map of Sinaloa State, Mexico

Sinaloa -- formally Estado Libre y Soberano de Sinaloa -- is located on the northwest coast of Mexico, with its western border on the Sea of Cortez.

Sinaloa has over 330 miles of coastline, most of which is beautifully undeveloped.

Sinaloa is bordered on the north by the states of Sonora and Chihuahua; on the south by the state of Nayarit; and on the east by the Mexican state of Durango.

Sinaloa is the 18th largest state in Mexico with an area of 22,149 square miles (57,365 square kilometers), which makes it just slightly smaller than the state of West Virginia and represents roughly 3% of the land area of Mexico.

Sinaloa could very well be called The River State.

Within its relatively small geo-footprint lie 11 rivers which over the eons have carved fertile valleys into the Sierra Madre mountains and their foothills closer to the coast of the Sea of Cortez.

Twelve large dams constructed in the 20th century create man-made lakes and reservoirs with a combined capacity of 22 billion square meters of water, thereby assuring agriculture, industry and Sinaloa communities an effectively unlimited water supply.

The three largest rivers in Sinaloa are the Rio Culiacán, Rio Fuerte, and Rio Sinaloa.

The sources of the water that flows through the Rio Culiacán river to the Sea of Cortez are located northeast of Culiacán at the headwaters of the Tamazula and Humaya rivers. The Rio Culiacán river begins at the junction of the Tamazula and Humaya rivers within the city limits of Culiacán.

The Rio Fuerte river begins at the junction of the Verde and Urique rivers, and flows generally southwest for about 180 miles before it reaches the Sea of Cortez near Lechuguilla Island, about 30 miles west of the city of Los Mochis, Sinaloa.

The six Sinaloa rivers that directly and indirectly feed into the Rio Fuerte river created the Copper Canyon that spans the Sinaloa - Chihuahua border and is the worlds' largest canyon system -- one of the Wonders of The World.

The Miguel Hidalgo Dam outside El Fuerte on the Rio Fuerte river harnesses the power of this water flowing from the Sierra Madre mountains within Sinaloa's largest reservoir, providing virtually unlimited pure rainwater for the irrigation of crops in northern Sinaloa and the southern part of Sonora State -- as well as massive amounts of pollution-free electricity that feeds into Mexico's national electrical grid.

Sinaloa has two major ports: Mazatlan and Topolobampo. Both ports can accommodate ships of virtually any size, and both are home to substantial commercial fishing fleets that make Sinaloa the largest seafood producer in Mexico.

The highest mountain in Sinaloa is near the Sierra Madre mountain village of Quila where the peak of the magnificent La Vieja rises to a majestic elevation of 8,476 feet (2,584 meters) above sea level.

Sinaloa is in the Mountain Time Zone (UTC-7) and, unlike some other states in Mexico, observes daylight savings time in the summer.

Zoomable slippy map of Sinaloa State, Mexico, from Google Maps


Climate and weather in Sinaloa, Mexico

Sinaloa has four distinct climate zones: warm sub-tropical weather on the coast; generally temperate weather within valleys in the Sierra Madre foothills; cool weather at the higher elevations within the Sierra Madre mountains; flat-out cold weather at the highest elevations in Sinaloa where minimum winter temperatures fall below freezing -- and it sometimes snows!

The rainy season throughout Sinaloa is the months of June, July and August, and daytime temperatures and humidity are considerably higher during the rainy season in Sinaloa than at any other time of the year, whether you are on the coast of he Sea of Cortez or in the Sierra Madre mountains.

The coast of Sinaloa -- and areas immediately inland -- experience the wind and rains of hurricanes, or near-hurricane Tropical Storms, most years, with the southern coastal part of Sinaloa usually bearing the brunt of these storms because Pacific Ocean hurricanes tend to weaken when they track north within the Sea of Cortez or track inland toward the Sierra Madre mountains.


Sinaloa population growth 1895 - 2010

The only time that Sinaloa has ever experienced population loss in recorded history was in the mid 1500s when there was a mass die-off of Indians indigenous to Sinaloa, primarily as the result of new and European strains of diseases brought to the Americas by the Conquistadors, and large-scale fatalities during wars with them.

Sinaloa experienced particularly rapid population growth in the 20th Century, especially in the decades from 1930 to 1990 according to INEGI.

Populace of Sinaloa1895 261,050 N/A

1900 296,701 +13.7%

1910 323,642 +9.1%

1921 341,265 +5.4%

1930 395,618 +15.9%

1940 492,821 +24.6%

1950 635,681 +29.0%

1960 838,404 +31.9%

1970 1,266,528 +51.1%

1980 1,849,879 +46.1%

1990 2,204,054 +19.1%


1995 2,425,675 +10.1%

2000 2,536,844 +4.6%

2005 2,608,442 +2.8%

2010 2,767,761 +6.1%


Demographics of Sinaloa State in the 21st century

The population of Sinaloa in 2012 was 2,806,664 -- which is roughly 2.6% of the population of Mexico -- making Sinaloa the 16th most populous state in Mexico.

Life expectancy in Sinaloa is 72.5 years for men, 77.4 years for women.

The sex ratio of the population of Sinaloa is fairly balanced, with 98.9 men for every 100 women as reported in the INEGI census of 2010.

Over 98% of the towns and villages in Sinaloa have under 2,500 residents, but only about 27% of the population lives in these small Sinaloa towns as reported by the INEGI census of 2010.

Nearly 60% of the population of Sinaloa live in the handful of Sinaloa cities that have a population of over 15,000.

The overall population density of Sinaloa is just under 50 people per square kilometer.

According to 2013 INEGI census figures, roughly 55% of the population of Sinaloa is under 30 years old.

87% of Sinaloans are Catholic, with the vast majority of the remainder Protestant.

Statistics vary, but somewhere between roughly 2% and 3% of the population of modern-day Sinaloa (60,000 - 90,000 people) is made up of indigenous Indians who speak at least one native language, usually in addition to Spanish.

Of the indigenous Indians in Sinaloa today, the largest group are Mixteco -- the decendents of Mixteco agricultural laborers brought to Sinaloa largely from the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero -- and, in order of decending populations, Mayo, Náhuatl, Zapotec, Tlapaneco, Tarahumara and Triqui.


Political organization of Sinaloa State, Mexico, in 2016

Sinaloa became a Mexican State in 1831 when the state of Sonora y Sinaloa -- a legacy of the colonial administration of New Spain -- was divided.

The capital of Sinaloa is Culiacán -- one of the oldest cities in the Americas founded in 1531 -- which is also the seat of government for the municipio of Culiacán.

The first governor of Sinaloa State was Agustin Martinez de Castro, who was appointed by President of Mexico Anastasio Bustamante (1830-1832) to the governorship in 1831, and took office on March 13 of that year with the consent of Sinaloa's newly-formed legislature.

Meet Quirino Ordaz Coppel
Gobernador Constitucional del Estado de Sinaloa


Mayor Quirino Ordaz Coppel at a Venados baseball game in November 2016The Governor-elect of Sinaloa is Quirino Ordaz Coppel, who was elected heading a PRI-PVEM-Nueva Alianza coalition in June, 2016.

Born in Mazatlan in 1962, he will serve as Governor of Sinaloa State (Gobernador Constitucional del Estado de Sinaloa) until 2021 and is the 59th governor of Sinaloa since Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821. Ordaz Coppel's father, Quirino Ordaz Luna, served as Mayor of Mazatlan (Presidente Municipal) from 1984 until 1986.

Ordaz Coppel holds a law degree from Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México and a master's degree in public administration from the National Public Administration Institute.

Ordaz Coppel has served in many public capacities both within Sinaloa State and at the Federal level, most recently as federal deputy for the VIII Federal Electoral District of Sinaloa, an office that he left on March 1, 2016, to run for Governor.

Governor Ordaz Coppel is an avid internet and social media user. His is also, as the above photograph attests, an avid Venados fan...

If you would like to receive his tweets visit twitter.com/quirinooc, or enjoy his Facebook page: facebook.com/quirinoordazcoppel/ -- he has over 186,000 "likes" as of this writing! -- or learn more on his website, quirinoordaz.mx

Municipalities (municipios)
The physical divisions of Sinaloa State


Sinaloa is divided into eighteen municipalities (municipios).

Map of the municipalities of Sinaloa, with their municipal seats in parenthesis and ordered by population from the most populous to the least populous based upon the most recent official INEGI census figures for Sinaloa State:

Map of the Municipios of Sinaloa 006 Culiacán (Culiacán Rosales)

012 Mazatlán (Mazatlán)

001 Ahome (Los Mochis)

011 Guasave (Guasave)

018 Navolato (Navolato)

010 El Fuerte (El Fuerte)

017 Sinaloa (Sinaloa de Leyva)

015 Salvador Alvarado (Guamúchil)

009 Escuinapa (Escuinapa de Hidalgo)

014 Rosario (El Rosario)

008 Elota (La Cruz)

013 Mocorito (Mocorito)

002 Angostura (Angostura)

003 Badiraguato (Badiraguato)

004 Choix (Choix)

005 Concordia (Concordia)

016 San Ignacio (San Ignacio)

005 Cosalá (Cosalá)

Federal Representation

Sinaloa sends two senators to the Mexican Federal Senate (Cámara de Senadores).

Sinaloa sends three congressmen to the Mexican Chamber of Deputies (Cámara de Diputados).

Judicial Structure

The Supreme Tribunal of Justice of Sinaloa is the highest court in Sinaloa State, and the eleven judges who serve on it are equivalent to judges serving on state supreme courts in the United States.

Members of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice in Sinaloa are appointed to fifteen-year terms, cannot be re-appointed, and must retire -- whenever their date of appointment -- when they turn seventy.


Farming and agricultural production
in Sinaloa State


Agriculture and livestock account for over 20% of the economy of Sinaloa.

Sinaloa has over 3,000,000 acres under cultivation.

With just 3% of the land area of Mexico -- and only 2.5% of its population -- Sinaloa produces 30% of the total tonnage of food produced in Mexico.

A large percentage of the food produced in Sinaloa is destined for export to other countries, with annual food export revenue in excess of $700,000,000 USD.

Crops farmed and exported from Sinaloa State include beans, cantaloupes, chilies, corn, cotton, cucumbers, chickpeas, green beans, eggplants, mangoes, potatoes, pumpkins, sorghum, rice, soybeans, squash, sugarcane, tobacco, tomatoes, watermelons and wheat.

Sinaloa grows more beans than any other Mexican state.

Sinaloa has the 4th largest annual cotton crop in Mexico.

Sinaloa is the 5th largest producer of both sorghum and wheat in Mexico.


Ranching, livestock and poultry production in Sinaloa State

Cattle and other livestock production in Sinaloa is substantial, with ranches scattered throughout the state that produce 75,000 tons of beef annually.

Beef-cattle production is largely centered around Culiacán, where there are numerous industrial-scale feed lots that primarily raise Zebu-based cattle.

Sinaloa also boasts substantial pork and poultry livestock operations, with 150,000 tons of chicken meat produced annually within the state.


Commercial fishing and aquaculture
in Sinaloa State


The waters off Sinaloa in the Sea of Cortez and south in the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean off our southern coast are home to a remarkably diverse variety of aquatic species -- and Sinaloa State also has some of the most productive aquatic-farming habitats not only in Mexico, but anywhere in the world!

Sinaloa has the largest commercial fishing and aquaculture operations in Mexico, both in terms of tonnage of seafood harvested and in the dollar value of the catch.

Seafood harvested by commercial fishing fleets in Sinaloa include shrimp, yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna, bigeye tuna, albacore, skipjack, bonito, oysters, clams, crab, sea bass, sardines, and marlin.

An astounding 70% of the tuna harvested annually in Mexico is caught, processed and packaged in in Sinaloa.

Sinaloan commercial fishing fleets, primarily operating out of the ports of Mazatlan and Topolobampo, produce 1/3 of the shrimp harvested in Mexican waters.

20% of the sardines caught in Mexican waters are harvested by Sinaloa-based commercial fishing ships and fleets primarily operating from the ports of Mazatlan and Topolobampo.


Mining and mineral resources in Sinaloa

Mining -- the activity that first drew the Spanish to Sinaloa -- remains an important part of the economy.

Over 70 Mexican and international mining companies operate mines or are conducting exploration for mineral resources in Sinaloa today.

Mineral resources currently mined in Sinaloa include silver, gold, copper, iron, lead, zinc, nickel, graphite, gypsum, manganese, limestone, rock aggregates, talc, and salt according to Servicio Geologico Mexicana, the Mexican federal agency tasked with tracking mining operations and mineral resources throughout Mexico.

Annual revenue from mining in Sinaloa exceeds $120,000,000 USD.

Sinaloa Mining News / 5 March 2014

Sinaloa Governor Mario López Valdez announced at the 2014 World Convention of Mining Companies in Toronto, Canada, that over 250 million USD is being invested during 2014 in exploration and mine development in and around Cosalá, El Rosario and Mocorito by international mining companies.

A press release the by the Sinaloa State government stated these mining investments double those of the previous administration.

López Valdez noted that there are 110 mining projects in Sinaloa operated by 71 companies, 60% of which are owned by international mining companies based outside Mexico.


Infrastructure

Sinaloa has three international airports: Culiacan, Mazatlan and Los Mochis in order of intenational air traffic arrivals and departures from most to least.

Sinaloa has over 10,000 miles of paved roads.

Upgrades completed in 2014 to Mexican Federal Highway 40D have cut the drive time from Mazatlan to Durango from 8 hours to under 3 1/2 hours, creating an efficient transportation corridor that is already enabling increased trade and tourism in both directions.

Sinaloa has a network of nearly 500 miles of railroad track.

Sinaloa's ports -- Mazatlan in the south and Topolobampo in the north -- are two of the most active ports in Mexico. With both ports boasting navigation channels over 40 feet deep, virtually any cargo ship can can be accommodated.

Sinaloa has six hydroelectric power plants, two thermoelectric power plants, and one turbo gas power plant that have a cumulative generating capacity of 1,800 megawatts.

All power plants in Sinaloa are operated by CFE (Comisión Federal de Electricidad), the monopoly electrical service provider throughout Mexico.

The power plants operating in Sinaloa produce more electricity than the state requires, and the excess capacity is fed back into the Mexican national electrical grid, generating revenue for the state.

As a result of the creation of numerous man-made lakes and reservoirs in the mid 20th century -- and advanced water delivery and irrigation infrastructure -- Sinaloan farms and agricultural enterprises have plentiful water year-round, making multiple annual crop harvests possible.


Sinaloa tourism and seasonal residents from the United States and Canada

The tourism sector is an important part of the economy of Sinaloa, with revenue from tourist activities approaching 10% of the gross annual revenue of the state.

Sinaloa draws tourists from around the world, the largest number of which come from the United States and Canada.

Sinaloa also hosts vast numbers of tourists from within Mexico, particularly during Carnaval Week and in the Summer months when Mexicans traditionally vacation.

The most important tourist destination in Sinaloa is Mazatlan, with other tourist draws and destinations being the lovely Rural Sinaloa towns and Pueblos Magico like Concordia, Copala, Cosala, El Quelite, El Rosario and San Ignacio that are scattered throughout its 18 municipalities.

Sinaloa receives large numbers of longer-term seasonal visitors, particularly from Canada and the United States. Most longer-term visitors are concentrated in Mazatlan where there is a substantial expat community, and the majority of these snowbirds also own condominiums or houses.

Sport fishing in Sinaloa is a major tourist attraction, with anglers enjoying both spectacular deep sea ocean fishing and -- unquestionably -- the finest Bass fishing in the world at Lake El Salto and other man-made lakes and reservoirs scattered throughout Sinaloa State.

Ecotourism in Sinaloa is increasing. Bird watchers have long known that Sinaloa is a paradise for them, and other eco-tourists are increasingly discovering the wonders of the massive Meseta de Cacaxtla nature reserve and other pristine ecosystems present within the state.

The Mexican federal government, in cooperation with the State of Sinaloa, is developing the largest tourist destination project in Mexico since Cancun at Teacapan, located at the southern tip of Sinaloa State in Escuinapa municipality.

The Playa Espiritu project at Teacapan is receiving direct investment from the Mexican federal government as well as funds from the State of Sinaloa which are expected to attract private capital that will transform the economy of the southern part of the state.

When fully developed, Playa Espiritu is designed to encompass over 60,000 acres, with roughly 30,000 acres being available for sale and development.

The Playa Espiritu Sinaloa master plan envisions over 14,000 residential properties and over 11,000 hotel rooms.


So now that you know a lot about Sinaloa, why not just lean back and groove to just what a happy place Sinaloa State is...

Happy Sinaloa video with music by Pharrell Williams



Sinaloa before the Spanish Conquest of Mexico

1500s | 1600s | 1700s | 1800s | 1900s


Geography, climate, economy and demographics of Sinaloa in 2016

Location and geography | Climate, flora and fauna

Population since 1895 | Demographics in 2016 | Political organization

Farming and agriculture | Ranching, livestock and poultry

Commercial fishing and aquaculture | Mining and mineral resources

Infrastructure | Tourism and seasonal residents



History of Sinaloa Mexico: From the pre-Columbian era through the 1500s, 1600s, 1700s, 1800s and 1900s to the present, including current info, statistics and demographics of modern Sinaloa State

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