Learn the history of Mazatlan’s Observatory


Enrique Vega Ayala

Official Chronicler of Mazatlán

The top of what we now know as Cerro del Vigía became the ideal point to install the harness for supervising the entry and exit of boats to the port around 1828 when the pier was changed to Playa Sur. The lookout post, usual in those days in ports, served to notify the maritime control authorities of the approach of vessels. The Maritime Customs and the Harbor Master’s Office were located at the foot of the hill, with a direct view of the docking areas for larger and smaller vessels.

In those days the indicative signals used by those in charge of this task were colored flags and the ringing of bells. The height of the hill allowed that there was no obstruction to the visibility of the signals and there were not too many noises to impede the hearing of the chimes. For many years, for the fulfillment of these tasks, no special construction was required, if perhaps there must have been a barracks where those responsible for these tasks were sheltered on a daily basis and against inclement weather.

According to the data of Antonio Lerma Garay in his “19th-century Mazatlán”, in the archive of the US Consulate in Mazatlán, a statement from the North American consul in the port, dated October 4, 1879, “indicates an observatory and a lighthouse have been erected ”. With the construction of the Observatory building, the service for preparing meteorological reports was added to the maritime surveillance function. Although there are references that in 1872 the first building for the operation of a meteorological observatory was started from the following year. A decade later, the property would be remodeled. With new facilities, it was reopened in 1892. Additionally, in 1910 the seismological station attached to the Observatory was installed. Its opening was part of the national events commemorating the Centennial of Independence.

Vista panorámica de Mazatlán, desde el cerro del Vigía - Mazatlán, Sinaloa  (MX14831051490303)

Probably due to the attacks of the cyclone of 1927, it lost the domes of its towers, which distinguished the building for thirty years. Ten years later, the observatory was equipped with a radiotelephony and radiotelegraphy transmitter plant. The equipment was installed by Eduardo Schobert, who was then the Head of the Meteorological Department in this city. With this technological advance, the weather forecast bulletins could be transmitted and received daily throughout the country and abroad.

At that time it was already surrounded by a set of just over sixteen thousand trees (Casuarinas, Tabachines, Huancaxtles, Habas, Cedros Ébanos, Fresnos, and others) that formed the Forest of the City, the work of Eng. Jesús González Ortega, which was formally inaugurated in 1928, after several years of training.

The original location of the property as a recreational and public service was respected until the end of the fifties of the 20th century, although the lack of attention and cyclones destroyed a good number of trees, it was definitely lost when the city council divided the land and arranged the sale of the lots in a public auction. The constructions around it and the transfer of the docks to the Estero del Astillero rendered the property inoperative for the functions it carried out. A decade later, the teams were moved to a new building in the Estero del Infiernillo. The building was abandoned for about thirty years.

Desde el Observatorio, un vistazo al pasado de Mazatlán - Noticias Locales,  Policiacas, sobre México y el Mundo | El Sol de Mazatlán | Sinaloa

After several unsuccessful promotions by various civil groups interested in converting it into a home for cultural activities or for activities related to the tourist environment, in 1992 Sedesol granted the building and land of the observatory as a loan to an organization called by the acronym of COMITUR, with the Presumed objective of transforming it into a point of tourist interest. However, shortly after the ruin of the observatory was integrated into the neighboring property of Ernesto Coppel through a unique sale.

In 1996, by presidential decree of Ernesto Zedillo, signed on October 30, the property called “Cerro del Vigía” was disincorporated and it was authorized that three of its four fractions with 1,387.53 m2, 2,053.06 m2, and 658.95 m2, were transferred to him by title. onerous and out of public auction to the neighbor Ernesto Coppel Kelly. The fourth fraction of 329.86 m2 was transferred free of charge to the UNAM so that it could continue to use it as a seismological station.

El observatorio de Mazatlán: Joya histórica del puerto | Vámonos a Mazatlán

Already under the private regime, the property has been subject to several transactions. Since 2019 the building has been operating as a tourist attraction under the concept of a site museum. A little earlier, while the project was being developed, the adjoining patio was the privileged setting for a couple of operatic concerts. A funicular has been built as a means of access from the Paseo del Centenario, which represents an added value to the uniqueness of the architectural complex. In addition to the museography that combines images of the place and old Mazatlán with antiques, other attentions are offered while the visitor admires the panoramic views of extraordinary beauty.

Mazatlán has a time capsule

Recently fitted out, this corner of Mazatlán concentrates in its structure from a small cinema that begins the adventure, a funicular that takes you to the second step of the journey where you will find a botanical garden that allows you to know and interact with the flora and fauna of the region . 

Mazatlán has a time capsule

Once at the top, the climax of the walk is undressed, a photographic museum inside an architectural jewel of the 19th century, in the building that for years housed, first a military guard post created by the inhabitants of the port and later the second The nation’s most important meteorological and seismological center in the era of the Revolution. 

Mazatlán has a time capsule

As a bonus, the Observatory offers its visitors the natural spectacle that offers the panoramic view of the bay, with the three islands in the background in a restaurant-bar on the heights, where you can enjoy the majesty of a sunset in the Pacific. or the morning parade of whales, dolphins or sea lions, seen through the lens of monocular telescopes.

Mazatlán has a time capsule

The project that opened its doors to the public this year for a short time with affordable prices had to be put on hold amid the contingency, however, the pandemic, contrary to other ventures, has been the right time to reinvent and add new attractions, including the one that could be given soon with a tasting of flavored craft beer and other surprises. 

Mazatlán has a time capsule

This is how the 1873 Observatory prepares to write a new chapter in its history very soon, promising with all the security measures, to provide a unique experience, a way to know the past and enjoy the present.

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Source: tvpacifico.mx, sinaloaenlinea.com

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