Why did Mazatlan want to separate from Sinaloa?

Mazatlan broke apart from Sinaloa as a result of several disagreements and confrontations. Continue reading to find out what happened.

Why did Mazatlan want to separate from Sinaloa?
A fascinating past can be found in Mazatlan, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the state of Sinaloa. Image by Kathy Toynbee from Pixabay

Mazatlan is known for being one of the most touristic places in Sinaloa. Its name comes from the Nahuatl language and means "The Place of the Deer", since, in ancient times, on the islands and coasts of the region there were more deer than men, and the first inhabitants were nomadic tribes.

In 1531, after the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán founded the port. It was the Spaniards who first called this place "Las Islas de Mazatlán". The port was used as an entrance for galleons coming from the east, and, of course, it was also the target of pirate attacks. But, at some point, Mazatlan wanted to withdraw from Sinaloa's territory.


In 1848, the De la Vega group gained control of the state of Sinaloa through two governors, Pomposo Verdugo (1848-1850) and Francisco de la Vega (1852-1853).

The De la Vega group maintained a conflict with the merchants of Mazatlecos that lasted for more than 12 years, harassing the merchants with taxation as well as with the manipulation of the organs of justice, for which the foreigners attacked the federal garrison of the port.

On July 18, 1848, in response to Pomposo Verdugo's pressure, the merchants led a revolt against the federal garrison. The governor put down the revolt too harshly, and after the rebels were defeated, the three young officers who had led the plot were put to death.

The Death of Rafael Vega

In the middle of 1849, an event occurred that came to modify the environment of the state: Rafael de la Vega y Rábago died of a heart attack. Rafael de la Vega was the political and military brain of the group, and he ran state politics. He was replaced by his brother Francisco, who didn't have Rafael's skills and, more importantly, didn't know how to deal with politics, preferring to use force to solve problems.

According to Eustaquio Buelna's Apuntes para la Historia de Sinaloa, Rafael de la Vega was the most capable politician in the family; he was generous, kind, and solicitous in making Culiacán greater. But he also points out that during the time he governed the state, public finances were handled with serious irregularities, justice was administered according to the family's interests, and the governor's agents were making the elections. Under the leadership of Rafael de la Vega, the family and his group accumulated much wealth.

Francisco de la Vega becomes governor

In January 1852, Francisco de la Vega y Rábago assumed the governorship and proposed profound reforms in public administration. The fiscal reform that Francisco de la Vega wanted to promote was the pretext for the last and definitive confrontation with foreign merchants in Mazatlan.

The governor tried to replace the tax collection (alcabalas with a direct contribution to each commercial house to better control the collection of taxes. The merchants' response to this and the other charges were to start riots to stop the tax from being taken from their businesses. The most famous of these was on May 5, 1852.

The governor, supported by the state militias, went to Mazatlan to call the perpetrators of the riots to account and collect the taxes.

The foreigners decided to deal the final blow, so they bribed Captain Pedro Valdés, a secondary officer of the federal garrison. On the night of July 11, 1852, Valdés surrounded the militia headquarters and took the commander of the garrison, General Ramón Morales, and Governor Francisco de la Vega into custody. Later, Valdés ordered the arrest of anyone in the port who had any power.

Those who had spoken out held a neighborhood meeting, which was also attended by some of the foreign merchants, and expressed their decision to ask the General Congress to make Mazatlan and the southern parts of the state a federal territory, in an attempt to separate Mazatlan from Sinaloa.

Days later, the governor was released after accepting the mutineers' conditions. Mazatlan's segregation plan was supported by some of Mazatlan's commercial clients, as was the case with certain people in San Ignacio Piaxtla, but the majority of Sinaloans rejected it, as did the federation.

Even with all of this going on, Mazatlan stayed independent from the state government and was led by Pedro Valdes. To give his movement a political banner, Valdes joined the rebellion in Guadalajara against President Mariano Arista and for Santa Anna's return to the presidency on September 13, 1852.

Once free, Governor Francisco de la Vega reorganized the state militias and marched to stop the Mazatlecan rebels. However, Captain Valdes beat him in the battle of Portezuelo, near Culiacan, on October 16, 1852.