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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

El Fuerte

This beautiful, small colonial city lies 80 km northeast from Los Mochis along the Río Fuerte and is becoming more popular with travelers day by day.

Historically, El Fuerte is seen as one of the more important and interesting cities of northern Mexico. The municipality was established as La Mansion de San Juan de Carapoa in 1564 by Spaniard Francisco de Ibarra. Toward the end of the 16th Century the first Jesuits came into the region of El Fuerte. However since the unconquered Indians attacked the Spaniards again and again, at the beginning of the 17th Century a fortress was built, which gave its name to the city (El Fuerte is fortress in Spanish). Many Conquistadores expected to find great riches in the area of what is today the States of California and Arizona and went past El Fuerte on their way north. Here they replenished their provisions. During that time the city was an important commercial and travel center along the Camino Real, those legendary routes developed for the Spaniards to transport captured treasures and merchandise. By the end of the 18th Century the city had developed into the supply center for the miners in the Sierra Madre and in 1824 officially became El Fuerte, capital of the Federal State Estado de Occidente, that corresponded to today‘s States of Sinaloa and Sonora and reached north up to the Grand Canyon.

Silver no longer plays a role in the economic life of El Fuerte. Most of its 30,000 inhabitants today depend on farming and fruit orchards that have expanded – fed by the waters of the Río Fuerte. Coming off the Sierra Madre, the Río Fuerte with its tributaries is the most important river system in dry northwest Mexico. Its water supplies parts of the States of Sinaloa, Chihuahua, Sonora and Durango. Beyond this is the energy gained from the water power of the Río Fuerte , with electric generators in the dam of Presa Miguel Hidalgo some kilometers north of El Fuerte.

Also tourism continues to develop into an ever more important eco-nomic factor. The city impresses visitors with its old colonial buildings at the edge of the mountain wilderness of the Sierra Madre Occidental. The climate is subtropical and the atmosphere calm and relaxed.

Visitors enjoy El Fuerte for its historical architecture and freshwater bass fish-ing in the clear water of the Huites Reservoir of the Hidalgo dam, but the main attraction remains the CHEPE on its route from Los Mochis to Chihuahua. El Fuerte is the first stop of the first class train from Los Mochis and the last before the significant ascent into the mountains.

The town is an excellent starting point for the train, since one must be at the station at 7:30 a.m. vs. 5:00 a.m. in Los Mochis. Further more, El Fuerte deserves a one or two day stay, because this city is a living museum of Spanish colonial architecture from the 18th and 19th Centuries. Some buildings are in need of restoration and some streets are not paved, but the historical center is maintained very well and void of modern architecture, which would disturb the charm of the picturesque houses. Balconies grace their fronts and doorways offer a view to their shady courtyards. Everything, even the river, is within walking distance. Across the central Plaza de Armas is the beautifully restored colonial City Hall (Palacio Municipal). Its covered passage ways, lends to the charm of the building, so oppositely the church (Templo del Sagrado Coracon) impresses rather by its defiant building style. Former mansions today accommodate hotels; such as the splendid Posada del Hidalgo, built in 1895, with dream like gardens in the corners and at the original entrance that invites in visitors. The Fort also has been reconstructed. If one stands on the former fort walls, the view extends far over the landscape: from the broad river to the high mountains of the Sierra Madre on the horizon. In the fort structure a small but interesting museum is incorporated with regional pieces and relics from the revolution era as well as information about the Indian tribes of the Sierra Madre. El Fuerte – living history!