Renowned Aviation and Travel Journalist Richard Carroll is presenting this great story from memories of Mexicana Airlines. The events which took place at the famous Belmar Hotel, the hotel where the Mexicana pilots stayed in Mazatlan on layovers, are true.
Historic Mazatlan, a proud working city and intriguing port destination is Mexico’s shining megastar with love to share. The Mazatlecos with great passion take immense pride in the only Historic District on Mexico’s West Coast, one of the world’s longest malecons or boardwalks, creative chefs, and the unique Mazatlecos’ version of a cab, which is the festive open-air Pulmonias comparable to a golf cart but with pizzazz and style.
However unequaled in Mazatlan’s aviation history were the skillful and mirthful Mexicana pilots.
Mexicana Airlines in Mazatlan
Mexico’s Mexicana Airlines, North America’s oldest commercial air carrier, circa 1921 (ceased operation 2010) first touched down in Mazatlan in 1935 in a 10-passenger Lockheed Electra, landing on a narrow patch of packed sand in a marsh, seat belts and white knuckles evident.
“The Mexicana pilots were like astronauts in those days, bigger than life and flying by their wits,”
recalls retired Chato Patron, a Mexicana employee who moved to Mazatlan in 1936.
“If they got lost the pilots would drop down and follow the railroad tracks to a small sandy landing strip. Often we waved flags signaling if it was okay to land always aware of wandering animals and bad guys.”
Python’s Belmar Hotel Style
“Flying was new and we would take prospective Mazatlan travelers to the bar in the Belmar Hotel and give them a few tequilas so they wouldn’t cancel.”
The famed Belmar, opened in 1922, was Mazatlan’s first ocean view hotel featuring hand-painted tiles from Spain and Mexico, a restaurant distinguished throughout northwest Mexico, and dancing in the elegant ballroom.
Built by Louis Bradbury, a wealthy Californian who was married to Simona Martinez a gorgeous Mazatleca, the Belmar was the five-star beauty of the day.
A Mexicana Airlines Mazatlan Python Tradition
The hotel hosted the adventurous Mexicana pilots and Hollywood celebrities such as Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Mae West, John Barrymore, Ava Gardner and John Wayne, room 48 his favorite booking.
“In the early days,”
“it was convenient to have python snakes as pets in your home. They’re good ratters and also take care of the mice. The Belmar had four pythons which were often seen snoozing in the lobby where guests and the pilots would have to gingerly step over them when checking in. A spirited Mazatlan Mexicana pilot tradition was to slip into the room and drape seven-foot Maria across the bed of new pilots and flight attendants while they were sleeping. The screams were heard on the malecon.”
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Featured Image: Mexicana Airlines, Wikipedia. Mazatlan photos by professional photographer Halina Kubalski.