Sixty-four kilometers (39 mi) southeast of Mazatlan, this charming little town lies seemingly undiscovered by travelers. Tourists are sometimes rushed through to see its amazing barroque church as part of full-day tours to Teacapan, at the southern tip of Sinaloa state. But for the most part El Rosario sees few tourists and even fewer gringos looking to relocate.
Presiding over the town of some 18,000 residents is Cerro El Yauco, which in the language of the Totorames means “Place where the water is born.” (Locals say the area has lots of small springs.) The Totorame people dominated the region before the Spanish conquest. Their fame for living to a ripe old age was attributed to their extensive knowledge and use of medicinal plants. Shrimping, fishing and production of salt were---and still are---important to the local economy.
Area Gold Gilds Local Treasure
The most obvious site of interest to travelers is El Rosario’s magnificent Mexican baroque church, dedicated to its namesake, the Virgin of the Rosary. Even non-church-goers will appreciate the tons and tons of 24-karat gold and beautifully rendered statues of saints that form the giant altarpiece. The town’s pride, world-famous ranchero singer Lola Beltrán, is buried in a tomb on the front left side of the church.
Completed in 1954, this temple looks quite ancient as it is a faithful reproduction of the original, now in ruins. Rich veins of silver underneath the first mission church were so alluring that mining moguls couldn’t resist digging extensive tunnels there, ultimately rendering it unsafe. It was demolished in 1934, and much of the structure was transferred, piece by piece, to its new home in the center of town.
Local Legend Tells How Mining Started
The Spanish conquest brought farming and ranching. But the big money maker was mining. There’s a local legend that describes how the first mine was established, in 1655. According to the story, ranch foreman Bonifacio Rojas went looking for a lost cow. At a spot now known as Santiago Hill, his rosary broke and fell to the ground, beads scattering. Throwing his hat down to mark the spot, he continued on horseback searching for the bovine in question. As night fell he still hadn’t found the cow, and decided to camp on the spot where he’d thrown his hat. In the morning he found a large vein of silver under his smoldering campfire.
Silver and other metals are still mined in the vicinity, but El Rosario’s economy is based on agriculture (mainly chile, beans, corn, and tomatoes); shrimp fishing and shrimp farming; and cattle ranching. The vanilla-based soft drink Toni Col is made here, and tourism is in its infancy.
Other Rosario Sights
In addition to the parish church, visitors can check out the octoganal, neoclassic-style graveyard, nearby, built in the early 19th century. Take a walk along the cement boardwalk, for a look at Laguna del Iguanero, and poke your head in adjacent museums dedicated to mining and to the singer Lola Beltrán. The former has some photos and old mining memorabilia; the latter consists mainly of gowns worn by the well-loved singer. Both are very basic, with signs in Spanish and fans swirling the sultry air.
Near El Rosario
If you want to get even farther off the beaten path, consider visiting:
- Chametla, 16 km from El Rosario, which has a small community museum and a scenic lookout called El Mirador de Cortés. This is an ancient ceremonial center for the Totorame indians.
- The fishing town of Aguaverde, 19 km from El Rosario, and the nearby beaches, estuaries and lagoons such as El Caimanero
- A former mining town in the hills 9 km from El Rosario, Cacalotán is known for its piñatas and homemade brooms
- Matatán, 15 km from El Rosario, where chairs and other wood and straw products are made.
- Hacienda del Tamarindo, 6 km from El Rosario en route to Matatan, is known around the state for its tamales, white and red pozole, and such sweets as coconut cocadas and brown sugar jamoncillos. Cerro del Yauco hill, nearby, is to be developed for tourism.
For more things to do as well as hotels and restaurants, check out our El Rosario Travel Guide.
EL ROSARIO LOCAL LISTINGS