Pirates of El Fuerto de San Diego, Acapulco, Mexico
By Larry Blanken
Beyond any doubt, Acapulco can be a city booming with excitement as well as exotic amusement. While many people may be acquainted the beautiful beaches and the glamorous nightlife, the city’s plentiful cultural heritage can be frequently overlooked. For any visitor that would be even mildly interested in the riveting history of Mexico, some time would be well spent at Acapulco’s best historical site, El Fuerte de San Diego.
The Fort of San Diego is an outstandingly well preserved fortress which dates from the 17th century, when Spain reigned over Mexico. It can be found just a short walk from the local marina and flea market in a location that also offers a magnificent panoramic view of the city and the bay where pirates from around the world gathered to loot Spanish galleons. Inside the fort is a museum with a section dedicated to their infamous legacy.
The fort was constructed in 1616 upon a hilltop, just east from the Zocalo, the principal public plaza in Acapulco. Its chief military mission was to protect Spanish merchant ships from the numerous marauding pirates that at one time prowled about the ocean. This region was a crucial part of trade routes for ships that traveled between the Philippines and Mexico for close to 200 years. As a matter of fact, Acapulco once was considered to be the most significant of any commercial port in the world.
Today, the fort no longer defends Spanish ships from buccaneers, but it is the home of the Museo Historico de Acapulco, or Acapulco History Museum. The popular museum offers visitors an abundance of exhibits that tell the story of the city and the Guerrero area. While a wide variety of topics are represented, the most popular and fascinating of these relate to the Far East trading days, the history of Spain's' imperialism in Mexico and battles with ocean-going bandits.
In the maritime section, there are numerous pieces of navigational equipment and mapping devices, along with models of the ships that carried cargo from Asia to the New World. The exhibits here feature colorful silks, porcelain pottery, weapons and other items brought from the Orient. Of course, there is considerable emphasis on the artifacts of the high seas hijackers that roamed here.
There will be also good deal of ethnic and folklore exhibits to enjoy, that range from the city's pre-Hispanic history and the era of independence to modern times. The Acapulco History Museum presents sensational collections of antique local furnishings, ancient clayware, and items created by artisans from about the region.
Although the splendid Acapulco beaches are a great place to soak up some sun, the Fort of San Diego is a most intriguing spot to discover the city’s impressive history of warding off ocean outlaws.