Acapulco has been well known as a traveler's
crossroads for at least a millennium. Its name is Nahuatl,
meaning "plain of dense reeds." The earliest local
remains, stone metates and pottery utensils, were left in
the 3rd millennium BC. Much later, sophisticated
artisans fashioned curvaceous female figurines. Some hypothesize
that there was early Polynesian or Asian influences in Pacific
Mexico as early as 1500 years before the arrival Christopher
Other artifacts resemble those found in highland Mexico.
Although influenced by Tarascan, Mixtec, Zapotec, and Aztec
civilizations, sometimes paying tribute to them and frequented
by their traders, Acapulco never came under their direct
control, but instead remained subject to local caciques
until the Spanish conquest.
After conquering the Aztecs, Hernán Cortés
sent expeditions south to build ships and find a route to
China. The first explorers sailed from Zacatula, near present-day
Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacán, on the
coast 400 km (250 miles) north-west of Acapulco. By a royal
decree dated April 25, 1528, "Acapulco and her land
... where the ships of the south will be built...."
passed directly into the hands of the Spanish Crown. Voyages
of discovery set sail from Acapulco for Peru, the Sea of
Cortez, and to Asia. None returned across the Pacific, however,
until Augustinian priest Andrés de Urdaneta discovered
the northern Pacific tradewinds, which propelled him and
his ship, loaded with Chinese treasure, to Acapulco in 1565.
For more than 200 years after that, a special yearly trading
ship, known to the English as the Manila Galleon, set sail
from Acapulco for the Manila and the Orient. Its return
started an annual merchant fair in Acapulco where traders
bargained for the Galleon's cargo of silks, porcelain, ivory,
and lacquerware. This trade connection, which persisted
up to Mexican independence, was instrumental in placing
the Philippines on the east side of the International Date
Line until the end of 1844.
Acapulco's yearly treasure soon attracted marauders, too.
In 1579, Francis Drake attacked but failed to capture the
Galleon, but in 1587, off Cabo San Lucas, Thomas Cavendish
seized the Santa Anna. The cash alone, 1.2 million gold
pesos, severely depressed the London bullion market.
After a Dutch fleet invaded Acapulco in 1615, the Spanish
rebuilt their fort, which they christened Fort San Diego
in 1617. Destroyed by an earthquake in 1776, the fort was
rebuilt by 1783. The War of Independence (1820-21) stopped
the Manila Galleon forever, sending Acapulco into a century-long
town suffered considerably from earthquakes in July and
Miguel Aleman Valdes was the President of Mexico who put
so much in the modernization and development of Acapulco.
He did so much not only as President but also as the Head
of Mexico's National Tourist Commission after he left office.
Acapulco became a popular tourist destination for Europeans
In the 1950s, after successful efforts to
build the city's infrastructure including numerous resort
hotels, Acapulco became a vacation destination for the rich
and famous of Hollywood and across the world. In the 1960s
and 70s, a greater range of accommodations were built to
make it more affordable for vacationers. And in the 1990s,
a road was built from Mexico City, enabling vacationers
from all over Mexico to enjoy this beautiful resort city.