Amado Guzmán’s passion project – Observatorio 1873
By Sheila Madsen, December 2021
When Amado was 15 years-old he’d drive up to the abandoned observatory, peek through the gates and dream about owning the crumbling buildings and all five acres of lush land overlooking the ocean. While he was dreaming about the land he was busy sweeping the floors of his father’s gas station for pocket money. After graduating from university in Mexico City with a degree in business administration at 23 he drove tanker trucks – not for his father but for himself. His hunger for work, this deep desire to become a self-made man drove him to create and build Petroil. It’s one of the largest fuel companies in Mexico with over 2000 employees. Through Petroil, Amado has created many social programs and “I’m grateful to be able to share with my community.”
Observatorio 1873 is just one example of giving back. When he was 40 years old Amado cut through red tape, negotiated with the previous owner and finally bought the land he always wanted as a teenager. It’s not-for-profit and currently runs at a loss. Following his mother’s advice he says” I believe in dignity in my life, I want to share with the public and do good things for other people. A property such as this cost a lot of money but we get rich by observing locals and people from abroad leaving with a smile and a happy to know more about our city.” [aside, you can thank Amado and Petroil for the beautification of Centro’s street, Angel Flores – all those plants and irrigation system are donated as is the upkeep. “I love my city, I want everyone to enjoy it.”]
Observatorio 1873 has taken five years to restore and millions of dollars. It was built in 1872 and opened as an observatory in 1873 [hence the name], and then morphed into a meteorological station, staffed by the military – Cerro del Vigia. There was a minor restoration in 1883 when two domes were added. In 1954 it was abandoned and left to disintegrate on the most gorgeous site in Mazatlan.
When Amado and his wife Karla bought it from a business man they put their heart and soul into the restoration. While the expansion plans were drawn up they rented it out for private events – weddings, concerts etc. Slowly, they added the cable car to silently whisk you up the steep hill, they enhanced all the gardens and greenery, they added a bird sanctuary, an agaviary, re-staged the original museum, refurbished the divine Sky Bar and created an art gallery/store where visitors love to shop.
Wait, there’s more! You’ve may have heard rumours about a zip line running from the tip of El Faro [the lighthouse ,approximately 150-157 meters above sea level, about 520 feet] to the roof of Observatorio 1873 store. Amado confirmed he has permission -all the permits are in place and construction is imminent. It will be a 1.2 km. [3/4 of a mile] zip line and you’ll go as fast as 100 km [62 miles] an hour! The team is working on how to make the walk up to El Faro safer and more pleasant.
Amado’s vision [hunger] continues with a three -level gourmet restaurant combined with a working micro brewery. Construction has already begun on revamping an old condo building. I turned to Amado’s wife, Karla and asked if he ever slows down, she shakes her head “never, he will never retire, he will die working.” That lead me to ask Amado what his hobbies are, if any. He has only one; shark diving. “It’s like a drug for me, I’m scared sometimes, but I like to be scared, but I’m not stupid about it.” Karla is smiling and says their oldest son enjoys diving with dad. Amado says” I like the peace of the deep water and looking and studying different types of sharks in different oceans.” And there you have the very essence of Amado Guzmán – the man never stops moving, creating, and giving back.
[The Observatorio 1873 is closed Mondays. Tours with guides are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you just want to look around, no tour guide, it’s open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tours must be booked ahead of time online – they run every hour. Click here for their website . The website is programmed in such a way that you can only enter one person at a time. You can’t enter “Sheila Madsen a group of 8” – all eight names must be entered individually. Because the price of children is different you may have entered all the “adult” names to find the group is full and can’t take the children. It’s a little frustrating, so perhaps start with the “child” price, then to go the adult, time and day. Minimum of 1, maximum group of 15. Your tour includes a brief film [Spanish, English or French] on the history of Mazatlan; it’s beautifully done with a combination of animation and stills and video. The tour includes your ride up on the cable car which can carry five people. Your 40 minute tour also includes the Nest Sanctuary, the Agaviary [including all the traditions of tequila and mezcal] and the museum. Very soon, you’ll be able to see iguanas lurching about – their playground is being built. The guides are enthusiastic and bilingual. If you wish to stroll around the lovely gardens and have a drink – no tour, no guide – the cost is $500 pesos which includes $300 pesos for your drinks and snacks in the Sky Bar. There’s an elevator too, which allows for people to tour the lush grounds and enjoy the stunning views and sunsets. Wheelchairs will not be able to get to the Sky Bar. All of this information is on their website in US dollars. You can begin or end your experience in the Art Gallery – filled with beautiful Mexican art and crafts. The nest sanctuary rescues, heals and releases back into the wild the following species: white-fronted parrot, yellow-cheeked parrot, flamingos, Atolero parrot, yellow-headed parrot, lilac-crowned parrot, military macaws, scarlet macaws. They have dedicated personnel for the sanctuary who feed and love them all, even those with one foot and a broken wing. If you know of illegal trafficking or need a home for any of the species please contact the Observatorio 669 260 9844]