The History of Casa Garcia

The History of  Casa Garcia.

By Rodrigo Becerra Rodríguez

More than a century ago, in the heart of the historic center of Mazatlán, stood with majesty a colonial French-style mansion that still stands today as a witness to time. This impressive building, whose foundations were laid in 1876 by a Swiss banker who owned the Banco de Occidente, is much more than just a restaurant known as El Presidio; it is the place that gave birth to my maternal family and preserves the traces of past generations.

After the Swiss banker returned to Europe, the mansion changed hands and became the property of my great-grandfather Genaro García, who at that time was the president of Banco de Occidente. With him, my great-grandmother Domitila Casal, my great-uncle Genaro, my great-aunt Nena, and my grandmother Natalia formed a family that lived on the upper floor of the mansion, while the ground floor was rented out to local businesses. This magical place witnessed the upbringing of my mother and her sister, who enjoyed their childhood in the garden and had exclusive access to the central courtyard from the upper floor, while the commercial spaces only faced the street.

Time passed, and my uncle Genaro and my grandmother started their own families, leaving the mansion behind. However, my aunt Nena, who never married, decided to stay in the place, becoming the guardian of this historic gem. I remember when my mother used to take us to visit my aunt Nena, who lowered a key in a box attached to a string when we rang the bell. Playing in the large corridor with the “machinas,” tricycles of the time, and the conversations in rocking chairs between my mother and my aunt Nena are cherished memories.

However, in 1980, my aunt Nena passed away, and Casa García closed its doors for nearly three decades, falling into a deplorable state of disrepair. Weeds took over every corner, and many roofs collapsed. It became home to raccoons and even a snake over 3 meters long. But in 2008, my mother made the courageous decision to rescue this family relic and embarked on a rigorous restoration process that ultimately gave life to what we all know today as El Presidio.

The intention behind the architectural remodeling was to highlight what time had taken so long to create. The roots that penetrated through the walls, the trees that emerged in the most unexpected corners, and the hues of colors ingrained in ceilings and walls gave rise to a design that no human could have matched. Our task was to create spaces that allowed us to appreciate the poetry of nature and the passage of time.

Casa García witnessed one of the most special moments of my life when I celebrated my wedding in November 2010. This was the first event since the renovation. But its history goes further, with legends of Pancho Villa and his troops arriving during the Revolution in 1913, finding a place to replenish water in its well in the courtyard.

Moreover, Casa García holds a mystery that has intrigued many people over the years: the appearance of a girl dressed in period clothing in its hallways. My mother firmly believes that it could be the presence of my aunt Nena. There is even a clear image captured in a selfie taken in the women’s restroom that seems to confirm this enigmatic presence that seems to forever watch over our beloved Casa García.