The buzz and bustle of Guaymas—one of Mexico's largest ports—has a pleasant backdrop of rusty red, saguaro-speckled bluffs that nudge the deep-blue waters of a sprawling bay on the Mar de Cortés. The Spanish arrived in this "port of ports" by the mid-16th century. In 1701 two Jesuit priests, Father Kino and his colleague Juan María Salvatierra, erected a mission base here intended to convert the native Guaimas, Seri, and Yaqui Indians.

Guaymas was declared a commercial port in 1814, and became an important center of trade. In 1847, during the Mexican-American War, U.S. naval forces attacked and occupied the town for a year. Bumbling filibuster William Walker also managed to take Guaymas for a short time in 1853, and in 1866, during Maximilian's brief reign, the French took control. Today's foreign invaders are mostly travelers passing through on their way somewhere else.

Hardworking Guaymas, unlike its more pristine twin San Carlos, takes Highway 15 right into its gritty heart, and has all the grime, noise, and traffic. But the town is undergoing a major makeover, with a malecón and a state-of-the-art cruise-ship terminal. The sweeping views across the old harbor are magically suggestive of the town's historic past.

The center of the city is Plaza 13 de Julio , a typical main square with thick fig trees, a Moorish-style bandstand, and ornate benches. Facing the park is the 19th-century church Parroquia de San Fernando.

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