El Fuerte is a colonial city of 13,000 people (2010) in Sinaloa. El Fuerte, meaning "The Fort", was named a Pueblo Mágico ("Magical Town") in 2009, for it has many attractions and a special, pretty-small-town aura.
Though often referred to as the Gateway to Copper Canyon (Barranca del Cobre), El Fuerte is a delightful destination in itself, best visited from November through April.
Founded as San Juan Bautista de Carapoa in 1564 by Spanish explorers, the city derives its present name from the fort constructed in 1610 to defend against attacks by the Zuaque and Tehueco tribes who resented the Spanish intrusion. El Fuerte soon became one of the most important staging and trading centers of northern Mexico, with its location near the head of the wide, verdant Río Fuerte valley assuring prosperity from agriculture. In 1824, it became the territorial capital of the vast area comprising what is now Sinaloa, Sonora, and part of southern Arizona.
The architectural results of this history are evident today throughout the center of the city, from the central Plaza de Armas to the colonial mansions that extend for several blocks.
- The local station of the Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacífico railway is a few miles south of town. The "ChePe" passes through the scenic Copper Canyon from Chihuahua, to the northeast, to Los Mochis, near the Gulf of California, to the southwest.
- There are local petroglyphs a short distance from the downtown in the Rio Fuerte basin. These rock inscriptions were left by Nahua groups that centuries ago passed through the Sinaloan migratory corridor. Access to them is somewhat difficult.
- The Cerro de la Máscara is a petroglyph complex, considered one of the main ones in the state due to the number of engravings and the diversity of contents. It is located on the banks of the Río Fuerte, approximately 5 km from the city. In total, there are about 45 stones that together contain more than 100 engravings, whose antiquity is estimated between 800 and 2500 years, in different stages of sculptural application and that, due to historical memory, must belong to Toltec and Aztec migrations. Highlighting among them: the buried Stone of the Goddess of Fertility or Parturient Woman, and The Chief.
- 1 Copper Canyon (Barrancas del Cobre). Situated in the nearby state of Chihuahua, but this city is a good entry point - since there are no good access points from the west of Sierra Madre Occidental. One of the great natural attractions of Mexico. Beautiful scenery, hidden waterfalls, and timeless canyon villages.
- 2 El Fuerte museum.
- Several holidays and local "Fiestas" are celebrated with pageants, "Ferias" and the like.
Basketry, furniture, palm weaving, pottery, cabinetmaking and textiles make up the handicrafts of this Municipality, which has one of the richest samples in the State of Sinaloa, highlighting beautiful handicrafts made mainly by Yoreme artisans, among which stand out: blankets and wool zarapes from Alameda; pots and earthenware made in Capomos; carved wooden figures mainly of Jews and deer and pascola dancers made in Capomos and Mochicahui; hats, baskets, bags and other items woven from palm in Bamicori, El Realito, Tetaroba and Lo de Vega; guasima chairs and tables made in Capomos; bules painted by Angelo in El Fuerte; in addition to the clothing and clothing used by the Mays in their religious and pagan festivals such as: tenabaris, ayales, masks, coyolis.
The typical dishes of this region are: cocido, colachi, chilorio, machaca, caldillo, picadillo, rice, gorditas, tostadas, golden tacos, fresh panela, menudo, pozole; pineapple, meat, corn and sweet tamales; meat broth, guacabaqui and barbecue. In the municipal seat, dishes based on bass have become customary, such as: chicharrones, tripe, meatballs, shaken, breaded or flamed fillet, as well as seafood and prawns (cauques) prepared in different ways.
In sweets we find pepitorias, rice pudding, ham, cocadas, capirotada, tacuarines (coricos), coyotas, colachi and burnt milk empanadas, semitas, marshmallow, fritters, cheese gorditas.
Typical drinks are pinole atole and corn atole, barley water, horchata and different fruit flavors of the season.
Tourism remains a major industry in town, although it has been diminished because tourists are wary of Mexican drug cartel violence in other parts of Sinaloa; however, violence declined by 2013 from a high in 2011.