“El Puente negro” The Black Bridge in Culiacan, Sinaloa

Miguel Angel Victoria Fotógrafo

About twenty notes published by the newspaper El Monitor de Sinaloa in 1908.
And recently collected by La Crónica de Culiacán, narrate the construction of the South-Pacific Railroad.
A building site deeply linked to the Black Bridge, icon of the city.
The newspaper El Monitor de Sinaloa announced that Mr. Greene, a contractor for the US company Southern Pacific Rail Road Co., requested:
250 workers for the railroad labors to be run in Culiacan: “They will earn one peso daily”, the press reported.

A Solid Silver Nail

Governor Francisco Cañedo would nail the last rail of the road.
Using “a solid silver nail manufactured in the jewelry store owned by Mr. Francisco Alvarado Bórquez”.

A metal up to the standards of the inauguration that was approaching.
The South-Pacific Railroad (later Pacific Railroad) became the most important work for Culiacan at the beginning of the 20th Century.
Time in which President Porfirio Díaz promoted the railroad network in Mexico.
Since then, the Black Bridge became an emblem of the city.
Because it was the commercial junction point between the US border and some of the cities from the Mexican Pacific.
The construction of the Black Bridge started in 1907.
However, it was inaugurated until the following year when the first locomotive crossed its resilient railway sleepers.
“The Black Bridge was born with very good luck because it became an emblematic place of Culiacan (because of the time it was built in).
In 1907, the Iron Tip (tracks) reached Culiacan and from there it continued to the south.

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The Mexican Revolution

But the Mexican Revolution war exploded in 1910 and the construction was suspended”, relates the historian Herberto Sinagawa Montoya.

“In some cases work continued but at a slower pace, so that the Iron Tip reached Guadalajara until 1927, twenty years after it reached Culiacan.
A compilation of notes from El Monitor.

Picked up by La Crónica de Culiacán (historical archive of the Culiacan City Hall by the historian Adrián García Cortés).
Shows what happened between April and June of 1908 in the capital of Sinaloa, when the first steamed locomotive fueled with firewood arrived.
The South-Pacific Railroad transformed social life.
“It deeply moved the old customs” (note from July 8th) and it turned the city into a key commercial point in the northwest of the Mexican Pacific.
Uniting it with Guaymas, Sonora to the north, and to the south with Mazatlan, Tepic and Guadalajara.
There is no precise data about the number of workers that the construction required.
But on a tour taken by El Monitor, they verified that “three kilometers away (from Tierras Blancas) there was the Geneal Road #1.
Composed of 30 or 40 trolleys and approximately 200 tents for the laborers.
100 cars and platforms for the transportation of construction material and about 2 thousand workers.”

El Puente Negro
El Puente Negro

The train is arriving!

“La Rayadora”, the train wagon in charge of paying wages, appeared every 40 days.
And although the majority of the workers earned one peso daily, the laborers of the Iron Tip received double.

In Vinolitos, about eight kilometers southwest of Pericos, a minacity was installed with wagons inhabited by the workers’ families.
Each with two kitchen departments (served by Chinese people), two telegraph offices, a dining room and an office for the workers’ chief.

“From one camp to another there is a continuous traffic of workers of various nationalities.
Chinese and Manchurian (North of China), and cars are constantly leaving loaded with bales of oats and barley.
Cars with materials, tanks full of water to supply the other camps (El Monitor, June 2nd)”.
In a camp there were 64 wagons owned by the Harriman Railroad System.
That came various lines including Cananea Río Yaqui and Pacific, Southern Pacific, Western Pacific, Railroad of Sonora and Houston, Texas.
Mexican, American, Chinese and Japanese workers were building more rails and the Cananea Río Yaqui telegraph system was advancing along the line.
“At 1:30 in the afternoon of today, arrived in front of the city, to the place called Las Juntas.
The first locomotive of the Mexican South Pacific Railroad”, published El Monitor on June 29th, 1908, amidst immense expectation.
Passage through the river in carriages could not be effected (for lack of a ford).
One thousand people who had concentrated to witness such event, used a provisional bridge that the railroad company had built.

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Organizing Committee of the Festivities

An organizing committee of the festivities, circulated advertisements summoning the population to adorn the front of their houses.
The president of the committee was Manuel Clouthier.
And the vice-president of the committee was Severiano Tamayo.

Treasurer, Ponciano Almada; the secretary, Julio G. Arce; and the assistant secretary, Faustino Díaz, director of the newspaper El Monitor.
Another commission composed by Amado A. Zazueta and Juan N. Tamayo was responsible for collecting funds for the celebration.
Markets and workshops suspended their work and the churches’ bells chimed.
El Monitor informed that he decoration was commissioned by Tomás Salmón, Fortunato Escobar and Luis Diez Martínez.
The ceremony of nailing the last rail of the line took place near Mr. Pomposo Verdugo’s orchard
Where a large tent and chairs were placed for the attendants, who were given barbeque and beer.
On the evening, a great ball was held at the Rosales square, which was decorated and illuminated.
While the organizing committee announced another party at the Apolo Theater.
On inauguration day, Carlos López Portillo gave an official speech.
And Francisco Verdugo Fálquez pronounced another one when the district’s horsemen parade ended.
There were those who did not believe what they were living in.
But El Monitor anticipated that “there was something to be prepare for the evolution approaching Culiacán.
A dream that was considered unrealistic, given how difficult it was to perform works of this magnitude.
The South Pacific Railroad represented “a torrent of progress, which was what it meant at the times when the railways ran”.

El Puente Negro
El Puente Negro

The Black Bridge falls

On May 1st, 1908, El Monitor de Sinaloa warned of the danger of building a bridge over the río Tamazula.
“A wall of sand has been built on the river bed, from the right bank.

Which will be filled with concrete to resist the thrust of the currents and preserve the stability of the bridge.
It occurs to us to ask if this construction, as it is being done, doesn’t constitute a hazard for the city of great rainstorms”, they questioned.
The floods would be greater.
And routing the stream through a small canal could cause overflows that would destroy the immediate towns, warned the newspaper.
Nine years later, during a flood in 1917, the Black Bridge collapsed.
Its masonry structure did not withstand the onslaught of the current and it ended up falling.
“Trains were stopped after September 18th and only resumed three months later.
It was a quarantine city, isolated and immobilized in its commercial flow.
When the reconstruction work was done, the city breathed a sigh of relief, regaining its normal rhythm”, said a local chronicler.

El Puente Negro
El Puente Negro

Know its history

George Stranahan was the engineer in charge of the construction of the Black Bridge and the tracks of the Southern Pacific Railroad.
Known in Culiacán as “His patience”.
The structure of the Black Bridge was made by a foundry from San Francisco, California, with a base of steel.
Which served as a model for the later construction of the Cañedo Bridge, considered the brother of the former.
Governor Gabriel Leyva Velázquez ordered to dismantle the steel structures of the Cañedo Bridge and to build a new one.
In 1960, the South Pacific Railroad comes to an end.

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Black Bridge
Bridge black in Culiacan, Sinaloa

How this virtual tour was made

The equipment used to make this virtual tour is the following:

  • DJI Phantom 3 Professional Quadcopter
  • Phantom 3 4K Camera
  • 3 - Axis Gimbal
  • Nikon D800 Camera
  • Sigma 8 mm fisheye lens
  • Nodal Ninja Ball Joint NN4
  • Manfrotto Tripod 190
  • Remote trigger

The processing software of this image was:

  • Lightroom to process RAW files
  • PTGui to perform the stitching of the image
  • Photoshop for general and local adjustments
  • PanoTour Pro for the virtual tour generation

The images of this virtual tour were made in two stages.
One was made on the first minutes of daylight and the second one on the afternoon when the sun began to set.

For all of the people that live in Culiacán, the Black Bridge is an iconic place.
Which represents one important periods for economic development of the region by communicating the US border with the center of the country.
It is one of the favorite places to take a lot of postcards, wedding and quinceañera pictures.
By having a high contrast in the measurement of the exposure, I made the shots in bracketing.
Then in PTGui, I carried out a mixture of expositions, with which I achieved a correct exposure in the whole equirectangular image.

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Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa

Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa

Traducción al idioma inglés realizada por la Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa a través del Centro de Estudio de Idiomas Culiacán. English language translation made by Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa through the collaboration of Centro de Estudio de Idiomas Culiacán

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