All the people that has visited Mazatlan are surprise by the very picturesque public transportation that there is in the city, everybody knows and love “PULMONIAS” (Pneumonia).
Pulmonía is the name Mazatlecos have given them. Why? To answer you that, we are going to make a trip to the past, to 1962.
During that year a local business man was giving form to an old idea, the idea of having a popular transportation that were characteristic from the city and that in some way replaced the already gone “ARAÑAS” (old wood wagons tide by horses) that were old times Taxis.
He saw then a 3 wheel little car in a garage that it wasn’t in use any more, as soon as he saw it he knew it was what he was looking for. These cars were golf cars Cushman brand and were made in Nebraska.
This visionary man is Don Miguel “Chicharo” Ramirez, he knocked on many doors, visited many banks asking for a loan to start a business, but money was denied by all thinking this wasn’t a good idea; he didn’t back up on his plans, he was decided to succeed. He traveled to Nebraska and talked to the board and for his surprise they agreed to finance 8 cars, then he had to import them from United Estates to Mazatlan and put them in a big garage in Constitución street # 606. Don Miguel Valadez Lejarza a friend of his made a fiberglass structure and some changes and adjustments.
Now the main thing was to get all the permits authorized so they could go out to the streets. One day the Governor of Sinaloa Mr. Leopoldo Sánchez Celis was in town, so “El Chicharo” drove on one of his 3 wheels little cars and parked in front of the Hotel where the Governor was staying. The governor was astonished by this cute and estrange vehicle but he liked them very much and told “El Chicharo” to finish 16 and he was going to help him, after all they were friends. Just before he ended his period as Governor, he authorized and signed all the permits for the cars to be able to circulate as a public transportation.
On December the 20th of 1965 the 16 cars went out to the streets, on something like a parade and “El Chicharo” playing the accordion celebrating the event.
They were such a success that on the first year “El Chicharo” wanted to import another 16. These little cars were accepted since the beginning by the locals; however, there were problems with the Taxi unions and city buses and they started a big discredit campaign against the new little cars and when they saw people getting in on one of those, they told them they would get sick by using them for been open cars, they would get Pulmonía (pneumonia). So people started calling them “PULMONIAS”.
The good relationship that “El Chicharo” had with the new Governor helped him to have the success that he achieved and within 3 years he had already 100 pulmonías working.
They were accepted at the beginning because they were original and cute little cars, but then they were also giving a good and inexpensive service.
This company grew up very fast, and soon they had their own Service Center in which they had a department for carpentry, smithy, soldiering, mechanic, wheel repair and more. The size of the center was of 1000 m2 (10763.91 sq ft), and it was located in the corner of Constitución and Carnaval street, where now is located the city’s art school.
The employees made a union and asked the Governor for support so they could get some of the vehicles with their corresponding permits. This was considered by “El Chicharo” and other citizens as unfair and violating his rights of owning an enterprise and work the free market.
On April 4th 1975, all the pulmonías were lock for a month, leaving the citizens without the very popular transportation. The same year on may 28th and without reaching any agreement “El Chicharo” got the order by the Government to give back to the State all the permits to canceled them; then the government started issuing provisional permits to the Union. And this way the history of the pulmonías got into a new phase.
An administrator was assign to control and be responsible of the operation and work of the Pulmonías Union.
The job they did was so bad that from the 110 pulmonías that they got at the beginning, there were only 24 left. Their next step was to let the Union work by it self. And they got into another phase in the history of the transportation in Mazatlan.
They made some new changes and variations to the original model trying to keep it the closest to the basic and important characteristics; the 3 wheels were replace by 4 to make it more stable and the Cushman chassis was replace for a Volkswagen to lower down the cost of production.
In many other place in Mexico have tried to imitate this peculiar transportation but they haven’t been successful in arranging the permits, besides Pulmonías are register at the Mexican Institute of the Industrial Property.
I’m sure next time you see a Pulmonía you will see more than just a fast, easy and fun way to get to your destination, now you know a little bit more about the fascinating life of the great Mazatlecos.
And don’t forget when you take one to enjoy the wind blowing your hair and the cool breeze touching your face and see Mazatlan from a different perspective from an open window as it is everything in Mazatlan a wide open window to new life experiences that you can reach just by extending your arms and opening you hands. Many people have done that and have discovered the wonderful Mazatlan Real Estate and now they enjoy every day in Paradise.