History of Pulmonias in Mazatlan
Pulmonías means pneumonias, but they are the coolest thing in town. Pulmonias are the small open-air taxis, little more than fiberglass go-carts powered by Volkswagen Bug engines. When they first arrived here 36 years ago, jealous drivers of regular taxis warned their customers not to ride in the door-less, window-less vehicles because they would catch pneumonia.
The name stuck. Pulmonias have been the preferred means of local transportation, for tourists and locals alike, since december of 1965, when the first fleet of 8 go-carts nedded service
Their history can be traced to a local businessman called "El Chícharo" who bought three Cushman golf carts, hoping they might be a clever alternative to the horse-drawn wooden carriages then in use as taxis.
The Local bankers thought this guy was crazy and wouldn't give him a loan to buy more of the three-wheeled carts. So he traveled to the Cushman factory in Lincoln, Nebraska and persuaded company officials to give him credits and loans to buy eight more. In the late 1960s, there were like 100 pulmonias on the roads. But the three-wheel design, fine for golf courses, was dangerously unstable for city traffic.
A four-wheel design was adopted, and in the early 1980s, the design changed again to incorporate the Volkswagen engine. The pulmonia design and name have since been registered with the federal patent office. Pulmonias are indigenous to Mazatlan, and other resorts cities such as Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta have tried to introduce them, but local transportation unions have objected.
There are now more than 350 pulmonias putt-putting around town, and they have become more than just a means of transportation in this port of 500,000 people. They have become a local trademark. Along the waterfront, Mazatlan has diferent monuments and of course a bronze replica of the famous Pulmonia.
Pulmonias are treated almost lovingly; mechanics at the local pulmonia repair shop make house calls. People from all over Mexico bring their old Bugs to Mazatlan to sell them for parts for pulmonias. Fathers and sons have long traditions of driving Pulmonias and for the people of Mazatlan is a tradition to catch a Pulmonia to go everywhere.