Hotel Riviera del Pacífico

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The Hotel Riviera del Pacífico was a hotel located in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. It was one of the most prestigious and luxurious hotels in Mexico, and the place of birth of the Margarita cocktail.

The hotel at its opening in 1930


The hotel opened with great fanfare in 1930 but was not a real success until the early 1950s. It finally closed in 1964.

Vista aerea trasera del Hotel Playa de Ensenada (Ensenada, Baja California Mexico,1930), hoy conocido como Riviera del Pacifico, al lado izquierdo se observa la construcción preliminar de lo que podria haber sido la casa del boxeador Jack Dempsey


Hotel Riviera del Pacifico, now the "Centro Social, Cívico y Cultural de Ensenada" (Riviera del Pacifico Cultural and Convention Center)

Prohibition sent North Americans south of their border in search of entertainment and alcohol, developing first Tijuana, then Rosarito, and finally Ensenada as tourist destinations.

The North American Compañía Mexicana del Rosarito decided to establish in Ensenada a grand hotel, initially called the Hotel Playa de Ensenada (Ensenada Beach Hotel), designed by Gordon F. Mayer in the most dramatic and luxurious style with materials sent south from the United States. It opened with spectacular festivities in 1930, including the Xavier Cugat band, under the management of Jack Dempsey, a famous and fashionable boxer.


The hotel was never a financial success, however, partly because the road from the United States was poor, and the end of Prohibition proved fatal. The hotel only ever operated intermittently, and was put to military use during the Second World War.

Revival and final closure[edit]

After the end of the War, one of the original shareholders, Jerome Utley of Detroit, by then an old man and the only remaining shareholder, gave the hotel to a young lady with whom he was in love, Marjorie King Plant. Plant ran the hotel successfully with her Mexican lawyer and husband, Alfonso Rocha, changing its name to Hotel Riviera del Pacífico. Utley had been led to believe that Plant's marriage to Rocha was a "white marriage," that is a marriage of convenience serving only to give Plant the Mexican citizenship she needed to run the hotel, and when he discovered that this was not the case, he pursued Plant and then Rocha with court cases, leading first to Plant's leaving the hotel for the United States and then to Rocha's absconding from the hotel in 1956 to avoid a judgment against him. At this point the hotel was taken over by the Mexican government, which closed and partly demolished it in 1964.[1]

The Margarita[edit]

The Margarita is claimed to have been invented in several different places and at several different times. One claim is that it was invented at the Hotel Riviera del Pacífico for Marjorie King Plant at the time when she was the joint owner.[2] Other versions refer to Marjorie King, an actress, and some move the location from Ensenada to Tijuana. Margarita is a Spanish version of the name Marjorie.

The hotel's claim seems unlikely, as the earliest stories refer to the 1930s, and Marjorie King Plant did not arrive in Ensenada until the late 1940s.

According to an article in the LA Times (5-2-1991, and (5-14-1992, Obit. for Danny Herrera, age 90, ), the Margarita was invented by Carlos Daniel "Danny" Herrera. The article list the year as 'The late 40's'(possibly Oct/Nov 1947-48), but it could have been as early as the year 1938. Danny Herrera was the owner of Rancho La Gloria, a small hotel/bar on the road from Tijuana to Rosarito Beach. Many of Hollywood's A-lister's would come down to the 'Ranch'...Walt Disney, Phil Harris and Alice Fey, Mickey Rooney and also an up and coming starlet... Marjorie King. "She was allergic to everything except tequila," Herrera said in a 1991 Times interview. "But she couldn't take it straight, or even with the lemon and the salt. But she liked it. So I started experimenting."

He experimented by mixing three parts white tequila, two parts Cointreau and one part fresh lemon juice. Herrera mixed the drinks, added shaved ice and shook the container. Herrera included the recognizable small glass with a short stem, its rim drenched in lemon juice and covered with salt. And thus, the Margarita (Spanish for Marjorie) was born! Marjorie later instructed the bartender at "The Brown Derby" in Los Angeles how to make the drink for her. Today, people order it by the name Herrera gave it: Margarita.

Current status[edit]

Partly rebuilt in 1978, the hotel was reopened as the Centro Social, Cívico y Cultural de Ensenada.[3] This includes an open-air theater, a historical museum, and a number of rooms used for a variety of functions.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Maria Eugenia Bonifaz de Novelo, "The Hotel Riviera del Pacífico," San Diego Historical Society Quarterly Spring 1983
  2. ^ Plaque in gardens of the hotel
  3. ^ Maria Eugenia Bonifaz de Novelo, "The Hotel Riviera del Pacífico," San Diego Historical Society Quarterly Spring 1983

Coordinates: 31°51′31″N 116°37′09″W / 31.8585°N 116.6193°W / 31.8585; -116.6193