by Lawrence Adrian King
Every now and then, the need to experience something more than just the daily scenes of life in the city compels you to travel to places you have never been before for the sole purpose of satisfying that desire to be anywhere else but where you are now. That happened to me early this year. Wishing to be away from the clutter and stress that are characteristic of my everyday life in Los Angeles, I took a friend’s advice and drove myself and my girlfriend to Loreto, Baja California.
Loreto, from what I have heard, is a well-kept secret. Unlike the tourist infested cities of Mexicali or Tijuana, Loreto is a desirable place to be because of the calm atmosphere and intimate proximity to nature and culture that this Baja municipality exudes. From all that I have heard about Loreto, it seemed like the perfect place to get-away from all the stress and pressure that life in the city tends to produce.
I am pleased to say that I was not at all disappointed with what we experienced during our week-long stay in Loreto, Baja California. Although it is not an island, Loreto seems to exude a somewhat island paradise-like atmosphere because of its rustic charms and magnificent natural surroundings. Aside from the completely different landscape that Loreto has when compared to Los Angeles, I think what I loved most about our trip was the local culture and arts that we came into contact with during our stay.
In all honesty, I have never been a big fan of museums and cultural landmarks. I completely abhor the belittling feeling of walking around stark white halls and rooms in order to look at priceless sculptures and paintings for hours on end. In Loreto however, experiencing the culture, local arts and history of the place is a more enjoyable, more relaxed experience.
The Baja municipality of Loreto as I came to find out is home to a number of very old missions and churches. Religion, or more specifically Christianity, is a deeply rooted aspect of Mexican culture so that it is no wonder that these ancient Baja missions continue to stand today. They are regarded as very important cultural and historic landmarks in Loreto because they play a very significant part in the founding and development of the town. We went to several missions including the Mission of San Francisco Javier, Mision de Nestra de Senora de Loreto and even the Museum of the Missions of California.
Although a trip to missions and churches might seem boring to some, it actually was very interesting because of the newness of the experience. Not only did I transport myself to another place of a different culture, I also felt as if I was able to travel back to a time when the pace and focus of life was completely unlike those of the present. Everything, from the antique religious artworks and the beautiful church architecture, captured my attention because of their old world charm and history.
Another thing we very much enjoyed in Loreto is the warm hospitality that everyone seemed so abundantly generous to offer to a pair of complete strangers such as ourselves. In the Loreto inn we were staying in for instance, the entire staff were very polite and friendly to us. Not only that, but the local and foreign guests staying in the same inn seemed very nice as well. It was as if there was something in the air that compels people to be warmer and friendlier in Loreto. Even those whom we met in the beaches, restaurants and the very few bars were very relaxed and very amiable which made us feel as if we were somewhere very familiar and homey.
During our trip to Loreto, we were also very fortunate to experience a local fiesta in one of the barrios which we passed by during a drive towards a beach. The locals were more than happy to invite us to stop for a while and share the food and entertainment they provided especially for that specific occasion. The fiesta, as we later found out, was in order to commemorate and celebrate the barrios patron saint. I expected such an event as a commemoration of the life of a saint to be a solemn and strict affair. However, the fiesta, like our entire Loreto experience, was a lively display of faith, generosity and fellowship that we will not soon forget.