How well do you know the Baja California peninsula and its history? Did you know…
Baja is the first California….
The name California comes from Garci Rodriguez de Montalvo’s chivalric romance novel Las Sergas de Esplandian – first published in 1510 – in which a queen named Calafia rules an island inhabited only by women.
A lieutenant of conquistador Hernan Cortes (Fortun Ximenez) was the first European to set foot in the land known as California, landing near La Paz in late 1533 or early 1534. Cortes himself followed a little more than a year later. The first Europeans did not explore what is now the U.S. state of California for another 234 years, until the Portola expedition in 1769. Under Spanish rule, it was referred to as Alta or Nueva California, to distinguish it from Baja or Antigua California.
Baja California Sur is the youngest state in Mexico…
Mexico has 31 states and a federal district. Baja California Sur was, along with Quintana Roo, the last to achieve statehood, being elevated from territory status on October 8, 1974. Baja California, by contrast, was officially given statehood in 1952.
Baja California Sur has more coastline than any Mexican state…
Mexico has approximately 9,330 kilometers of coastline, and a rather staggering percentage of it surrounds the Baja California peninsula. Baja California Sur owns 2,131 kilometers, Baja California 1,493 kilometers. Together, they account for 38% of the nation’s coastline.
La Paz is the oldest community on the peninsula…
Each year on May 3, La Paz honors its foundation, remembering the day Hernan Cortez came ashore in 1535. This year, Baja California Sur’s capital city marks its 482nd birthday, and as always, will celebrate with a Foundation Festival featuring food, drink, live entertainment, and of course a traditional reenactment of the landing of the Spaniards.
Loreto was the first capital of the Californias…
From 1697, when the Jesuits founded the first permanent peninsular community at Loreto (the indigenous inhabitants were hunter gatherers), Loreto was the capital of California. Loreto didn’t give up this privilege until 1777, when the capital was moved to Monterey in Alta California. Loreto remained the capital of Baja until 1829, when a particularly damaging hurricane caused the seat of government to briefly be moved to San Antonio. La Paz became the peninsular capital in 1830, and has remained so for Baja California Sur until the present day.
San Antonio is the longest continually occupied secular community in the Californias…
The Jesuits, Franciscans and Dominicans founded many missions in Las Californias, but the oldest continually occupied secular community is at San Antonio, a small town near El Triunfo, about 40 miles south of La Paz. San Antonio was founded in 1756 by Simon Rodriguez, as a community for mine workers at the newly formed Santa Gertrudis mine.
The final skirmish of the Mexican-American War took place near Todos Santos…
Although omitted almost entirely from books on the subject, Baja California was a hotbed of resistance during the Mexican-American War, and several pitched battles and sieges occurred on the peninsula. The war effectively ended when General Winfield Scott and his troops captured Mexico City in September 1847; but Bajacalifornio patriots under Capt. Manuel Pineda and wartime jefe politico Mauricio Castro continued to fight for their country. The final armed conflict of the war took place just north of Todos Santos on March 30, 1848, three weeks after the U.S. Congress had ratified the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
The peninsula has a state song…
Canto a Baja California was written by Rafael Trujillo and put to music by Rafael Gama. The song, which begins “Baja California, brazo poderoso, al servicio eterno de la Patria” (Baja California, powerful arm, in the eternal service of the country) was adopted as the official state song of Baja California on September 27, 1956. Baja California Sur gave the matter decades of consideration, but finally followed suit in 2012.
The Sea of Cortez is the world’s youngest sea…
What we now call Baja California was born amid cooling magma in the distant mists of the Mesozoic Era, between 135 and 225 million years ago. For millions of years afterward, plate tectonics, continental drift, subduction and other forces acted upon the coastline, finally resulting in a peninsular break from the Mexican mainland. This fracture occurred from the top down–at the terminus of the Colorado River–beginning about 12 million years ago. As recently as five million years ago, present day Los Cabos was still connected to the continental massif, at what is now the state of Jalisco. The mouth of the Gulf of California, or Sea of Cortez, finally opened three million years ago; and approximately 1.8 million years ago, in the early stages of the Pleistocene Epoch, the peninsula achieved what we consider its present position…although it continues to move away from the mainland at a stately pace of about six centimeters per year.
The Arch in Cabo San Lucas is almost unfathomably old…
Geological estimates for the oldest granitic monuments at Land’s End suggest a mind blowing antiquity. According to The Atlas of Coastal Ecosystems in the Western Gulf of California, the Cretaceous Period granite that forms El Arco is equivalent in age to that found at subsurface volcanic sites at Las Tres Virgenes in the municipality of Mulegé: approximately 84 million years old.
Ensenada is the largest municipality in the Americas…
The Baja California peninsula has a small number of municipalities, with both of its states possessing only five. Oaxaca, by contrast, has a whopping 570. But Baja California makes up for this dearth with Ensenada, which is not only the largest municipality by area in all of Mexico, but in all of the Americas. The Ensenada municipality encompasses more than 52,480 square kilometers.
Tijuana is the mostest…
Tijuana is not only the most populous city on the peninsula, with more than 1.6 million inhabitants, but it’s also the westernmost city in Mexico, and the westernmost point in Latin America.
The two worst hurricanes in Cabo San Lucas history happened on the same day…
The devastating “La Inundacion” of 1939, which washed away much of Cabo San Lucas, and category-4 Hurricane Odile in 2014 struck the Land’s End community 75 years apart on the same day: September 14.
The peninsula is home to 15 parks and federally protected places…
Mexico’s Comision Nacional de Areas Naturales Protegidas (better known as CONANP) is responsible for administering the country’s national parks, nature sanctuaries, natural monuments, biosphere reserves, protected flora and fauna areas, and protected natural resource areas. Currently, fifteen of these protected places are on or around the Baja California peninsula.
National Parks – Baja California
Constitution of 1857
Sierra de San Pedro Martir
San Lorenzo Archipelago
National Parks – Baja California Sur
Espíritu Santo Archipelago
Biosphere Reserves – Baja California
Upper Gulf of California and Colorado River Delta
Bahía de los Ángeles
Biosphere Reserves – Baja California Sur
Sierra de la Laguna
Protected Areas for Flora & Fauna – Baja California
Valle de los Cirrios
Islands of the Gulf of California
Protected Areas for Flora & Fauna – Baja California Sur
Cabo San Lucas
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