Baja California Sur by the Numbers: Counting Down Some of the Signature Figures Associated with the Peninsula’s Southernmost State
There is no adequate way to express, in either words or numbers, the incredible natural beauty and immense diversity of marine life found around the Islands of Loreto, the electric blue color of the shallow waters off Balandra Beach near La Paz, the majesty of gray whales nursing their calves in the coves of Bahia Magdalena, the particular quality of light that continues to draw artists to Todos Santos, or the feeling of fighting a 500 lb. blue marlin off Cabo San Lucas. But suffice it to say, if you’ve never visited the state with the most coastline in all of Mexico – Baja California Sur – there are a large number of reasons to do so.
40,041 – Population of Baja California Sur in 1900
During the last 115 years, the population of Baja California Sur – until 1974 it was known only as El Territorio Sur de Baja California – has grown by leaps and bounds. At last count, in 2015, the state was home to over 700,000 residents. Fly-in fishing resorts started popping up just after World War II, and helped drive interest in the region’s incredible natural beauty and abundant big-game sportfishing. The biggest single jump was between 1970 and 1980 – the transpeninsular highway was finished during this decade – when the population increased by over 68%, from about 128,000 people to 215,000. The numbers have been rising steadily ever since.
10,000 – Estimated number of whales that migrate to Baja California Sur each year
The coasts of Baja California Sur were a frequent stomping grounds for whalers during the 19th century, but since the giant cetaceans became protected in Mexican waters, the shallow coves and inlets where they like to breed have often become tourist attractions for whale watchers. This is particularly true at Magdalena Bay on the Pacific side, the foremost breeding grounds for gray whales. Grays and humbacks make the longest mammalian migrations – humpbacks travel farther on an annual basis, but a gray whale made the single longest migration, a 14,000 mile round-trip from Sakhalin, Russia to Cabo San Lucas. Blue and fin whales, like humpbacks, breed in the Sea of Cortez.
7,500 – Estimated age in years of the first primitive rock and cave paintings in Baja California Sur
The Great Mural Region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in parts of Baja California and Baja California Sur that features rock and cave paintings of human and animal figures – including fish, snakes, turtles, rabbits and deer. The primarily red and black pictographs are attributed to an ancient people; so say the Cochimis, anyway, the tribal group that later inhabited the central portion of the Baja California peninsula. Although dates of these primitive rock and cave paintings are often disputed, recent carbon dating suggests they may extend back as far as 7,500 years.
7,090 – Height in feet of El Picacho in the Sierra de La Laguna
Mountains descend into desert, and the desert falls into the sea…to the East in the Sea of Cortez, and to the West in the Pacific Ocean. All of this majesty is visible…and more…from El Picacho (not to be confused with Picacho del Diablo in the north), the highest peak (7,090) in the Sierra de la Laguna, the mountain range that runs like a spine up the center of Baja California Sur.
1974 – Year Baja California Sur became a state
The Baja California peninsula has been primitive and isolated for much of its existence. In fact, the major indigeous groups were among the most primitive anywhere in North America when they were first encountered by the Spaniards during the 16th century: the men went naked, they built no permanent structures, and they practised no agriculture. The peninsula was further decimated when former Jesuit missions were picked virtually bare to help found Franciscan missions in Alta California. Fittingly then, given its hardscrabble history, Baja California Sur was the last of Mexico’s 31 states, achieving statehood just over 40 years ago, on October 8, 1974.
1943 – Year Teatro-Cine General Manuel Marquez de Leon opened in Todos Santos
This vintage theater across from the plaza principal in Todos Santos – the peninsula’s southernmost Pueblo Magico – is named for a military hero who helped thwart an attempted U.S. annexation of Baja during the Mexican-American War, and opened when WWII was still raging in Europe. Not only is the theater now an immaculately restored local landmark, it’s the primary cinematic venue used during the town’s annual film festival.
1734 – Martyrdom of Jesuit missionaries starts the Rebellion of the Pericues
The beginning of the end of the Jesuit period in California occurred when two missionaries – Lorenzo Carranco in Santiago, and Nicolas Tamaral in San Jose del Cabo – were killed by rebellious Pericues, the first inhabitants of the southernmost part of the peninsula. The Pericues were probably not indigenous, the theory held by some contemporary archaeologists is that they came from Melanesia on rafts sometime over 10,000 years ago, but they were the most belligerent of the native populations during the Spanish colonial period. The killings of Carranco and Tamaral led to the so-called Rebellion of the Pericues, which lasted from 1734 – 1737. The Pericues were culturally extinct by the end of that century.
1697 – Year of the first permanent settlement in California
Baja was the first California, and from its first permanent settlement in 1697 until 1777 the capital of the Californias was at Loreto in modern day Baja California Sur. The mission at Loreto was the beachhead for 70 years of Jesuit efforts on the peninsula, the project ending only when they were expelled due to court intrigues in 1768. Counting San Bruno, the first true mission founded during the ill-fated 1683 expedition led by Admiral Isidro de Atondo y Antillón , the Jesuits built 18 missions in total. Although Franciscans and Dominicans followed in their footsteps, they did so with decidedly less power and potential converts, thanks to decimated indigenous populations.
1535 – Year Hernan Cortes landed in La Paz
May 3, 2016 marks the 481th anniversary of the birth of Baja Sur’s capital city, an event celebrated annually during the Fiestas de Fundacion in La Paz with an reenactment of the coming of Hernan Cortes and the Spaniards in 1535. The multi day foundation festival also serves as a showcase for local art, culture and cuisine, with activities and concerts centered around the malecon and Plaza Constitucion (also known as Jardin Velasco), the central plaza located across from the old church.
1213 – Weight in pounds of the largest blue marlin caught off Cabo San Lucas
In 2011, angler Richard Biehl of Traverse City, Michigan, and the crew of the 31’ fishing boat Go Deep spent 28 hours fighting – and landing – an enormous blue marlin estimated at 1,213 pounds (the fish was so large it was impossible to fit on the scale, and was weighed with a formula that measured length and girth). Although no official records are kept, it is thought by many to be the largest blue marlin ever caught off Cabo San Lucas, besting an 1,111 pounder reeled in during the 1980s.
875 – Number of fish species in the Sea of Cortez
Famously dubbed “The World’s Aquarium” by the late, great Jacques Cousteau, the Sea of Cortez (AKA the Gulf of Califorina, and, during the Spanish colonial period, the Vermilion Sea) is home to an astonishing amoung of marine diversity: at last count, over 875 species of fish, 3,000 types of invertebrates, 170 species of sea birds, and 32 different aquatic mammals. Sanctuaries off Cabo Pulmo and in the Loreto Bay National Marine Park shelter the greatest density of underwater life
320 – Average number of days of sunshine per year in Los Cabos
This number is often trotted out by local tourism promoters, to the point where it seems rain and cold weather are unknown entities in cape cities Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. They’re known; they’re just damned uncommon. January evenings sometimes drop as low as the 50s Fahrenheit, but daytime temperatures hover above 70 – beach weather – even on the coldest days of the year. The storm season is largely confined to August and September, when weather and water temperatures are at their highest.
18 – 24 – Tyical Winter wind speeds in knots at Los Barriles and La Ventana
Each year, from November to March, powerful El Norte winds blow down the Sea of Cortez, creating world-class windsurfing and kiteboarding conditions off East Cape towns like Los Barriles and La Ventana. Resorts like Captain Kirk’s in La Ventana cater to seasonal big-air riders, but to catch a glimpse of windsports royalty, visit Los Barriles in January, when the charming coastal community hosts the ultimate kiteboarding competition: the Lord of the Wind Showdown, AKA the IKA North American Kitefoil Championship.
14 – Number of golf courses in Los Cabos
Putting an accurate number on golf courses is tricky, since new projects are constantly in the pipeline. But as of this moment, there are 14 operating: nearly all of them first-class, and all built since the late 1980s. Legendary champion Jack Nicklaus has designed almost half of them (six in all), including the breathtaking Ocean Course at Cabo del Sol, one of three Los Cabos courses currently rated among the 100 best in the world. Other notable design names include Greg Norman, Tiger Woods and Davis Love III.
8 – Fingers of hard coral reef at Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park
Windsports aren’t the only attraction on the rugged and beautiful East Cape. The national marine sanctuary and UNESCO world heritage site at Cabo Pulmo not only boasts the highest concentration of fish in the Sea of Cortez, but one of the oldest and largest living reefs in North America, with eight fingers of hard coral. Translation: spectacular snorkeling and diving. Spend your nights at an eco-bungalow on the beach, and your days in an undersea fantasia.
2 – Length in miles of Medano Beach in Cabo San Lucas
You don’t have to be a Spring Breaker to appreciate Playa El Medano. The two mile stretch of golden sand is the center of the social scene in Cabo San Lucas, and is ringed by many of the city’s best restaurants and resorts. Baja Cantina Beach Club and The Office on the Beach each showcase weekly Fiestas Mexicanas with fireworks and folkloric dancing, while Mango Deck is patrolled by a Pancho Villa look-alike named Big Johnson, who carries tequila bottles in holsters, and shot glasses in crisscrossed bandoliers. Safe swimming is available in the placid bay, and high-flying activities options like flyboarding and parasailing are also offered.
1 – Highway that runs the length of the peninsula
Completed in 1973, the Carretara Transpeninsular, or Highway 1, runs the length of the Baja California peninsula, covering over 1000 miles from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas. Looking for road trip adventures in Baja Sur? Stay on Highway 1. You’ll wind your way through many of the state’s most popular destinations – from Guerrero Negro, Mulege and Loreto to La Paz and San Jose del Cabo – before finally finishing at kilometer marker 1, near Land’s End and the southernmost point of the peninsula.
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