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Terra Peninsular: Seeing the Real Baja

Terra Peninsular: Seeing the Real Baja.  It is a concept.  It is a concept of sustainability and future.

by Martina Dobesh

All Photos ©Alan Harper

This image of Punta Banda is part of Alan Harper’s photo collection, ‘Terra Peninsular: Seeing the Real Baja’. ©Alan Harper

It is the concept behind an art gallery and community center, located in the heart of Ensenada, where visitors like me are invited to come to see the ‘Real Baja’.  The idea began with just a few like-minded souls in 2001 as a way to create public awareness for the need to preserve the remaining natural coastline of northern Baja, as well as to encourage the protection of the national forest corridors as important watershed regions. This mission statement to conserve and protect the natural ecosystems and wildlife of the Baja California Peninsula supports the vision that one day their efforts will change the present course of how the lands of Baja are used. With community awareness — and with private land owners coming together to reinforce the cause — the natural resources of the peninsula can be cared for and managed.

Terra Peninsular: Seeing the ‘Real Baja’ through the eyes of the Coast Horned Lizard. ©Alan Harper

How is that to be accomplished? It starts with just a few being aware of what has already been lost in development from Tijuana to San Quintín. These few crusaders are lighting a fire in others to face the need for change. Horacio Gonzales is one such visionary. He is involved with Terra Peninsular and now works with both private landowners and the general public. I met with him at the Gallery and was stunned by the beauty of Alan Harper’s photography that captures the light, the color and the feeling of the Baja landscape. Alan, also one of the founders, has been working with large format photography to capture the landscapes and the extraordinary biodiversity of Baja California. He points out, “Rapid development and serene beauty are found in close proximity.” He hopes that these photos will help the people of the region appreciate what they have, and what they will soon lose if no action is taken.  He has named the images ‘Real Baja’.

One of the areas in focus is the corridor that runs along the coastline of the agricultural valley of San Quintín. Some photos show the fields just a few feet from the bluff overlooking the Pacific, having just been tilled. What is easy to overlook is that in the tilling process, there is the loss of the rich mix of flora and fauna.  Also, with the loss of filtration provided by growth, there is the problem of the pesticide poison runoff entering the world of the Pacific marine life.

The “coastal disturbance” is well documented in a video brilliantly produced to show what has already been lost, and how significant this loss impacts us all.


The Dudleya cactus in one of the ‘Real Baja’ treasures that Terra Peninsular hopes to protect. ©Alan Harper

Horacio says that one factor that is helping address these issues is the public’s need for organic produce. This demand pressures farmers to give the public what will sell. Spokespeople from Terra Peninsular go out to talk directly to farmers and ranchers asking them to consider changing their current methods.

Land acquisition is very important to the vision. Horacio and others interface with landowners in the impacted areas, perhaps convincing a rancher that he could use his land in sustainable ways by inviting eco-friendly tourism such a hiking, fishing, camping (the proceeds of which would replace the money that might otherwise be at stake). If there is an opportunity to buy the land, Terra Peninsular’s task is to find the funding. In addition, another most recent option is to actually lease the lands — known as “Federal Zone” — from the Mexican government. The Federal Zone was created to protect ownership of the coastal waters of both Baja coastlines. Developers then “leased” the land to build permanent structures.  WildCoast activist  Serge Dedina first awakened to the idea of leasing federal land as a conservation program to protect from further development. Horacio is quick to clarify that he and the organization are not against development, as long as it is sustainable and sensitive to the natural ecosystems and wildlife.

Terra Peninsular:  Seeing the Real Baja

Where is Terra Peninsular:   It is on the main shopping street of Ensenada, Lopez Mateos, at the southern end and on the west side of the street.

Gallery hours:  Monday through Saturday (closed Sunday) from 9  .m. to 8 p.m.

What to expect:  Amazing photographs, workshops and exhibits representing local indigenous tribes and peoples.

Where to stay:  Terra Peninsular in centrally located near great Ensenada Hotels, like the San Nicolas, Posada El Rey Sol, Las Rosas, and more.

Martina Dobesh, is a freelance journalist writing for Baja Times and Baja News. She is the editor of her own online publication The Baja Sun . Other published works can be read on Martina is passionate about conservation and honoring the original people of the Baja peninsula. is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about localrestaurants,hotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at

About Martina Dobesh

Martina Dobesh, is a freelance journalist writing for Baja Times and Baja News. She is the editor of her own online publication The Baja Sun Other published works can be read on Martina is passionate about conservation and honoring the original people of the Baja peninsula.

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