Have a Baja Moment! Discover Santa Rosalia and its Gaelic Roots.
by Tom Gatch
By the time that a humble rancher named Jose Rosas began noticing oddly round, green mineral deposits showing up in his soil back in 1868, the future of Santa Rosalia on the Cortez coast of Baja Sur had already been forged. After the small pellets were later analyzed on the Mexico mainland and determined to be copper, it was not long before foreign interests moved in and formally began excavating in 1870. By 1884 over 42,000 tons of copper and more than 6,000 ounces of gold had been produced from the town.
By 1885, the architecture of Santa Rosalia then began taking on a distinctly Gaelic influence after a French company named El Boleo acquired rights to set up a large mining facility in exchange for building the town as well as an adjacent harbor and ferry system for transporting workers in from Guaymas, just across the Gulf of California on the Mexican mainland.
Touring the town today, visitors often get the sensation of being in another time and space. The small wooden houses festooned with porches and balconies, the Hotel Frances, the Municipal Palace and the popular Morelos Garden, where you can find one of the locomotives shipped over from Europe in 1886, all harken back to a less complicated era.
While it may be true that Santa Rosalia lacks the long, beautiful beaches and upscale resorts that are so common in many of Baja’s other tourist destinations, it definitely offers a more sedate and relaxingly pleasant venue that is quite unlike any other region in the Republic Mexico. One of the most stunning examples is the French architecture of the quaint church designed by Monsieur Eiffel, whose world famous tower is situated on the Champ de Mars in Paris.
Just south of Santa Rosalia lies the naturally protected San Lucas cove and nearby Isla San Marcos, just across Craig Channel. The inshore waters harbor pinto bass, cabrilla and leopard grouper, while the channel allows access to seasonally exceptional fishing for yellowtail, white sea bass, dorado, yellowfin and skipjack tuna as well as the ceviche friendly sierra.
Fishing around the island can also be very productive, especially near deep pinnacles and holes where big grouper and snapper wait within rocky liars to ambush their prey and play havoc with the terminal tackle of the anglers who pursue them.
Although Santa Rosalia’s nightlife and social culture can quite subdued most of the year, the town still puts on a great Carnaval celebration in the middle of February, their annual Fiesta de Santa Rosalía in early September in honor of their patron saint and a festive Founder’s Day celebration that takes place in mid-October. And, while you should certainly be aware that the weather here can often be extremely hot between June and October, you should always bear in mind that the nearby waterfront malecón offers an excellent venue to catch a cooling afternoon breeze with a frosty margarita in hand.
Although there are some nice hotels in Santa Rosalia, like Hotel El Morro, visitors might also think about staying in nearby Loreto to the south, or San Ignacio to the west. And a word to the hungry–Santa Rosalia boasts famous pastries and one of Baja’s top rotisserie chicken restaurants (on the right side of the street after you turn into town). Buen Provecho!
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