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San Quintin Museum: An Interesting Stop on Highway 1

by Meghan Fitzpatrick

On August 27, 2011, the town of San Quintin, Baja California, opened its first-ever museum, “Museo de San Quintín, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo,” named for the famous Portuguese explorer who was the first to navigate the coast of what is now California.

The museum is dedicated not to Cabrillo, however, but to the memory of Don Luis Rodrigues Avina (1914-1992), who moved to the San Quintin Valley with his family from Michoacan, itself a major farming region. In 1952, he founded Pinos Produce, still owned and operated by his family, which now directs massive tomato and produce shipping from its main office near the Mexico border. The operation, which is commonly known as Rancho Los Pinos, manages approximately 5,000 acres of vegetable growing farmland and 85 acres of hothouses primarily in the San Quintin region. It has played a huge role in the growth of this agricultural hub.

Located approximately three hours south of Ensenada, the museum focuses on the rich history of the region – a history that is abundant with paleontological and archaeological heritage. San Quintin has been a magnet for palaeontologists for several decades now, ever since the discovery of large quantities of fossils, bones and ammonites in the area that are thought to have been extinct for hundreds of millions of years.

A fossilized mollusc

The museum has more than 550 documented items in its collection, including dinosaur bones, fossilized molluscs and invertebrates, mammoth bones, volcanic rocks, and tribal artefacts speaking of indigenous peoples in the area. Many of the fossils and remains found in the area date back to the Cretaceous era (more than 65 million years ago), in addition to remains from humans from almost a million years ago. Remains from hunters and gatherers from 700,000 years ago have been found in the area, as well.

In more recent history, it is known that Spain founded two missions in the San Quintin area, Our Lady of the Rosary Viñadaco and Santo Domingo de la Frontera. And the British, too, played an interesting role in San Quintin, even leaving as a legacy what is popularly referred to as the English Cemetary. All of this and more is recounted within the museum, which – since opening its doors — has already received over 8,000 visitors. Impressive for an agricultural town that derives most of its tourists from the highway!

The idea for the museum was originally presented to the Baja California Central National Institute of Anthropology and History by the agricultural group “Rodriguez-Hernandez.” This group also owns “The Old Mill” in San Quintin, a popular restaurant and motel for tourists and locals, and what was once the milling site for the British “Milling Company of San Quintin” in the 1800’s.

Estuary of the Bay of San Quintin, as seen from the patio of The Old Mill

The museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and admission is free. For more information about the museum, please visit their facebook page HERE.

How to get to San Quintin:  Highway 1, the Transpeninsular Highway that runs from the US border at Tijuana all the way down to the tip of Baja, passes directly through the city of San Quintin.  You will know you are approaching the town by the vast acres of tomato and strawberry farms that surround it.  It is approximately a 2.5-3 hour drive from Ensenada.

Where to go in San Quintin:   A visit to The Old Mill restaurant is a lovely way to pass time.  At the mouth of an estuary, this restaurant/hotel is an area landmark.  San Quintin beaches are famous wide and empty stretches of sand, often littered with sand dollars and crab shells (maybe the very kind of crabs served up at the Cielito Lindo restaurant, famous for its ‘dirty crab’ dish.)

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