Like many cruisers, our northern most stop in the Sea of Cortez was the town of Santa Rosalia which has a relatively large population of approximately 15,000 residents. Santa Rosalia is a popular port of call and often the point from which cruisers jump across the Sea to the mainland side. We had no plans to cross to the mainland, but had heard so many positive comments about Santa Rosalia, we decided to check it out.
Old area of Santa Rosalia and TTR at the marina in the background.
According to San Diego History Center 1988 Institute of History, Santa Rosalia’s beginnings can be traced to a rancher by the name of Jose Rosas who, in 1868, discovered some “strange green pellets” in the area and sent them to Guaymas, on the mainland, to be analyzed. Response to the pellets was very quick and two German men, G. Blumhardt and Julio Müller, paid Rosas 16 pesos to show them where the pellets were found. Blumhardt and Müller immediately began prospecting the area.
In a couple of years, two men by the name of Guillermo Eisenmann and Eustaquio Valle had managed to buy out smaller prospectors who had been working the area near Jose Rosas’s find since 1870. Eisenmann and Valle started a copper mining company called El Boleo, which is Spanish for copper-bearing pellets.
Boys of all ages love trains, even old trains.
Eisenmann and Valle brought one hundred Yaqui Indians from the prison of Guaymas as the first laborers to dig the mines. In time, many more Yaquis were brought to live in barracks and they continued to be an important labor force in Santa Rosalia. By 1884, El Boleo was a well established mining company with 11 mines and a significant network of tunnels.
I’m not sure why an overhead sidewalk was needed. But it is unique.
El Boleo is usually credited with the founding of Santa Rosalia, but in May of 1885, a French company bought El Boleo from Eisenmann and Valle. It is the French influence from the Compagnie du Boleo still visible in the buildings of Santa Rosalia that give this town its unique flavor.
Not the usual architecture of the Baja California Sur.
The French influence in Santa Rosalia was most often mentioned by cruisers who told us about Santa Rosalia and indeed, the building architecture is unique among the Baja Peninsula anchorages where we stopped.
Today there is a mining museum which overlooks some very decrepit remnants of the mining buildings along the waterfront. The buildings are interesting because they allow one to have a feeling for how large the operations was; but they look like they could fall apart any day.
These old mining buildings have seen better days.
Iglesia de Bárbara designed by G. Eiffel.
Another attraction in Santa Rosalia is the Iglesia de Bárbara. Supposedly the French architect Gustave Eiffel designed this church and won an award at the 1889 Exposition Universelle. The church is made of stamped squares of steel and was dismantled after the Exposition to be transported to Africa.
The interior of Iglesia de Bárbara is bright, clean and fairly simple.
However, the director of Compagnie du Boleo found it disassembled in Belgium, so he bought the church and had it shipped to Santa Rosalia, where it was reassembled in 1897. Some slight modifications have been made to Iglesia de Bárbara, but it is still in excellent condition.
Something about this grabbed my eye.
Although we found the buildings and history of Santa Rosalia interesting and colorful, what we truly enjoyed about this town was the lack of tourism and the friendliness of the people. Santa Rosalia is what I would consider a working or average town, sort of an “Everyman’s” town. We really enjoyed ambling along the streets and being part of the regular, day to day scene.
A typical street in the older part of Santa Rosalia.
Aannnddd, I have to admit, we spent a fair number of days tasting a variety of taco places!
Our first stop with Laura and Don of s/v Intuition. This one was good but….
This was our favorite taco spot in Santa Rosalia.
Our favorite spot, Super Taco, was a small, very casual place right on the street and popular with the locals. For $5 US, the two of us enjoyed lunch here more than once!
Super Taco is clean inside with maybe five small, round,f plastic picnic tables.
Gotta love a good tortillaria!
After eating so many tacos, we stopped at a tortilleria to buy our own fresh flour tortillas. They were excellent! And allowed us to have a taste of Santa Rosalia after we sailed away.
Religion is a major influence and visible all along the Baja. Churches and crosses are numerous. Along sidewalks and on highways there are grottos. Even in bars and restaurants there are pictures of the Virgin Mary or Jesus. Our Lady of Guadeloupe is especially popular. Often the highest hill in town has a cross boldly proclaiming the importance of God here.
Our path up to the graveyard.
Santa Rosalia was no different. We hiked up the hill to the cross, to see the graveyard and the view. Okay, maybe we also needed to walk off some tacos!
The view and the breeze were worth the walk.
Another God-centered view from up on the hill.
Santa Rosalia is the only place we have seen wood siding on the majority of the buildings rather than the more typical stones or stucco. The wood certainly allows owners to express their love for bright colors!
The paint is accentuated by the muted color of the land in the background.
All together we spent about a week in Santa Rosalia. We never really ventured into the newer parts but instead stayed in the area close to the marina where the original town developed. We definitely enjoyed being there and hope to visit again next year. If you like visiting towns away from tourism, do visit Santa Rosalia. And be sure to stop by Super Taco – we think you’ll like it!
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