Saturday, July 20, 2013

Santa Rosalia

And I thought the sidewalks of La Paz were interesting!

Santa Rosalia is a working class town with a population of a little more than 10,000 people and a very interesting history. Copper was discovered here in the late 1860’s and the French developed a large mining operation. That French influence can still be seen in the architecture including a church designed by Gustav Eiffel, the names of some of the businesses, and the so-called French bakery, Panderia El Boleo, famous since the early 1900’s for their French baguettes. At the same time, Santa Rosalia is the most purely Mexican of the cities we have seen in Baja. There is almost no tourism, no ex-pat community, and we never heard English spoken beyond the small marina. 
Church in Santa Rosalia designed by Gustav Eiffel

There is ferry service for pedestrians and a few vehicles between here and the mainland. The ferry terminal is just behind where our boat is moored. The docking operation is interesting and I took several photos. After traveling overnight across the Sea of Cortez, passengers are greeted by several well-armed military personnel and a drug sniffing dog. 
An hour or two after I took this photo of tractor/trailer rig driving off the ferry, we walked by the terminal and saw dozens of military men as well as local, state and federal police, armed with automatic rifles and wearing bullet proof vests unloading the truck. There were also a few pick-up trucks with machine guns mounted in the back. The truck they were unloading looked like it was full of scrap metal. We saw a lot of copper pipe and a jumble of junk. A little later I walked by again and saw that the soldiers and police were now tossing small bricks of something wrapped in what looked like aluminum foil. The process went on for hours and they amassed quite a pile of bricks. It was unnerving to spend the day so close to what was obviously a huge drug bust and I was relieved when they loaded everything into a large van, took their machine guns and drove away. I wondered why a drug smuggler would choose the ferry where he would obviously be caught and was told that the drug sniffing dog had only been in service here for a few days. It must have been quite a shock when he drove off the ferry and into the waiting arms of so much law enforcement.
We will leave Baja tomorrow at about 2 am and make the crossing to the mainland. We are planning a short trip home for supplies, boat parts, and a little respite from the heat. After that, who knows? I’ll keep you posted.

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