Well, if not Moctezuma, exactly, at least a 1535 visit by Hernan Cortez.
I stepped out of the Aeromexico plane from Mexico City into brilliant sunshine, bright skies and blue Pacific waters of southern Baja California. Warm, gentle breezes (sorry, my benighted friends in Texas who are freezing their bunnies off), rustling palm fronds along the curving bay-front Malecon. The wide, comfortable concrete walkway along the open bay front hosts tourists and locals who stroll past dozens of hotels, bars, restaurants of every conceivable form of cuisine. Key West times ten, or maybe Rio de Janeiro.
A chatty cab driver drove me in from the airport (there is no better tour guide than a knowledgeable cabbie), who told me that this is a booming town with a 480 year history started originally by Hernán Cortéz. Even the current queen of Spain has visited since the pearls in her crown originated here, although the cabbie says the oysters have died off and produce no pearls any more. Sad!
According to Wikipedia, that great fount of all wisdom, La Paz, Baja California was discovered by a Spaniard, Fortun Ximenez, who entered the bay in his ship the Concepcion in 1533. And I quote: “He and twenty-two of his crew were killed by the native population. On May 3, 1535, Hernán Cortés arrived in the bay by La Paz and named it “Santa Cruz”; he attempted to start a colony but abandoned his efforts after several years due to logistical problems. In 1596 Sebastián Vizcaíno arrived, giving the area its modern name, La Paz.” The Spanish have been here ever since, except for a short attempt in 1854 by William Wallace, an American freebooter, to establish a South American republic. I suspect the local natives ate him too.
Back in the days before NAFTA, this was a center for the sale of American goods. There was a brisk trade in all sorts of US goodies that were brought down by the Gringos, bought up by Mexican and carried inland. Now, of course, that has all dried up, but the tourists still clog the Malecon and fill the restaurants and bars.
I was welcomed with smiles and a wonderful, refreshing green drink at the Posada de las Flores. They even had a framed sign on the bureau top for the Srs. Castillo. A fun and fascinating shift in culture. I write my name Carolina Castillo Crimm. In the US, Crimm is the operative word for a last name. Here in Mexico, however, that last name is considered my mother’s name and Castillo is seen as my proper patronymic, which, in actuality, it is!
I did go up the coast to see the magnificent condos, hotels, resorts, spas and restaurants built around the bay farther up called Costa Baja. It has changed it’s name, according to the Cabbie, to avoid government taxes. Each new resort is given a tax break to encourage its growth. So, by changing names, presto, no taxes for, I’m guessing, another ten years.
The place is a ghost town. Four or five story architecturally lovely, curving, twisting towers cover every hill and gully, with no one there. Even a miniature golf course built laboriously around a miniscule lake. It seems that people from all over come and buy condos but only visit occasionally. The tiny yacht basin is chock-a-block full of every conceivable kind of yacht, most, it seems, just gathering whatever algae grows on boat bottoms and has to be scraped off yearly. There must be a booming business in hauling boats and cleaning hulls! I will ask Terry, the owner of a yacht rental company with whom I am having lunch today.
Back at the Malecon, even on a Tuesday night, there is traffic and people everywhere. The quiet, enclosed patio of the Posada outside the windows of my room has cacti and palms and rock gardens. This is, after all, a desert climate, but wonders of water have made it come alive. That and a lot of tequila in the nearby bars.
So, I am off to explore today and will report back on the wonders of La Paz. Would that I could take pictures but Samsung, in its infinitely stupid wisdom, has put some sort of security on my phone that can’t be opened if, God forbid, you forget your password. Of course, I put my password into my phone, which now I can’t access. So other people’s pictures will just have to do!
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