History of La Ventana

Part 2 — The First Settlers

Salomé’s caravan made its way over the dusty trail from La Paz to the palm grove on the Bahia de La Ventana, stopping to camp one night in the mountains. Salomé later commented that he was so weary by the journey’s end that even the hat on his head was too much weight to bear.

Salomé and his sons scoured the surrounding desert for palo de arco and downed cardón trunks to build a shelter. They chose a construction site under a stand of palm trees on the north side of the palmar overlooking the bay and Isla Cerralvo. They used the cardón for the corner posts and roof beams, wove the palo-de-arco walls and plastered them with mud. Then they attached layers of palm fronds to the roof and left the dirt floor bare. This type of shelter, called a  jacal, was standard in many rural communities of Mexico in those times.

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Salomé León and the Founding of La Ventana

For a century and a half, pearl divers repeatedly overfished and abandoned the pearl grounds along the east coast of Baja California. The pearl beds replenished themselves in a few decades before being overfished again. In 1697, when Charles the II learned that license holders spent more time gathering pearls than mapping and searching for settlement sites as the permit required, he rescinded those licenses. When the Jesuits took over administering economic activity on the peninsula, they prohibited pearl collecting for mission workers; others could get permission as long as they paid the Spanish Crown his quinto de perlas, one-fifth of the pearls they found. The Jesuits also suggested payment for themselves of one-tenth.

A century after Spain expelled the Jesuits from Baja, the pearling industry in La Paz took off. Armadores (fishing fleet owners) hired mostly Yaqui Indians from Sonora to dive for pearls. Some Yaqui Indians could dive to 20 fathoms, 120 feet, equipped only with a loincloth, knife, and catch-bag. But deaths from a variety of hazards were high.

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Early Explorers of La Ventana Bay

Pericu Indians

Time: 5,000 years ago. Location: Bufadora and Choco Lake area of present-day Bay of La Ventana. At dawn’s first light, the men started searching for shellfish in the shallows along the shore in front of the shell-midden dunes left by their ancestors. The women finished gathering acorns from the woodland where they had camped for the past moon.  While they prepared the oak seeds for soaking to remove their bitter taste, they discussed moving camp to the base of the mountains where pitaya was ready to harvest.

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El Sargento’s First Settlers — Part 3

A Fisherman’s Life

Guillermo

The mountain range just south of San Juan de Los Planes is called the Sierra la Gata. A century ago, there was a narrow trail that went over the mountains and connected Los Planes to Boca de Alamo, a tiny fishing village on the Sea of Cortez. (Today that trail is a narrow road, often with washouts that make it impassable by auto.) Manuel Avilés Geraldo traveled by burro over the trail from Los Planes to trade or sell cheese and vegetables to the residents of Boca de Alamo and La Reforma, the beautiful hacienda three miles west of Boca de Alamo near some impressive ancient rock art. At La Reforma, he met Señorita Adelia Lucero. Señor Avilés sometimes paddled a canoe across the Bahía de Los Muertos and walked up to La Reforma to court her. After they married, he brought his wife and mother-in-law to the home he had built in Los Planes [1], a Mexican shack called a jacal that had a palm-thatch roof, mud-plastered palo-de-arco walls, and dirt floor. Señor Avilés cared for cattle at Punta Perico and toiled in the mines at Las Canoas to support a growing family. Guillermo Avilés Lucero, the youngest of the family’s five siblings, was born in July 1947—a month after his father had died.[2]  

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El Sargento’s First Settlers — Part 2

 Pottery

[This story about the family of Señor Jose María Lucero Romero was constructed from interviews with his son Esteban Lucero (2012) and has been edited for length and clarity.]

Doña Sostenes Castañada grew up in Vinorama, a handful of small ranchos tucked away between mountain ridges a few miles north of El Triunfo. She learned how to make earthenware from a potter who lived nearby, and her mother taught her to use herbs and her strong hands to ease the suffering caused by illness and injury. Her faith provided the confidence to use her knowledge to restore the health of family members and neighbors. She became a skilled midwife, preparing herbal teas to stimulate a pregnant women’s contractions and massaging her belly to position the fetus for a safe birth. She delivered many of the babies in nearby mountain ranchos, and later, in El Sargento and La Ventana.

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El Sargento’s First Settlers — Part 1

Introduction

The pueblo of El Sargento in Baja California Sur overlooks the Bay of La Ventana and Isla Cerralvo, the rugged, uninhabited island seven miles offshore. In 1998, the quiet fishing village had a population of around 800.[i] A dozen foreigners had built homes close to the beach below the washboard road going north from town. They bought their groceries from Armida at the one-room market in her mother’s house across from the church plaza.  You could have a delicious Mexican meal at Tacos Leon for as little as two dollars. The place was so popular, people often had to wait outside for the “second sitting.”

Ten concrete-block homes lined the narrow dirt road that winds through the pueblo. Mexican families enjoyed sitting outdoors on their verandas, eating dinner, visiting with neighbors, and watching children play in the street. When the newcomers drove by, out of common courtesy they slowed to a crawl to avoid causing an injury or leaving residents choking on clouds of dust. A few recent visitors, however, seem to be in such a big hurry that they forget they are guests in another country. They careen through the zigzag as though competing in the Baja 1000. They must be going someplace more important than respect for La Gente, the Mexican people who live and work here.

The campground at the pueblo’s sister village 5 km to the south, La Ventana, was a winter haven for a few hundred windsurfers. That was about to change. La Ventana’s first kiteboarder hit the water in 1998 with a two-line kite and a broken seven-foot surfboard he had glued back together. The combination was a sight foreign to most people that day, but it changed the bay forever. That was my son, Bruce. Soon there would be more kites in the sky than sails on the water.

The two villages provided only essential services for visitors. If you needed gas for a trip to La Paz to fill up, go shopping, or check email at an internet cafe, you stopped by Juan Ramon’s hardware. Juan or Alejandro Rieke pumped a few gallons of gasoline from a barrel to get you there. And if you spoke some Spanish, they had some interesting stories to share.

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Doña María Rieke Verdugo, Ángel de Rancho Las Canoas [1]


During the late 1800s, several German immigrants to Mexico came to Baja California to seek their fortune; Doña María Rieke’s grandfather, Eduard Rieke, was one of them. Adopting the Spanish name Eduardo, he arrived in La Paz in the late 1800s and made his way to El Triunfo to look for work. He met Fructosa Avilés in San Antonio, and they fell in love. She was married and had a son but left her husband for Eduardo.

Eduardo learned about a Piedra Inscrita, Inscribed Rock, in the Las Canoas Arroyo above the Bay of La Ventana [2,3]. The rock held a clue to the location of a vein of gold discovered by Pericue Indians, which came to be known as La Tapada, The Covered [Mine].  Eduardo came to Las Canoas to search for La Tapada.

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A Brief History of the Founding of La Ventana (II)

Introduction

In Part 1 (see Part 1 here),  Cortés landed on Cerralvo, and named the island Santiago. Vizcaino tried to found a settlement here. Now, a century later, we meet Francisco de Ortega who visited our bay three times. Evidence suggests he landed here, befriended the Indians, and reported on their customs. An ingenious and politically astute person, he carried a new machine to aid in the search for pearls. Ortega and crew were marooned when their ship broke to pieces on the rocks north of Punta Gorda.

Part 2 —   The Voyages of Francisco de Ortega to La Ventana Bay  1632-1636

Kcuhc and Ykceb left camp at dawn. They had work to do on a trail to Cerro del Puerto (Pericú sacred mountain west of El Sargento). They hiked up a narrow arroyo past red-billed colibrís  (hummingbirds) feeding on the blossoms of a plant hanging from the arroyo’s south wall. On the opposite side, abejas (bees) worked on honeycomb inside a rock alcove.

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A Brief History of the Founding of La Ventana (I)

Part 1 —  Early Visitors to La Ventana Bay

Time: 10,000 years BCE.     Location:  The bluffs above the shores of present day La Ventana and El Sargento.     Sea Level: 300 feet lower than the present.     At dawn’s first light, the men followed a  well-worn path east through grasslands to fish and gather sea food from the shore.  They arrived at sunrise, and two youths floated rafts a short distance to the island to hunt for seals and turtles.  The women finished gathering the last of the acorns from the live oak woodland where they had camped for the past moon.  While they crushed them between metate and mano, they discussed moving camp  to the base of the mountains where  pitahaya were ready to harvest. Continue reading “A Brief History of the Founding of La Ventana (I)”