I rolled into town with the usual on my mind ~ a tank full of caca in need of dumping, another tank in need of filling, a body in need of a shower, and sheets in need of a cleaning. It is amazing how filthy one woman with dirty feet and a dog who loves to swim can be. I left town with food on the brain. It might have been the Super Ley’s SuperMercado, the big, beautiful new supermarket in town, stocked to the gills with anything you might desire. It could have been the bakery, Panaderia El Boleo, established 1901, which baked fresh French-style baguettes every day. Maybe the scent of fresh baked bread alongside homemade tortillas was more than my olfactory senses could bear. It could have been the delicious cappuccino I savored when I first arrived. But I’m pretty sure it was the $3.00 lobster taco at the corner taco stand. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That is how often I could have eaten those scrumptious delicacies!
In addition to the food, Santa Rosalia is a really interesting town. There is copper in them hills, and the entire town grew up around the copper mine. They discovered the copper in 1868, and by 1885 the French Mining Company, El Boleo, bought the mineral rights to the area for 99 years. The company brought in thousands of workers from Sonora, China,and Japan to build more than 375 miles of tunnels, a copper-smelting foundry, a pier, and an 18-mile mine railway. The mine was sold back to the Mexican government in 1954 and it closed down completely in 1985. Since 1985, the Canadians have bought and sold the mining rights, working the mines for only a short while. They partnered with the Koreans and when it became obvious to the Canadians that the mine was nothing but a money pit, they sold their interests. The Koreans currently maintain the rights to the mines and are hoping to recoup their investment. It doesn’t seem like a likely outcome.
Beyond the relics of Santa Rosalía’s mining days, old locomotives, mining equipment and buildings, and random stretches of railway tracks with mine cars, the town has the most unusual architecture in all of Baja. After the copper was smelted, it was shipped to Tacoma Washington for refining. Instead of sending empty ships back to Mexico, they loaded them with NW timber. The timber was then turned into houses and buildings of French colonial-style architecture. They boast wrap-around verandas with picket fences and pitched roofs. It is very unusual to see structures built of anything but cement block and stucco down here, but more unusual still is the French influence.
The Iglesia Santa Bárbara is the other incredibly unique feature of Santa Rosalía. The church was designed and built by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower, Panama Locks, and Statue of Liberty Fame. It was designed as a prefabricated, iron-walled church, a prototype for missionary churches that would withstand tropical climates. He exhibited it at the 1889 Paris World Exposition, along with the Eiffel Tower. It lingered in a Brussels warehouse until 1897 when a Compañía El Boleo official discovered it, had it shipped to Santa Rosalía, and reassembled.
One last interesting rumour, which I have not substantiated, is that Santa Rosalía is the Gay Capital of Baja. I did not see much evidence of that, but Baja, Mexico is a very understated region in a very Catholic country.