As I am back in the states one of the many things I miss about Baja are the warm and welcoming people that live in this beautiful part of the world.
The Mexican population as a whole is generally young, with the majority of the people in the country under 40 years old. Economically most are not wealthy, and in some states they are actually quite poor. They are slowly evolving from a government system that was dominantly socialistic and lacking in opportunity for many years, and are currently working their way towards a more democratic society.
“No one could call either the few scattered inhabitants of Baja’s open country or those who inhabit La Paz, its southern metropolis, “affluent”. Here is an economy, not of abundance, but of desperate scarcity, where food and water are hard to come by and manufactured goods so scarce that “use up and make do” are not a philosophy but an inescapable necessity, and most things that cannot serve their original purpose any longer are made to serve some other.” – “Baja California and the Geography of Hope”, Joseph Krutch
In talking with some of the great folks in Baja, Mexico seems to be working hard to increase the educational opportunities for it’s young people. Schools are an increasingly important focus in most cities, and help to offer hope for the adults of tomorrow.
Most Mexicans are not dedicated to creating wealth at the expense of loosing an agreeable daily lifestyle, as is the case with some western cultures. Something my son found quite useful when he was down there with us a couple years ago was the concept of “Baja time” which could mean anything from ten minutes to ten hours. When you eat out in one of the restaurants the waiters are in no hurry to rush you off for the next customer and in fact will most likely not bring your check until you specifically ask for it (to bring it earlier is almost considered rude).
Community gatherings are large and frequent often resulting in music late into the night. They finesse the traditions of ‘siestas’ and ‘manana’ into a reasonable quest for the good life, and this system continues to work well for them (and one I thoroughly enjoy).
Recently Gerardo, co-owner of the La Damiana Inn and a good friend (mentioned in my last post) broke ground on a project that has been a dream of his for many years—building a teaching garden for the children of Loreto. Isla Verde (translated as “Green Island”) endeavors to teach local kids about conservation and recycling, about sustainable gardening in their desert climate, and about nutrition and diet. With support from the local schools and businesses, Gerardo and his all volunteer team at Isla Verde are dedicated to improving the lives of the children of Loreto, giving them life skills they can share with their families, improving their lives and the life within the local community. Loreto (and most of Baja itself) is remote, limiting the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables. This makes the ideals of Isla Verde all the more important.
Check out his go fund me page here to support this great effort
Baja continues to be the home of the Last of the Californios.
“No cowboy ever quit while his life was hardest and his duties were most exacting.” — J. Frank Dobie, A Vaquero of the Brush Country, 1929
The Californios culture still exists in the remote depths of Baja California. These are people whose roots reach back 300 years to the original missionary soldiers of California’s Spanish Frontier. They are descendants of the Soldados de Cuera, the soldiers who came from Mexico in the 18th century to work with the Jesuit missionaries to bring Christianity, farming, and ranching to the Western frontier. The 3,000 remaining members of this culture live on remote ranchos thriving in the harsh dry lands of Baja California. They’re a self-sufficient people of honor, dignity, humor hospitality and respect, who are true to their values and ranching traditions.
They have while keeping many of their traditions alive and untouched by the modern world. One of the stops on our trips up to San Javier is to visit one of these wonderful Vaqueros and learn of their way of life.
When we bring our groups down to Baja folks always notice how friendly and personable the local people are to tourists. Even though tourism is indeed a key element in the local economy, the friendly attitude of the people is more of a reflection of their genuine love of people and life in general. Walking down the street it is commonplace to say “Buenos dias” or Buenos noches” to all the folks that you pass on the street. I learned just enough Spanish to answer the frequent “hello how are you” in Spanish replying “good, and you?”.
And I must sound somewhat fluent as the speaker would often continue in rapid Spanish that unfortunately I would usually have no clue as to what they were saying! This would result in a happy chuckle from both of us and me learning at least one new Spanish word.
We should consider ourselves very lucky to have these fine people as neighbors and I certainly am lucky to count a number of them as friends.
“Mexico and the U.S. are bound not only because of the common border, but by a shared culture and history.” – Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador
Already looking forward to my next trip south hoping that it will be before the end of the year!