The road from El Marasal/Vizcaino/Villa Alberto Andres Alvarado Arámburo to Santa Rosalía on the Gulf Coast climbs up and down through the mountains, and accidents are common on the narrow and winding stretches. Many people drive recklessly, often going twice the speed limit and passing uphill or on dangerous curves where signs prohibit passing. It was no surprise that traffic slowed in two separate places to route around tractor trailers that had flipped over onto their sides.
A welcome stop breaking up the journey is the lush date palm oasis town of San Ignacio, where Jesuits founded a mission in 1728 near the Río San Ignacio. In 1786 Dominican missionaries completed the present church on the original mission site.
Continuing on, the sea came into view as we descended through the mountains, and the town of Santa Rosalía appeared. Rusty, hulking skeletons of old mining buildings line Highway 1 that hugs the coastline through town. The French mining firm Compagnie du Boleo founded Santa Rosalía in 1884 and operated copper mines in the area until 1954, although some mining still occurs in the area.
The ferry crossing the Gulf of California from Guaymas on Mexico’s mainland arrives in Santa Rosalía, making this a bigger, more transited town than Bahía de los Ángeles. In fact, the ferry must have just arrived because traffic was heavily congested in town, so we set off on foot to see some of the colorful wooden buildings characteristic of Santa Rosalía.
The French left their mark on the architecture of Santa Rosalía’s homes and commercial buildings. Wooden, plantation-style construction here looks very different from architectural styles elsewhere in Mexico — from Colonial and Renaissance to boxy or Baroque — but awash in the Mexican pastel color palette.
The town definitely had a decayed charm and great potential as one of Mexico’s Pueblos Mágicos — 111 towns declared by the country’s Tourism Secretariat as special places that receive funding to help preserve their charm as tourist destinations — if it underwent some rehabilitation.
Perhaps the town’s biggest architectural claim to fame, the Santa Barbara church, is not built out of wood but rather iron. Gustav Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame) designed the church in France in 1887. It was constructed and displayed in Paris along with the Eiffel Tower, then dismantled and shipped to Mexico for reassembly in Santa Rosalía in 1896.
We ended the day at the El Morro Hotel, perched on a cliff at the southern edge of town overlooking the Gulf of California. We relaxed on the patio by the pool overlooking the sea below us and watched the antics of turkey vultures roosting in the palm trees above us. This was a lovely place to stay away from the crowded and noisy downtown area. The next morning dawned clear and bright, perfect for moving onward to our next destination, Loreto, which is deservedly one of Mexico’s Pueblos Mágicos.