THE GASTRONOMY OF COMUNDEÑA

José Soto Molina

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ORIGIN OF CULINARY TRADITIONS

The origin of dishes typically prepared during the 19th century came from missionaries and the first colonists. The cuisine was influenced by two separate geographic sources.

1) The towns of San Jose and San Miguel de Comondu, La Purisima-San Isidro, San Luis Gonzaga and the old orchards of the mountain area, as well as Loreto, the first capital of the Californias.

2) The cattle ranches that contained no cultivated areas.

The different types of liquids consumed are illustrative of the importance of water in the founding communities. San Javier and San Miguel de Comondu produced grapes to make missionary wine. Orange and chickpea wine were also produced in the mountain area, along with coffee beans. In times of scarcity, zaya and jojoba nuts were used as coffee substitutes. Damiana and jojoba leaves were the most common teas.

At the end of the 19th century, a community of Americans and Ecuadorians began commercial operations in Magdalena Bay. The companies Flores & Hale and Cobos & Monroy manufactured orchilla dye in large quantities and traded freely with neighboring ranchers. There is no information about the type of food consumed during this time but it likely included seafood that was abundant in the bay such as shark, marlin, tuna, sardines, crab, abalone, loggerhead turtles, octopus, lobster, molluscs and a variety of other fish. The companies also established several cattle ranches to ensure food for the workers. Maritime communications with San Diego and San Francisco suggests the companies were supplied with additional culinary ingredients.

At the turn of the 20th century, the region that included the plains of Magdalena underwent substantial changes. It began with the closure of the US naval base, the departure of Flores & Hale and the fishing concession awarded to Kondo Masaharu of Japan. In 1925, the Mexican government established a naval base in Puerto Cortes and, in 1933, 1,247,000 hectares were taken from the lawyer Delbert H. Haff for the purpose of colonization.

The community of natives on the cattle ranches of Margarita and Magda Islands were joined by the Navy and commercial fishing. From this era came the dishes of machaca de caguama, manta and shark; a now forbidden succulent loggerheard turtle dish; and, ceviches, aguachiles and stuffed fish, among others. With the expansion of colonization, the families of new settlements in Santo Domingo, La Purisima, Puerto Cortes and the port of Alcatraz greatly enriched the regional menus. Around the 1930s, in old Santo Domingo, a fruit orchard and a garden were established on some property owned by the Dominguez family. Santo Domingo combined the food of the orchard and garden with the sea, oases and the cattle ranches. For example, Chinese clams with rice, beans with chickpeas, manta ray machaca, shark, grouper and turtles, fish head soup, bone broth with zaya, a variety of beans, cactus fruit pastries, bread, pinole and chicken broth.

In 1942, a synarchist group arrived at what would be the Maria Auxiliadora neighborhood, near Santo Domingo. Peasants by origin, the workers tried different crops that they traded in La Paz and Puerto Cortes and sold on Margarita Island and in La Paz. The crops included watermelon, beans, squash, corn and other vegetables. In 1949, the colonization began of 400,000 hectares in the valley of Santo Domingo. After a national promotion announced by the governor of the territory, Agustin Olachea, approximately seventy-three agricultural colonies arrived in the valley from different states of the country.

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