Scented Soil

Dr. José Martín Olmos Ceseña

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The Oases of Baja California South

The desolate tenderness of the desert located between the unique Gulf of California, or Sea of Cortez, and the majestic Pacific Ocean, the largest, oldest and deepest ocean on earth, is literally burrowed with oases. This is a lengthy and distant land where a national or international adventurer will marvel at the pleasures of this scented soil. Fernando Jordan once said, “The other Mexico … the imaginary kingdom … the kingdom of Oasis.”

“In Baja California Sur, the land is not bad; the sky is the ungrateful,” Fernando Jordan also wrote, referring to how rarely it rains in this emaciated arm in this country. The phrase, coined more than sixty years ago, is still remembered as a desert song by hundreds or perhaps thousands of Sudcalifornianos.

It says everything there is to say about the land blessed with waters that rise to the surface through cracks, including the San Ignacio oasis, Mulege oasis and the beautiful oasis that runs through the towns of San Isidro and la Purisima, to name but a few.

The traditional definition of an oasis is a green area with water located in a desert. It is a fertile habitat for plants and animals, a place of abundance. An oasis is a haven, a pleasant place, in contrast to the surrounding area. It is a retreat that offers quiet and solitude. At the same time, it satisfies our basic needs as a source of food and water. Oases have played an important role in the development of communities. They have been described as heaven on earth and food for the soul.

The Oasis of San Ignacio is famous for the impressive Mission of San Ignacio de Loyola, built by the Jesuits in the early eighteenth century and located off the central town square. A few yards away is a small museum that showcases a replica of part of the largest cave paintings in the area. The beautiful Oasis of San Ignacio is surrounded by date palms. It is a charming place to rest, play, exercise and reflect on life.

The San Ignacio River called Oasis too touches the entire population. The shores are lined with palm and date trees that produce an enormous amount every year. It is a peaceful oasis where you can camp, canoe the calm waters, or simply enjoy a wonderful day.

The orchards abound with figs, grapes, citrus and mangoes. However, the signature product that has made the area famous since ancient times is the date. The trees are irrigated by the oasis that runs northwest to southeast before disappearing into the desert sand after a little more than a mile.

La Purisima and San Isidro are located approximately 90 miles north of Ciudad Constitution. The picturesque and hospitable towns are close to each other and share a fascinating landscape along a beautiful water source, with palms and other leafy trees. It was here, in 1717, that Jesuit Father Nicholas Tamaral founded the Mission of the Purisima Concepcion of Maria Cadegomo. In 1718, Father Paluo referred to the benefits of the missions and the oasis as “a beautiful site and a happy heaven.”

The towns are surrounded by low hills that have been eroded over time. At the crest of one hill is the symbolic figure of Cerro El Pilon, the subject of discord among the populations. At a height of more than 1,300 feet, (a very real challenge for potential climbers), the hill represented the image of the Virgin Mary for the Jesuits in the eighteenth century.

They interpreted the natural figure as a divine message instructing them to establish a mission here. If you ask the people of La Purisima or San Isidro where the Cerro El Pilon is located, they will answer according to where they live.

Mulege is another desert oasis. In addition to many leisure opportunities, there are historical relics to visit, including tours to the cave paintings of La Trinidad and San Borjitas, located near the village.

For historical significance, we can point out that the site was discovered on a journey of exploration led by the Jesuit Father Juan Maria de Salvatierra in 1702. The following year, when the Jesuits Francisco Maria Piccolo and Juan Maria Basaldu arrived at the site, the mission called Santa Rosalia of Mulege was founded. It sits atop a hill near an expansive grove of palms.

Another major attraction of this oasis is the prison with no doors. Today, the historic building is a regional museum and well worth visiting to uncover some of the mysteries of the town. On the other hand, this beautiful oasis provides an opportunity to visit the beaches of Santispac, Requeson, Concepcion, the Cocos, the Burro and the Coyote, located a few miles from downtown Mulege.

The Oases of Baja California Sur is a journey that introduces the adventurer to the history, evolution and the incredible flora and fauna of each location, in addition to highlighting the social and economic aspects of the inhabitants of these unique villages surrounded by stunning views of palm and date trees. It is cultural scenery with a characteristic natural beauty that is preserved by the ranchers of Baja California Sur.

When traveling through this part of the peninsula, the journey can be enriched with whale watching, visiting an area with rock paintings or embarking on a photo safari along the route of the Jesuit missions.

Sudcalifornia, scented soil, oasis soil, is a wonderful destination where the desolate tenderness of the desert incredibly touches every human sense and rewards the adventurous with a discovery of magic and reality that continues to survive.

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