COMONDU: TRAVEL TO THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE

José Soto Molina

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For more than two centuries, the territory that today is occupied by the municipality of Comondú was very thinly populated. The old missionary towns such as Loreto, San Javier, San José and San Miguel de Comondu, La Purisima and San Luis Gonzaga contained the most people and mainly after the transfer of the capital in 1828.

During the 19th century, several attempts were made to populate old California, but with little success. While the mining and livestock centers of the south, as well as the ports of La Paz and Cabo San Lucas, contained the largest concentration of people, and the areas near the Margarita and Magdalena Islands were home to whalers and the head office of livestock companies were in San Luis Gonzaga in the Intermediate Zone, even the presence of foreign companies did not lead to the establishment of stable colonies.

With few roads, the missionary villages and ranches scattered in the mountains and on the plains of Magdalena developed their own special culture based on the ways of the Spanish missions and what the new occupants contributed. Wine making and new cuisines started here along with saddle making, leather clothing, the love of horse racing and the rodeo.

The vast vacant lands of the sierra, plains, coasts and islands remained desolate until the third and fourth decades of the 20th century. The first practical appearance of the modern age arrived in 1949 with the agricultural colonization of the Santo Domingo Valley. In the span of two decades, more urbanized and better equipped towns with schools, health centers, government institutions and an accelerating population emerged. In 1971, the municipalities of La Paz, Comondu and Mulege in the territory of Baja California Sur were re-established. Loreto, declared a beacon of tourism growth in 1976, changed its political denomination to the Delegation category.

Nature of the desolate landscape.

At present, the population, commerce and services are concentrated in the grid of two cities in the Santo Domingo Valley, Ciudad Constitución and Ciudad Insurgentes, as well as San Carlos and Adolfo López Mateos, the two coastal ports in Magdalena Bay. To the north, the missionary oases of La Purísima and Los Comondú have received some urban services. However, they did not substantially modifiy their traditional appearance with the introduction of date palms, olive trees and vineyards, reminiscent of the landscapes of Elche, Spain, during the Jesuit period. On the coast, the port of San Juanico, registered as Bahía de Arenas by the cosmographer Eusebio Francisco Kino in 1685, is known for having one of the longest waves in America. A favorite for surfers.

The dominant vocation and primary activity of the municipality from the 1990s on has been tourism, mainly concentrated in Loreto. With the creation of the new municipality, Comondú, tourists have come to enjoy sightings of gray whales in San Carlos and Puerto Adolfo López Mateos in the waters of Magdalena Bay. As a result of concentrating people and businesses in these areas, there are still large expanses, isolated routes and unexplored places that have maintained their natural attractiveness and experience little human presence.

Due to the expansive natural landscapes, the types of tourism found here are adventure, alternative, nature based, and interpretive, and mainly in San Carlos, Margarita Island, Cabo San Lázaro, Puerto Adolfo López Mateos, San Juanico, La Purísima, San José and San Miguel de Comondú where tourists can find food, lodging and guide services.

So far, the investment in tourism made by the municipality does not match the potential of the area. There are historical sites that have been well known since the 16th century; relevant species such as the gray whale and the sea lion, as well as a great variety of migratory and endemic birds; the writings of travelers, scientists, whalers and sailors during the 19th century; and, missionary oases and the emblematic architecture dating from the 18th to the early 20th centuries.

In recent times, interest in distant worlds has become prominent in the international tourism market. From the old books of travelers, the idea, impregnated with magic and exoticism, has moved from simple adventures to the current trend of searching for the unexplored, those sites that remain intact, lonely and endemic.

In the nearly 25 square mile area of the Margarita-Magdalena island complex there is surfing in Cabo San Lázaro, sunken ships and a submarine in the area of ​​the Shipwrecks, the underwater forest of Eisenia, the Falso and San Lázaro lighthouses of Cabo, the whale sanctuary at the island of Patos, sport fishing, as well as extensive sand dunes suitable for walking with a view of the Pacific Ocean on the horizon and winding mangrove channels that offer many miles of adventure.

Other little visited attractions are the cave paintings of the El Chavalito Cave and the prismatic basalts of Comondú. For those who like ethnology, each mountain ranch preserves intact its centuries-old cowboy traditions, as well as unique cuisines, cheeses, canned sweets and wines of missionary origin.

While interpretive trails have been created, there are little or never visited wild trails and oases in the Sierra de La Giganta and the Sierra de Guajademí. In addition, there are animal trails, natural springs and waters with freshwater fish, turtles and typical desert fauna such as bobcats, puma, deer, coyotes, possums and all kinds of wild birds.

Although the number of tourists in the municipality of Comondú is related to the gray whale season, it is common to find national and international visitors in less frequented places. Private yachts, motorcycles, mountain bikes, campers and trailers travel to the islands of Margarita, Magdalena and Crescent and along to the mission of San Luis Gonzaga. Kayaking, diving, sport fishing, hiking, mountaineering, photographic safaris and surfing are the most popular in the municipality today.

Some people travel in groups, others on organized tours and many find locals who have turned into tour guides. Visitors have before them an unexplored, desert, and fascinating piece of paradise, where even silence, interrupted by nothing more than cicadas or the wind, is a treat for the senses.

The beneficial climate, fresh winds from the Pacific, the tranquility that is felt in the remote sites of the mountains, the undulating landscapes of the dunes, and above all the friendliness of the few locals, are ideal antidotes for the stress of modern life.

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