The pillars of rancho las cruces and of tourism in Baja California Sur

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Lucille Bremer, acclaimed Hollywood actress and dancer, met Abelardo L. Rodriguez Montijo, son of a President of Mexico, in 1947 while filming “Adventures of Casanova” in Mexico City.  Although the other actors may not have benefited professionally or personally, the making of the movie did have a far-reaching impact on the young star’s destiny as she describes in her memories:

My life, however, took a direction far afield from the one I had been pursuing. Strangely enough, it was exactly what I had envisioned as a young girl. When I was 12, I had a brief but clear view of a scene in my future. I saw myself being flown in a small plane to a country foreign to me, one that was to become my home.

“While making Casanova, I met, and a year later, married the man who would fly me to Baja California, where I lived for many years.”

I was introduced to Abelardo L. Rodriguez Montijo by the owner of the Reforma Hotel who warned me that Lalo, as he was called in Mexico, was a playboy and inferred that he was very rich and naughty.

By naughty, I guess Mr. Benny meant he was very popular with the ladies. That was certainly true. And he did enjoy playing almost everything including bridge, chess, Chinese checkers, even tiddlywinks, if that was the only game in town. He was an excellent pilot, still holding the prop plane record from Mexico City to Los Angeles. He was also a fine athlete. He broke the high jump record in high school and was given an athletic scholarship to UCLA. However, track practice cut into his social life and he transferred to Pomona. For some reason, he left school. He knew he had to give his father a good reason for quitting and as he was driving toward his father’s house, he passed a small airport. Airplanes!

“Father, I have an overwhelming passion for aviation,” he told him.

“Well then, you had better learn to fly,” said the General.

So, he did. The man who taught him said he had the greatest natural ability he had ever seen. When Rod was 19, he had his own flight school and a contract to make pilots out of English boys, some of whom had never even driven an automobile. The Royal Air Force ferried bombers to Britain. He joined them. He was a test pilot for North American Aviation. So, although he looked the part of the playboy, he really worked very hard, but not nearly as hard as he would later in Baja California.

La Paz is the capital of Baja California Sur, as most everyone now knows. However, in 1948 that fact was known to the 10,000 inhabitants and not many others. Even the neighbor to the north, California, seemed to think that Baja California stopped shortly beyond Ensenada. People in Mexico City knew there was a territory owned by Mexico somewhere to the northwest but what it was, they had no idea. La Paz, so aptly named Peace, sat dozing in the Baja California sun as the rest of the world shouted, threatened, starved and killed their enemies.

About 25 miles east of La Paz is where we planned to build our house. Las Cruces was the name of the ranch and also the point of land were three crosses stood on a rocky cliff above the sea. It is believed that Cortez’s men, in search of black pearls for which this area would, a few hundred years later, become famous, landed and were killed by inhospitable natives. The crosses have been erected in commemoration of the dead Spaniards.

The ranch covered an area of several thousand acres, 40 or so had been beautifully laid out with long avenues in between them a host of lovely trees: mangos, coconut palms, date palms, citrus and many others. The mountains rose in the West and to the East the Sea of Cortez, 13 miles of coast bordered the front of the ranch. Much has been written about the coast of California and many have described the color but to say that the golf is a glorious blue tells only the tiniest thing about it.

It is sometimes so calm, so tranquil, one would think it a quiet lake. When the breeze is gentle and the surface of the water ripples slightly, it is as though the sun were being reflected to heaven by billions of tiny mirrors, and as far as one can see, there’s blue. The color is so deep and rich it could be duplicated only by its creator.

That is how it was the first time I saw it. For me, Las Cruces was an enchanted land. The breeze was cool, the coarse white sand hot, the water warm and caressing. We had masks and spent hours in a little cove watching the silent world beneath the surface of the water.

We swam in a society of elegant little creatures and the living jewels welcomed us. One group dressed in midnight blue with royal blue sequins nibbled at my ring.  Some gold and silver fish were delighted with the nail polish on my toes. Lest you think I was in danger of being eaten alive, let me hasten to say the fish were only three or four inches long with mouths to match their tiny size.

“After choosing the sites for the main house, pool and guest house, we flew back to La Paz as twilight descended on the town. We decided to start with the guest house and pool and stay in town until the small house was finished.”

Of Abelardo’s fortuitous meeting at the Hotel Reforma in Mexico City he described Lucille’s beauty as so exquisite that he could have stared at her forever and wondered if she had been sent from heaven. Red hair, soft and light complexion, an unsurpassed beauty.

Because of Lucille’s beauty, courage, selfless nature, elegance and grace he felt that he had to become more responsible and earn her love.  Then on June 30th 1948 Abelardo asked Lucille to marry him and give up her glamourous career and the excitement of dancing with Fred Astaire in exchange for a serene loving family life filled with adventure in Rancho Las Cruces, the land he most loved and considered to be the most peaceful and beautiful place on earth.

Both gave up their lives as previously known and together, with love, courage, stamina and devotion entered the enigmatic territory of the Baja Peninsula and created the resort at Rancho Las Cruces that became the foundation for the tourism and hospitality industry in Baja California Sur.

That day of June my father fulfilled my mother’s childhood dream by asking to marry him… Her response was:

“I love you enough to go anywhere and leave everything, the answer is yes …”

The rest is our history, and the legacy is found in Rancho Las Cruces.

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