The elusive mystery of the Tropic

When you are so close to the ocean, the fall provides the most mysterious colors of the year. All the places near of the sea are beautiful. But not all are as fortunate as Baja California Sur to have the Tropic of Cancer around their chests and hearts. Of the few countries in the world crossed by the Tropic of Cancer, Mexico was fortunate that it was precisely on our peninsula the solstice would be traced. So, it lies exactly in Todos Santos and at Kilometer 82 of the road that goes to La Ribera, to El Triunfo and to La Paz at a latitude of 23° 27′ from the Equator.

What defines the ecology and even the spirit of the people of Southern California, permanent or transitory as well as its wonderful autumns and delicious winters, is precisely the location of the Tropic of Cancer. It is a marvel. Our beautiful and fertile land has no relation with Henry Miller’s novel and the other famous Miller, Arthur, who was Marilyn Monroe´s husband and the author of The Crucible (1953), the Salem Witches A View from the Bridge (1955), and the memoir, Timebends, 1987. Back in time, memories from many years.

The concrete fact is that the Tropic of Cancer for Baja California Sur is an astronomical blessing. It attracts whales as well as wonderful birds and leaves us a variety of incomparable fruits such as the Pitahaya whose flower is reflected in the typical dress of this land/sea/sky. Passing El Triunfo, you arrive at San Antonio which offers impressive colors, flowers, fruits, vegetation, soils, and skies.

When Alexander Von Humboldt learned about the Stone of the Sun or Aztec Calendar, he not only noticed it showed the order of the days and months (by periodic series), but he also noticed how the ritual calendar and the solar calendar (the tropic year, which is determined by the apparent movement of the sun between the two tropics, Cancer, in the northern hemisphere and Capricorn, in the southern hemisphere) could coincide. Humboldt understood that the Nahua people rigorously measured the movement of the sun, to establish the times of sowing and harvesting. For this reason, he concluded that the Mexican calendar, like the Egyptian calendar, was that of an agricultural people.

Humboldt rightly said that nomadic peoples (such as the various Californios) measured time by the Lunar movements, while agricultural peoples were governed according to the apparent movement of the Sun. The Nahua were sedentary and measured time by the Sun and the changing of the seasons. We forget that we became an agricultural people as well as fishermen. As proof, in Todos Santos, as in San Jose del Cabo, sugar cane was grown and, in La Ribera, a varied agriculture flourished with good crops of sweet potato, watermelon, onion, pumpkins, mangoes, oranges, lemons, and plenty of pasture for cattle.

But even before the arrival of the Europeans, the Cochimies of the north, the Guaycuras of the center and the Pericues or Edues of the southernmost part of the peninsula, collected delicious seasonal fruits, medicinal herbs such as Damiana and some strong stimulants or hallucinogens.

Although they used some marine organisms, the most common was to resort to the medicinal herbs that nature generously offers in the tropics, such as the Ciruelo de Monte (Cytocarpa Edulis), the Viejitos cactus, the Caribe (Opuntia Bigelowi), the Sabila, the Zalate and many others.

The geology of Baja California or Southern California in general, combined with the wonders of the biodiversity would deserve a whole section on its own. The peninsula is the little sister of the American continent since it emerged after millions of years as the strong arm of what is now Mexico. Wow! Here even the stones are seductive and rare. And, as if that weren’t enough, there are cave paintings and petroglyphs everywhere.

The Tropic of Cancer is magical! And we have it in Baja California Sur on the Pacific side and on the Gulf of California side right next to Boca del Salado and Los Frailes. Well, I can’t go on any longer, but it is my moral duty to tell you to hurry up and enjoy the Tropic of Cancer in Baja California Sur for two reasons: soon it won’t be called that, but the Tropic of Taurus, and second, because the Tropic is moving, that is why it is called Tropic, from the Greek Tropos, τρόπος gr. ‘change’, ‘turn’ + -ik-ós / -ḗ gr.

But look, attention! In endocrinology what I’m saying applies to the hormone that influences the action of another hormone or endocrine gland. That’s why when you are in this magical zone of the Tropic of Cancer you feel “little things,” because you are in relation to tropism and your body asks for a turn, τρόπος gr. ‘change’, ‘turn’ + -ik-ós/-ḗ gr.]

Since in gr. tropik-ós/-ē/-on τροπικ-ός/-ή/-όν ‘of the solstice’ from Aristotle, 4th century BC, later in s. I BC incorporated the meaning in rhetoric of ‘relating to a figure’; both meanings passed into Lat. tropic-us/-a/-um. The new biological meanings are from the 20th century. Anyway, I’m happy to risk telling you and I trust you won’t tell anyone you don’t trust. See you.

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Edición 53 - Fall Insider 2021
Edición 53 - Fall Insider 2021
Es otoño. ¡Disfruta de los colores de Baja California Sur y la magia de su gente!


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