Mexico / Baja California  / Breakpoints / San Ignacio
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Monday, October 23, 2017

San Ignacio

What a sight, what a surprise!

Suddenly, 90 miles (145 km) south of Guerrero Negro, a green spot amidst the usual brown hues of the scorched landscape of Baja California: the oasis of San Ignacio. From an underground water reservoir, the precious liquid emerges, is dammed up and used for the irrigation of some 100,000 date palms, citrus trees, figs and other produce. The trees shade San Ignacio, a small village with old colonial buildings, where haste and rush are unknown. The 4,000 inhabitants do their routine work, as they have always done, and, in recent days, have begun to devote themselves to the care of the few tourists who have discovered the charm of this place.

What is there to be discovered in San Ignacio and its surroundings? First of all, the village itself. The center features the plaza, surrounded by huge trees that provide shade. The eye-catcher of the place, the mission church, lies at its western side. It is doubtless one the most impressive churches of the whole Baja California. San Ignacio was created in 1728 as a mission of the Jesuits. Up to 5,000 Cochimí Indians were united in this mission. After the Jesuit order was expelled from the New World, the Dominicans took over the mission. In 1786, they replaced the old church with a new one, which was much more impressive, had walls 1.2 m thick of lava stones and a decorated façade. The interior is also worth a closer look; the main altar is adorned by the statue of Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order and patron saint of the town, and, at his sides, other saints of the Catholic church. The church was restored in accordance with the original in 1976. Surrounded by six old laurel trees, it is today the pride of the village.

Only some yards from it lies the informative “Museo de pinturas rupestres” with an informative display of Indian culture and the office of the INAH, the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History. This authority is responsible for the visit to the rock paintings in nearby Sierra San Francisco. It issues the necessary permits, designates the guide and provides assistance in organizing the tour.

When you have planned to be in San Ignacio in late July despite the heat, you can take part in interesting cultural events. On July 31, the feast of the date harvest is held in conjunction with the feast for Ignatius Loyola. Products made of dates are then on display on the plaza, La Reina del Dátil (the Date Queen) is crowned, and there is much music and dancing.

And finally, there is not only the skeleton of a whale at the bifurcation, where you leave the MEX-1 and take the road to the village, but also the real thing in the Laguna San Ignacio. The village is the starting point for whale-watching in the that lagoon, which is situated 36 miles (58 km) to the southwest and is reached via an unsurfaced road. The gray whales of the Laguna San Ignacio are reputed to be particularly friendly and to seek contact to people. Excursions can be booked in the village.

If you go on from San Ignacio farther south, the landscape becomes more and more volcanic in character, and soon you will see Las Tres Vírgenes (The Three Virgins), three volcanic cones of classic shape. The highest virgin has 6,295 ft (1,920 m) so it is quite an impressive mountain. The last eruption was in 1746, and lava flowed down far into the plains. The road takes a picturesque course close to the volcanoes and crosses the young lava fields that testifies to this event. Only a few elephant trees grow on the volcanic rock. At the foot of Las Tres Virgenes, a little off the road, geothermal energy is obtained at the Tres Virgenes Geothermal Electrical Field. The plant can be visited by appointment.