Santa Rosalia Mexico
The city of Santa Rosalía is situated on the Baja Peninsula in the state of Baja California Sur in Mexico. For travelers coming south across the peninsula on the Transcontinental Peninsular Highway, the first glimpse of the Sea of Cortez is at Santa Rosalía.
The city is an old mining town, having been developed by a French mining company, El Boleo, in 1885. Boleo worked an agreement with President Porfirio Diaz to initiate a copper-mining operation in the area, with a caveat that Boleo must build a town, a port, and establish a sea route between Santa Rosalia and Guaymas, located on Mexico’s mainland across the Sea of Cortez in the state of Sonora.
The town was indeed built, but in the fashion of French design with beautiful, colorful wooden houses, balconies, porches, and white picket fences instead of the adobe construction typically used in Mexico’s towns, giving the town its nickname, Ciudad de Madera (City of Wood). The town of course called for a church, which was constructed out of metal and named the Parish of Santa Barbara. The church is thought to be the design of Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame, but recent architectural observations dispute that notion.
A port and pier were also built, along with the requisite maritime route to Guaymas, which is today still in use as the prime entry point of manufactured goods for the Baja Peninsula. Santa Rosalia itself has several shops that sell the goods that come across the sea; the town abounds with auto-parts and electronic appliance stores, along with shops selling such items as Nike shoes and sunglasses.
The Boleo Mining Company employed many Mexican workers from across the region, however, the business and its workers were plagued with nightmarish problems and through legislation in 1954 mining operations reverted to Mexico. Alas, the mines seemed doomed for despair as other issues arose, causing major disturbances in the industry here, and Mexico finally closed down the mines in 1985.
However, remnants of the mining era are everywhere. The presence of the dilapidated copper-smelting foundry, mining gear and machinery, and old locomotives dominate the town in their position along the old docks and there is no beach to speak of, giving that part of the waterfront an abandoned feel to it.
Today, Santa Rosalía, with a population of around 12,000, has a new, recently constructed, harbor, as well – the Marina Santa Rosalía – with full-docking accommodations and services for a dozen ocean-cruisers. The French buildings, such as the Municipal Palace and the French Hotel, have been remodeled while still retaining a glimpse of the city’s history; the streets are paved; and the parks, such as the Morelos Garden, which is home to an 1886 Baldwin locomotive, are lush with gardens and trees, all as if expecting company.
If you are visiting Santa Rosalia, you’ll find Mexican tradition mixed with a French history blended further with Asian and German culture and cuisine. During El Boleo’s time, the French brought over thousands of Asian and German workers who, to this day, remain integrated into the local population. French administrators built their homes on the northern “Mesa Francia” part of town where the museum and historic buildings are located, while the Mexican residents settled on the southern end called, “Mesa Mexico”. You may find that the city still has a rather segregated feel to it.
While here, check out Santa Rosalia’s three big attractions:
The main attraction here is without a doubt the church, constructed entirely of stamped steel sheeting and reinforced by a daunting steel structure. Within all of this metal, there had been beautiful stained glass windows, but with subsequent modifications they were removed. Its austere style is not your typical Mexican baroque-still church, all ornamentation and beauty, but the church’s unique structure certainly merits seeing.
The 1885 Boleo Mining Company’s administrative offices (La Dirección) have been converted into an industrial museum called the Museo Histórico Minero de Santa Rosalía. Its location at the top of a hill overlooks the city, the docks, and the mining relics.
The Boleo Bakery is still in business today and is a town highlight with the sweet smells of freshly baked breads wafting along the main street.
While visiting Santa Rosalía, you’ll find that the city offers its tourists comfortable hotels and RV parks, good restaurants, a marina, a small airport, a bus depot, and ferry services to and from Guaymas, Sonora.