The geographic space that today occupies the Mexican state of Baja California Sur has a long history that can be grouped into five major periods.
The formation of the Baja California Peninsula is due to the existence of tectonic plates dating back to the Jurassic Period, 140 million years ago. However, the peninsula as we know it today has its origin 2 million years ago when it emerges to the surface, becoming an area of high mountains with an average height of 3050 meters. The northern portion of the gulf includes 6 km. of sediments that are brought by the Colorado River and adjacent lands. Under these sediments, oceanic crust continues to form and due to the production of emerging magma, causes geothermal outbursts and is used to produce electricity.
The first settlers: prehistoric hunters and gatherers
In the cliffs that form the edges of the canyons, there are cavities and shallow natural shelters that were used as shelters by groups of prehistoric hunters and gatherers. The evidence of their presence is abundant and rich.
The most eloquent testimony of their occupation is the paintings in these caves, which constitute one of the five most important rock art concentrations in the world. Their singular style, their monumental scale (some reach more than 4 meters in height), their state of conservation, and the great number of sites where they are found, make them a source of pride for the people of Baja California.
The magic of Southern Californian rock art lies in the contrasts handled: the animal representations of extraordinary dimensions, painted in silhouette, in dynamic positions or pierced by arrows and spears, contrast with the human figures, painted from the front with their arms raised, static. This difference imparts a certain tension to the groups of figures that, being superimposed, invite us to contemplation and make our imagination fly.
Deer, bighorn sheep, pumas, pronghorns, wildcats, snakes, birds, hares, whales, sharks, fish, manta rays, and loggerheads are represented on stone to reveal the natural history of the state; a history narrated by its oldest inhabitants: the prehistoric Sudcalifornians. These magnificent cave murals still hold questions. It is not known with certainty who the creators were or when they were executed. They seem like magical ideograms of eminently artistic people that disappeared thousands of years ago.
Location of the Cave Paintings
The area of the great cave paintings covers 12 square kilometers in the central region of the peninsula and has its epicenter in the San Francisco mountain range. The most accessible site is Cueva del Ratón, 37 km. from the transpeninsular highway. Also, nearby is La Cueva Pintada, Cueva de las Flechas or Boca de San Julio.
An authorized guide is required to visit these monumental works. The trip is an unforgettable experience, with a surprising and abrupt landscape that, in addition to offering natural beauty in abundance, offers the opportunity to be in an enormous open-air museum dedicated to prehistoric art.
Other places where examples of rock art can be found are the Cueva de la Serpiente and the Cueva de la Candelaria in the Sierra de San Francisco, as well as the Cueva de los Venados and the Cueva de San Borjitas in the Sierra de Guadalupe.
Period of explorations and first contacts
The discovery of the peninsula
In the expeditions promoted by Cortés in the Pacific Ocean, a legend arose that motivated the search for these new lands. Years before the discovery of the peninsula, Cortés' people heard the natives of Colima speak of a supposed island inhabited only by women, just as the European legend of "California" indicated.
The first to set foot on Southern Californian soil was Fortín Jiménez, who upon arriving found a paradise vast with pearls, beautiful beaches, half-naked men and women, very different from the natives of the Mexican highlands. During his stay, Jiménez and his crew dedicated themselves to plundering the pearls and abusing the women, which provoked a violent confrontation between navigators and natives, which culminated in the death of Jiménez. The survivors of the expedition returned with some samples of the pearls found, which led to believe that the supposedly discovered island would be a source of wealth for the Crown.
A year later, on May 3, 1535, Hernán Cortés sailed through the gulf, which he named the Sea of Cortés, and disembarked in the bay of La Paz, today the capital of Baja California Sur, which he named Puerto y Valle de la Santa Cruz (Port and Valley of the Holy Cross). Although he was not the first European to set foot on Southern California Sur, Hernán Cortés is currently considered the discoverer, and the founding of La Paz is celebrated on the date of his arrival in the city.
The name of California was coined years later without being able to determine the date of its denomination or the person who named it for the first time. It is said that it was a mocking enemy of Cortés, who as a result of the failure of the former to establish a colony in these lands, called it California, in a clear allusion to Las sergas de Esplandián, a chivalry novel popular in those times.
In 1697, Father Juan María de Salvatierra initiated a new colonization project, financed by private donations from the Society of Jesus and based on the experiences of Father Eusebio Francisco Kino.
Thus, he founded the first mission in California: the Mission of Nuestra Señora de Loreto. From then until 1767, the Jesuits founded 16 missions in Baja California Sur and began their expansion northward with Santa Gertrudis, San Francisco Borjay, Santa María de los Ángeles. Their impact was on the Pericú, Guaycura, and Cochimí indigenous groups.
In April 1768, after their expulsion, the Jesuits were replaced by Franciscan missionaries, who by royal orders founded missions in the extreme north, in the bays of San Diego and San Francisco, for the defense of imperial frontiers. Faced with these new challenges, in 1773, the Dominicans took charge of Old California and founded missions between Velicatá and San Diego. Between 1774 and 1836 they founded eight missions in Baja California, in the indigenous territories of Cochimí, Kiliwa, Paipai, and Ku miai.
Today, the missions of Baja California Sur stand like cathedrals in the middle of the desert. Among the most important are: the Mission of Loreto, the Cathedral of La Paz, the Mission of San José del Cabo, and the Mission of San Javier, perhaps the most imposing and beautiful, located a few kilometers from Loreto.
The Independent Period
Even when the independence of Mexico was consummated on September 27, 1821, due to its distance from the center of the republic, the California peninsula remained in the hands of the Spaniards until 1822.
In 1830 La Paz was designated as the capital of Baja California since Loreto had been destroyed by great storms. Then the government was provisionally transferred to the town of San Antonio and from there, definitively, to the current city of La Paz, in the midst of struggles between the power groups that were beginning to appropriate and define the territory.
Period of the Ranchos
During the first quarter of the 19th century, the process of missionary decadence began to accelerate and by the 1920s most of the peninsular missions were closed. This caused the inhabitants settled in the missions to become cattle ranchers with little agriculture. With the loss of religion and the neglect of the Mexican authorities, an impoverished ranching society linked to indigenous groups developed, especially in the northern peninsular.
In 1804, Las Californias was divided in two: Alta California, with Monterrey as its capital, and Baja California, with Loreto as its capital; both with independent governments. Later, when Don Guadalupe Victoria assumed the presidency of the republic, he appointed Lieutenant Colonel José María Echeandía, governor of Baja California, dividing it into 4 municipalities: Loreto, San José del Cabo, San Pedro Mártir, and Santa Gertrudis.
The American invasion of Baja California Sur
Baja California was part of the North American expansionist interests, but the Mexican government refused to cede it without enjoying the same fate with the rest of the coveted territories. Thus, on February 2, 1848, using the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, after an exhaustive war, peace was signed between Mexico and the United States under the condition of surrendering the states of New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, part of Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and Alta California.
The Reform War and the French intervention
In 1858, Mexico was involved in an internal war that lasted until 1860. This war, known as the Reform War, had its origin in the Constitution of 1857, which was not respected by the conservative groups in the country. For this reason, the liberal forces under the command of don Benito Juarez fought against these groups so that the laws of the Magna Carta would be obeyed.
In September 1858, General Manuel Márquez de León, Mauricio Castro, Ildefonso Green, and troops from the south of the state, belonging to the liberal forces, seized La Paz. The Conservative Party, defeated in the Reform War and dissatisfied with its defeat, asked for help from France.
In Baja California, Governor Félix Gibert recognized the Empire of Maximilian of Austria, but the republican troops, under the command of Colonel Clodomiro Cota, rescued the peninsula that remained loyal to the Mexican cause until the end of the French intervention.
The Dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz
In 1876, General Porfirio Díaz became president of the republic. In 1884 he was reelected and held power until 1910 when the Mexican Revolution began. During the government of President Díaz, important events took place in Baja California Sur: concessions were granted to foreign companies to take possession of large extensions of land; the French mining company "El Boleo" was established in what is known today as Santa Rosalía; the population increased notably; maritime communication routes were established to connect the territory with the rest of the country; and finally, in 1888 President Díaz ordered the political division of the peninsula into two Districts, North and South, with their government for each one.
The Mexican Revolution in Southern California territory
On November 20, 1910, the Mexican Revolution began, promoted by Don Francisco I. Madero. On November 6, 1911, after the overthrow of Diaz, Madero was elected president. However, the new government suffered the siege of the press, the legislative opposition, and the permanent conspiracy of the Porfiristas, who were plotting a coup d'état that began on February 9, 1913. Victoriano Huerta took Madero prisoner and forced him to resign on February 19; three days later he ordered his assassination.
With the news of Madero's death, groups were organized in the Southern Californian territory willing to fight against the usurper Huerta. In La Paz, a revolutionary junta was formed whose leader, Félix Ortega, organized the armed rebellion in the company of many Southern Californians. He fought for more than a year and in the middle of 1914, when the federal troops were defeated, he returned victorious to the city of La Paz, where he received the appointment of Chief of Military Operations.
The Territory of Baja California Sur from 1915 to date
When the Mexican Revolution ended and constitutionalism triumphed, Don Venustiano Carranza appointed Lieutenant Colonel Urbano Angulo as political chief of the Southern District of the peninsula. From 1916 to 1974, ten governors were appointed in Baja California Sur. Throughout this period great changes took place:
In 1931, the political division of the peninsula was legally established, which gave origin to the Northern Territory and Southern Territory of Baja California.
The Finance Law was created.
Construction of the Transpeninsular Highway began.
The Labor Law was promoted.
The areas of Los Planes, Valle de Santo Domingo and Valle del Vizcaíno were colonized and cultivated.
Greater attention was given to education, and educational centers were created, such as the Escuela Normal Urbana, founded on February 5, 1942.
New maritime routes were established between the peninsula and the rest of the country.
Public services such as drinking water and electrification were implemented.
One of the important aspects was the division of the territory into three municipalities: La Paz, Comondú, and Mulegé. Subsequently, the municipality of Los Cabos was created in 1981 and the municipality of Loreto in 1992.