In the Footsteps of the Jesuit Missions

Church by Gustave Eiffel

November 18

Lonely in the Desert::Baja California Desert, Mexico::
Lonely in the Desert
Road to San Francisco::Sierra de San Francisco, Baja California, Mexico::
Uphill to San Francisco
San Francisco Village::Sierra de San Francisco, Baja California, Mexico::
San Francisco Village

In the morning, we continued our journey through the desert, until we reached the highway 1. On that day, we wanted to see more rock art. Well-known paintings of the Sierra de San Francisco are on the UNESCO World Heritage list. When we reached the place, it turned out that a high fence surrounds the rock shelter and the gate is closed. For those who want to see this place they must to ride a bumpy road to the village of San Francisco. So we did. One of the locals was in the charge of entrance fees to all prehistoric sites in the area. We bought tickets from him and for an additional fee we were assigned a guide that will open the gate. The rules here were that all the sites with paintings could be visited only when a local guide is present. Therefore, we took an elderly vaquero or cowboy to the car and drove back to see the art.

Home Office::Sierra de San Francisco, Baja California, Mexico::
Home Office
Rock Paintings::Sierra de San Francisco, Baja California, Mexico::
Rock Paintings

Unfortunately, we were not impressed this time. Rock paintings were covered with dust, and in most places, they were hard to recognize. That must be consequences of the location, next to the dirt road. In addition, forced to walk on wooden platforms with railings, we felt like a school excursion led by the hand. Guide was not very helpful; he took the money, but said nothing about the murals. We were not quite excited about this place and left without regret.

Prehistoric Site::Sierra de San Francisco, Baja California, Mexico::
Prehistoric Site
River-Cut Canyon::Sierra de San Francisco, Baja California, Mexico::
River-Cut Canyon

Our next stop was San Ignacio, a small town, which turned out to be a success in the settlement efforts initiated by the Jesuits. This place had a great location with almost unlimited resources of water. Over the years, around the Mission San Ignacio arouse a village with the same name. Before the arrival of missionaries in 1728, this was simply a desert oasis known among the local Cochimí Indians as Kadakaamán or “stream of reeds.”

Misión San Ignacio Kadakaamán::San Ignacio, Baja California, Mexico::
Misión San Ignacio Kadakaamán
The Side Entrance::San Ignacio, Baja California, Mexico::
The Side Entrance
Gilded Wooden Altar::San Ignacio, Baja California, Mexico::
Gilded Wooden Altar

Decimated by epidemics and diseases of the Old World, the native population rapidly decreased and by 1840 completely disappeared from the face of the earth. In a little more than 100 years, Misión San Ignacio Kadakaamán lost its primary objective, and the missionaries left the place forever. The Dominicans completed the present church building. Today it is the parish church. The temple has a Latin cross plan, and is roofed with vaults and dome. Gilded wooden altar was brought from Mexico in the end of the 18th century.

The Main Entrance::San Ignacio, Baja California, Mexico::
The Main Entrance
The Side Door::San Ignacio, Baja California, Mexico::
The Side Door
Exterior Stairs::San Ignacio, Baja California, Mexico::
Exterior Stairs

In the evening, we arrived at Santa Rosalia, a mining town on the shores of the Gulf of California. It is an ugly place, only the old French quarter is worth a short visit. We stopped there to see the Iglesia de Santa Barbara, the church building designed by Gustave Eiffel, the same Eiffel who designed the famous tower in Paris and built Statue of Libery in New York. The French architect came up with the idea of the folding churches that could be sent quickly and easily to overseas colonies. He presented his first church based on this idea at the exhibition in Paris in 1889. After the exhibition, the steel structure was dismantled and moved to Brussels in Belgium, where the mining company from San Igancio in Mexico acquired it. The church in pieces was shipped by sea and assembled here in 1897. The church is made of stamped steel sheets, mainly squares. When assembled, the roof from the inside resembles a capsized boat. Eiffel’s church is an ugly steel structure, but is based on the unique and clever idea.

Old French Hotel::Santa Rosalia, Baja California, Mexico::
Old French Hotel
The Eiffel Church::Santa Rosalia, Baja California, Mexico::
The Eiffel Church
Steel Ceiling::Santa Rosalia, Baja California, Mexico::
Steel Ceiling

We heard about the old bakery in the city, which reportedly sold baguettes baked based on a 120-year-old traditional recipe. Do not bother! Almost everything they sell is a sweet bread that has nothing to do with the French tradition. The prices here are 10 times higher than in other stores. It is a rip-off. All the specialties we bought, turned out to be not tasty. We thought about throwing them away, but fortunately, the homeless and emaciated dog showed up a few days later and ate everything.

© 2015 Maciej Swulinski