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Baja Cities and Sites
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Santa Rosalia
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"La Ciudad De Madera"

(Text adapted from Coordinacion Estatal del Tunsmo, Goberno del Estado de Baja California Sur)

Forty five miles south of San Ignacio is Santa Rosalia, a unique town located between two tablelands at the Sea of Cortes. Santa Rosalia shows off its French architecture with beautiful buildings, witnesses of the difficult history of a town which refused to die.

On July 7, 1885 the French company El Boleo initiated the mining of rich deposits of copper. They acquired mineral rights to the area for 99 years, total tax exemption for 50 years and land rights to exceed 1,000,000 acres. In exchange, the company was obliged to build a town, port, and public buildings, to establish a maritime route between Santa Rosalia and Guaymas and create employment for Mexican workers. Thus, the town of Santa Rosalia was built with its wooden houses and its streets in regular blocks, unlike other towns that grew in a less planned fashion.

The employment of Mexican workers was so successful that workers were attracted from all over. Unfortunately, there was a hidden form of exploitation as workers died of lung diseases and frequent accidents. In a single two-year period, 1,400 .workers lost their lives. Stories were told of low incomes, repressed strikes and contract abuse.

In 1897 Iglesia Santa Barbara was erected. Designed by Gustave Eiffel in 1884 and pre-constructed for the World Exposition in Paris of 1889, it was purchased and shipped, unassembled across the Atlantic for assembly in Santa Rosalia.

Major progress was made from 1914 - 1918 when other mining centers were opened. By 1938 production was declining and in 1954, after 53 years of continuous exploitation the mines were closed. The federal government then took over in order to provide employment for the town. It was the eve of the Santa Rosalia 100th anniversary when the mining company turned off its ovens for the last time.

Now the town supports itself with gypsum and manganese production, tourism and marine activities. The beautiful French-style buildings have been re-modeled, the streets are paved and clean and the town boasts gardens and parks.

Touring the town you feel the sensation of being in another space and time. You can see wooden houses with balconies and porches, the Municipal Palace, the French Hotel Frances, the Mahatma Gandhi Public Library , the Municipal DIF, the Morelos Garden where you can find one of the locomotives shipped over from Europe in 1886, as well as the ruins of the old smelting foundry. Finish your tour at the Panaderia El Boleo and enjoy the fresh boleos (rolls) and other baked goods.

The town dresses up from October 10 - 22 each year to celebrate its founding with sports and cultural events.

Santa Rosalia offers the visitor good hotels, restaurants and RV parks.

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