Aug 6, 2016

Loreto - So Much Change In So Little Time...

A white picket fence bravely separated the mission
from what it was supposed to save.

Susan Vreeland

Welcome to Loreto
Our third season in the Sea started really slowly with lack of useful winds to help us cross over. The pattern seems to continue as we head north. We left Bahia Salinas for Isla Coronados (about 30 miles away) and had to tack about 15 times against high winds and waves before arriving there. We scarcely made it during daylight hours as the last hours were very calm. We took refuge in Coronados until some winds abated before heading to Loreto for re-provisioning (it has been over 17 days since our last chance to purchase food).

Typical pueblo house near San Xavier
Our third season in the Sea, our third time in Loreto and things have changed quickly in 4-5 years! Loreto is much more heavily influenced by tourism with the higher prices and homogenization which unfortunately accompany that type of economy. It still has some character but you have to look harder and deeper to find it. It is kept clean but the atmosphere has become impersonal, everything covered with a veneer to please the visitors. We are glad we became acquainted with this little gem before billionaire Carlos Slim invested so much money in hopes of turning this truly beautiful area into the next Cabo San Lucas with five star resorts.

Last time we were here a locally brewed beer (one of the few places in Mexico where you could find such a treat) cost about 40 pesos (US $2.40), this time 125 pesos (US $7.50)! Obviously none of the locals can afford them. Spoke to a lady a little further up the road and she stated the locals are fighting what they feel is this great intrusion from Mr. Slim onto their tranquil way of life. Good Luck with that…

My question is whether we are noticing this more because we have been here before and don’t have the awe of a first visit tainting everything we see? I truthfully and carefully try to stay neutral when comparing to our previous visits here and it is difficult. The sadness I feel has more to do with what we have witnessed happening to the locals everywhere else tourism has encroached. Even though people think of it as progress, it changes the locals in negative ways. Where there were no or nearly no thefts before, they will start popping up. Where there was no or nearly no envy before, it will rear its ugly head. Where there were no or nearly no signs of drugs or alcohol abuse before, it will make inroads on the streets. Where people had time for you before, they will be too busy trying to make ends meet. Simple life eroding slowly but surely and replaced by cell phones, trinkets and hurries; what we are running away from in our own life.
From the Mission's website - a wonderful night view...
A few things remain that we are happy to still appreciate: the friendliness of the people, the cars cruising down the main drag on the weekends, families fully enjoying the free beach (swimming, games, foods, BBQ's, drinks, music, etc.), and small restaurants that simply close when they run out of food for that day.
We went looking for the good old Sunday Farmers’ Market that used to take place in a wash near the Sea, making it very easy to attend for people traveling via water. We walked early Sunday morning to find no-one there. What happened to the market? Was it still going on? Had it changed day or place? We had thought it strange not to encounter many cars out and about that morning like it used to be when the market was going full swing. It was eerily quiet.
We approached a lady watering her yard and enquired about the Sunday Market. She told us it had moved to Miramar and indicated some vague far away location to the north of town. It seemed too far to walk there so we thought best to ask for a ‘second opinion’ of a taxi. We hailed one that was driving by and he stated the market had moved to Miramar, confirming what the lady had just told us. We asked him how far it was and he didn’t seem to want to reply. He was more interested in sharing stories about his life and Loreto. I had to interrupt him to ask about the distance (i.e.: price) to no avail but he seemed friendly so we caught a ride with him and everything turned out fine.
The so called market was a complete bust. What used to be a bustling event each Sunday is now merely a couple rows of tables selling second hand items and only 1 or 2 tables with fruits, vegetables and meat that no longer come from farmers, but from a couple of entrepreneurs who purchased them at the supermarket and passed them as ‘fresh’ produce. The newly built Aurrera (WalMart) and Ley (Safeway) have taken a big toll on the small mom and pop as well as the Sunday Farmers’ markets. So sad to see this type of ‘improvement’. Needless to say, we had difficulties finding good quality produce, one of the main reasons we stopped here on our way north.
The good thing that came out of meeting Chato, our taxi driver, is that he agreed to take us to Mission San Xavier the next morning, about 25 miles up in the mountains, for a modest fee. The heavily advertised tour guides around here are not usually locals and charge about 3 times what we paid for our personal driver. Most of these companies have owners based in the US. We were able to be there very early in the morning (before the crowd), Nikki was able to accompany us, and we didn’t have to wait for anyone else on a tour…
Chato (his real name Gabriel) is called that because he had an accident that broke his teeth, his nose and had him feed off a tube in his throat for 7 months. Mexicans are famous for their use of nicknames. When he first met us, he kept touching his nose and saying Chato (flat or pug nose). It took me a while to figure out the connection. I was very glad my Spanish is continually improving for he was not easy to understand with a misshapen nose and no teeth. His pronunciation was slurred at best and he spoke very quickly. Thankfully he was very friendly, patient and knew the area well.
We learned a great lesson this time, many taxi drivers can and will show you the same areas as organized tours for about 1/3 to 1/2 the price. Most of them are more eager to show you around than the underpaid and overworked tour guides who are not even from the area. They are also more willing to pick you up and work with your schedule. Many know the locals better and it is a pleasure to see them interact with one another. Chato pointed out various ranchitos along the way and their connections with businesses in town. He desperately tried to find us a mango, a lime, an orange, or a papaya ready to eat off the tree but none were ripe yet. Of course it helps to know enough Spanish to communicate with these drivers but that’s also how you learn.
Mission blends in well with mountainous background
A closer look
Front entrance
Side entrance
300+ year old olive tree
From behind where the orchards and gardens are.
Cross at road intersection - leading you to the Mission
A better look
Flower cart
Closer look of front door
Marie-France and Chato by river near Mission
River at dry season
Enjoy the pictures of Mission San Xavier (Javier) built around 1699 (moved, added on, and rebuilt a bit since then) It’s the typical story: Jesuits come, find what they think is the best place with water to grow things, entice natives (in this case the Guaycura Indians) by first trading with them, and then turn them to their way of life all the while giving them diseases they cannot cope with. The natives eventually all disappear, the mission is left standing with its very thick rock walls, a non-functioning fountain, 300 year-old olive trees, various golden shrines, and a large cobblestone street leading to it at the end of the valley.
The little town itself was very nice with mostly farmers and ranchers milling about. A few homes have signs showing they sell honey or homemade jams. It is very quiet with sometimes only the sound of birds and water running through the various fields of corn or orchards to keep you company.
Back on Déjàlà, we are getting ready to head north with food for the next 3 weeks as we probably won’t be near stores for a while. The weather is definitely warming up. This year has been a little cooler than the last two we spent here which is good except when it comes to the water clarity. It has been extremely poor. We miss the crystal waters of the many places where we had it before and we feel a little chagrined that we told many people to visit the Sea because of the water clarity that is not there to be found this year, at least not yet (we didn’t lie, promise)
Dolphins and rays are cavorting around us again. For the first time, we encountered whirlpools full of detached gold-brown kelp (Sargassum grass), sometimes, the size of our boat, floating by. One of these huge clumps of kelp had two turtles floating along in it. Were they using the kelp for shade, as a floating device, for camouflage, food, escape pod, courting each other, or what? It was quite interesting to see. They blended in quite well with the kelp. The water temperature would fluctuate wildly and sometimes the current would be with us then against us. Some weird type of exchange of currents from 3,000 feet deep to the shallower coast are milling about.
All is quiet aboard and I hear the very faint sound pelicans’ wings make when they fly close by, their white bellies tainted aquamarine by the reflection of the vibrant water below. It’s not often things are quiet enough to simply hear the wind through wings… Thankfully nature itself hasn’t changed too much.

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