About La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico
La Paz -
The City of Peace, Capital of Baja California Sur
While La Paz (map) in known as “the city of peace”, this moniker belies it’s very turbulent modern history. The Baja Peninsula was first settled about 10,000 years ago. By the time of the Spanish incursion in the Baja, there were three very well defined Indian tribes living here. The extreme south was inhabited by the Pericues; the middle-lower peninsula was inhabited by the Guaycuras, and the north by the Cochimies.
There were many legends on the mainland Mexico of the Baja peninsula (map). Gold and pearls were controlled by Amazon women, and men were used only for procreation. At the time it was thought to be an island. After Hernan Cortez conquered Mexico, he set out to conquer this famed island. In 1533 one of two ships sent out by Cortez, accidentally discovered the Baja peninsula and they returned with tales of handfuls of pearls. On May 3rd, 1535, Hernan Cortez first arrived at what is now La Paz naming it Villa de la Santa Cruz. Cortez mounted the first of many attempts to conquer the peninsula. However several years of efforts and numerous expeditions met with failure due to lack of sufficient food and water as well as ferocious attacks by the natives.
The surrounding waters of La Paz were first named the Bermejo Sea, due to the ever changing colors of the water from intense azure blue to blood red. La Paz received its modern name from Sebastian Vizcaino who established his base here in 1596, but was soon forced to leave as well. In 1720 a semi-permanent settlement was established by Jesuit missionaries becoming Mexico's first real attempt to settle the area. This lasted only 30 years as Indian revolts, disease and Baja's harsh setting again led to abandonment.
As the years progressed and transportation technology developed, more and more groups of people found their way to the shores of La Paz. Pirates, traders, missionaries, conquistadors, treasure hunters, and merchants dealt and fought with each other, and the natives in the hopes of conquering the naturally abundant lands and waters of what was soon to be called La Paz.
A permanent settlement wasn't established again until 1811, and in 1829 La Paz become Baja California's capital when Loreto was leveled by a hurricane. In September, 1846, the Mexican-American War came to La Paz. U.S. Commander Samuel F. DuPont seized the city and signed a promise of neutrality with Colonel Francisco Palacios Miranda, then governor of Baja California. Citizens of La Paz would be involved in both peaceful negotiations and insurrections against the Americans for the next 2 years.
There was no armed struggle in the Lower California during the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1911. There was a minor riot in the military barracks. In the aftermath of the revolution and the assassination of Madero there were armed uprisings. These uprisings were between the allies of Carranza and Pancho Villa. These persisted for
several years. Pacification came in 1914. Many reforms were instituted with the new revolutionary government. A period of colonization ensued.
The pearling industry was eradicated when an unknown disease attacked the mother-of -pearl shell, between 1936 and 1940. Agriculture was instituted on a large scale with irrigation from deep wells. La Paz then languished until the trans-peninsula highway was completed in 1973, and La Paz became capital of the newly formed state of Baja California Sur in 1974.
Today La Paz is not only a thriving small city boasting a burgeoning middle class, but is fast becoming more of a First-Class Resort and Retirement opportunity. Several large development projects are well on their way to completion, and are showing no signs of slowing. Visitors enjoy a wide range of options such as fishing, sailing and diving in the waters of the Sea of Cortez near the island refuge of Espiritu Santos. The Museum of Anthropology is a good way to become more familiar with the local history and culture. Cave paintings can be found nearby as well.
While the summer temperatures can sometimes reach as high as 120°F, a weather phenomenon unique to the La Paz area, provides a much needed afternoon respite, the “Corumel wind”. It was named for the pirate Oliver Cromwell, who understood this wind, and used it to out manouver his prey. The winds are created when the cool marine air from the Pacific side of the peninsula is drawn over the desert to the relatively warmer side of the Sea of Cortez. A daily occurance from late-spring through the summer, it begins in the afternoon, lasting through the night and sometimes into the morning. It only occurs in the La Paz area because this is the only place on the peninsula that does not have a spine of mountains blocking such an air flow.
In 1596, when Sebastian Vizcaino gave this city it’s name, it may have been premature, but over the years many have found the peace that he envisioned here. Spectacular sunsets, lonely and secluded beaches, a plethora of diverse marine life and friendly locals now make La Paz an excellent destination. Today, La Paz is known as the 'Gateway to the Sea of Cortez' for the diversity of eco-tourism activities based in the city, including diving, fishing and boat charters. First class Medical Centers, an international airport, a variety of dining possibilities and the full range of choices for accomadations are available. Whether you prefer “roughing it” on eco-tours or lounging around a resort’s pool sipping margaritas, La Paz can provide some of the finest alternatives that Baja has to offer.