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 SANTA ROSALIA City Guide and Directory

The City of Wood

45 miles south of San Ignacio is Santa Rosalía, a town located between two tablelands by the Sea of Cortez. Santa Rosalía displays its unique French architecture in its beautiful buildings that have witnessed the history of this indomitable town.

On July 7, 1885 the French company El Boleo initiated a mining operation of the rich deposits of copper with a concession from President Porfirio Diaz for a time period of 99 years, the company had a total tax exemption for 50 years and the use of 44,742 acres of land that eventually expanded to 1,342,260 acres. In exchange, El Boleo was obligated to build a town, a port and public buildings, to establish a maritime route between Santa RosalÍa and Guaymas, and to employ Mexican workers.

From dusk until dawn, this French-inspired town was built, replacing the disordered array of adobe houses with beautiful wooden houses built on blocks and streets that were meticulously outlined and adapted to the landscape.

El Boleo employed Mexican workers and reached a prosperous height that attracted manual laborers from many regions. However, El Boleo exploited the workers, creating a labor system equivalent to slavery. From 1901 to 1903, 1,400 workers died, many the victims of silicosis and frequent accidents. As El Boleo prospered, well-concealed violations of contract exploited the underpaid workers. Labor strikes by the workers were repressed by force.

In 1897, the Santa Barbara church was erected. Designed by Gustave Eiffel in 1884, the church had been preconstructed over a period of two years to be displayed at the World Exposition in Paris in 1889. Mr. Charles LaForque, acting director of the company, saw the building in Brussels in 1895. At the request of the El Boleo employees, LaForque bought the building and that same year, the unassembled church crossed the Atlantic on the company vessel San Juan.

El Boleo�s major progress occurred during World War I, from 1915 until 1918. The company opened mining centers in Santa Martha, San Luciano and El Purgatorio, created telephone nets and build a 25-mile railway and a funicular railway system to transport minerals.

Due to the exhaustion of the copper deposits from 53 years of exploitation, El Boleo settled with the Mexican government in 1938. In 1954, the company closed out and the federal government took over, providing employment for the town that refused to die. Yet on the eve of Santa Rosalía�s 100th anniversary, the mining ovens shut down for good.

Santa RosalÍa survives today, utilizing marine resources and tourism that is generated from the town�s past exploitation of gypsum and manganese. The beautiful French buildings have been remodeled, the streets are paved and clean, and the sidewalks, parks and houses are decorated with gardens and trees. The attractive town surprises and captivates visitors.

On a tour through Santa Rosalía, you feel the sensation of being in another space and time. Perhaps the town is like New Orleans, with its wood houses, its balconies and its porches. The buildings and public places are reminiscent of the town�s history, with striking buildings such as the Municipal Palace, the French Hotel, the Central Hotel, the Library Mahatma Gandhi, the Municipal DIF, the local Club Mutualista, the Post Office and the Morelos Garden where you can find one of the locomotives Baldwin brought in 1886 and the ruins of the old melting.

A notation should also be made of the Santa Barbara church, with its gothic altar beautifully leaded, and the old bakery of El Boleo where the smell of freshly baked bread drifts through the main street.

Santa Rosalía dresses up from October 10 until October 22 to celebrate its Foundation Festival. Sports and cultural events contribute to the festive fair atmosphere.

For tourists, Santa Rosalía offers comfortable hotels, restaurants, RV parks, a marina, a domestic airport, a bus depot and a ferry terminal with service to and from Guaymas, Sonora.

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