The road to Santa Rosalia is like a drag queen in full costume, RuPaul ready for a show. It’s the desert in every bit of showtastic glory: sweeping plains, enormous mesas, forests full of cactus, a deep blue sky full of clouds so lovely they make you want to weep.
The Three Virgins – Tres Virgenes – three tall, red, glorious old volcanoes – rise proud, stand tall – and probably cause many of the accidents that the numerous small roadside shrines pay tribute to. The valleys dive down, down, down – the mountains rise again and the contrasts between them, between the colours, between the sky, the road, between the cactus, the succulents, between it all – makes your hand rise up, itching to give your face a little slap: no, you are not dreaming.
Yes, this is real. Yes, that’s the road and yes, you better keep your eye on it!
So you are in this suspended state of gooey awe when you reach the base, the slender space between mountains and sea which serves as the door frame to enter Santa Rosalia, which is nestled within. You step through and recoil – because the door mat to this small town is its landfill. You drive by the piles and pits full of trash, the sides of the road heavy with waste. From there, the mines reach out to greet you.
This is the bullshit filter. If you can’t deal with this, you drive on – and I’m sure many do. And we are pretty glad for it. It’s selfish of us, but we love that little gem of a town. If you can get through the trash and the mine, turn right off the main highway, away from the coast, and you have stepped back in time to one of the most delicious little places ever.
Santa Rosalia is a working old town. It’s unpretentious, without guile. It’s full of working folk – primarily miners and their families. The people seemed dry to me, with humour, sass.
It seemed like the type of place where the women are strong, smoke cigarettes and laugh loud; the type of place where people are not going to smile at you if they don’t feel like it.
We come armed though: 3 kids! All cute! And if you don’t care for kids, no problem; we have a PUG!
We got quite a lot of smiles. We gave quite a few too, made some friends, ate more good food. And then some more.
Oh my God, those fish tacos were sooooooooooooooooooooooooooo good. And something in the region of 90 cents?
Santa Rosalia is a town with a past, chock full of stories. The mine yields gypsum, cobalt and copper. It was opened in the 1800’s by the French (as I understand it, so don’t quote me here). The wood for the houses came from the Pacific Northwest, shipped in by the French who owned the mine.
Speaking of the French, the church was designed by Gustave Eiffel – the walls and roof are all metal, made in France, then assembled in Belgium before being shipped to Baja. It is beautiful – we enjoyed the full 5 minutes we had inside (before Moxie decided she wanted to hang out with Jesus lying in his casket and had to collect her and run out).
We stayed at the Hotel Olvera. We love the owners and can’t say enough good about them. The hotel itself is pretty rickety – like, walking up the stairs feels like an adventure! But the hot water is hot, the cable tv has kids shows and the wifi is strong – just the way mama likes it
ACCESS: this town sucks. There were ramps a’plenty, but they almost always led to ditches, open holes or stairs. They were a tease, leading someone who wanted a ramp UP, but then leading them to a brick wall. Not cool. If you are a chair user, I’d say get rugged wheels on your chair, a big flag and just ride in the street. Accommodations would likely be tough because I couldn’t see anyplace that without stairs. But usually just one stair – so if a portable ramp is available to you, that would be a good ticket to a lot of places.
TV CAPTIONS: I am bummed that the tv shows here are not captioned (so far as I can tell). BUT they have a sign interpreter for all official-looking stuff and they have her in a little circle at the bottom of the screen. That’s cool. But Mexican sign is NOT the same as ASL and my ASL isn’t fluent at that, so it’s mainly just interesting to watch for now
OTHER DISABILITY STUFF: I have a sneaking suspicion that the inaccessibility of the places we go to coupled with something else – culture? – keep people with disabilities tucked away because I haven’t seen anyone with a disability. Nada. I’m wondering where everyone is.
Micah was hugging the bars, looking in on a tortilla maker – he caught glimpse, invited us in, gave us tortillas.