The Bare-toed Vaquero
Life in Baja California's Desert Mountains
Publication Year: 2013
Rarely visited by outsiders, the ranchers of the Sierra de la Giganta in Baja California Sur live much as their ancestors have for the past two centuries. They raise goats and cattle and grow a magnificent variety of fruits, vegetables, and flowers. In this book a gifted photojournalist introduces us to individual ranchers and their families and describes their traditional practices and the ways they have adapted to twenty-first-century challenges and technological advances.
Marchand’s photographs and text are both informative and intimate. His introduction to this little-known corner of Mexico will delight travelers and scholars alike.
Published by: University of New Mexico Press
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Preface: The Rancheros of Sierra de la Giganta
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In his classic Last of the Californios (Copley Books, 1981), historian Harry W. Crosby wrote of the lives of rancheros in Baja California’s interior mountains whose ancestry, traditions, and values Crosby believed could be traced directly to the Jesuit mission era of the peninsula. Descendents of early Spanish and English adventurers—priests and soldiers, mariners and pirates—these traditional pastoralists and horticulturalists have survived long geographical ...
1: Tiombó to Rancho Viejo
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The ranch at Tiombó appears an Eden out of place, an oasis of deep green in a hardscrab-ble landscape of broken rock and defensive desert scrub. Lying 2,000 feet below the craggy ridge bearing the same name, the ranch has an abundance of water—abundant, that is, for one of the driest places on the continent. Tiombó is not unique in its setting—just a little better of_f, maybe, than most ranches in this country. The canyons of the Sierra de la Giganta ...
2: Rancho Nuevo to Los Pilares
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The great irony of desert landscapes is the extent to which they are shaped by running water. Walking up the dry arroyo toward Tiombó on my previous visit, in the heat of mid-day, I could hardly have imagined the torrents of runof_f capable of eroding such a broad streambed in that land had I not experienced the rage of summer cloudbursts myself. It seems cruel that so much rain should run of_f a land so thirsty, squandered as it were in a ...
3: Los Corrales and Los Dolores
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The recent rains seem to have put everyone in an exceptionally good mood. At Los Corrales, José “Che” Martinez and his two older boys, Jorge and Alberto, were ready-ing their gardens for planting. They were not in any particular hurry, as no one ever is, and were more than happy to drop what they were doing to talk and laugh and show me around. Jorge was planting onion seeds in small, earth-bermed plots remarkably similar to ...
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During dry times the desert landscape of Sierra de la Giganta dif_fers little in appearance from its Sonoran counterpart across the Gulf, dominated mostly by small-leaved, deciduous trees and shrubs and tall, columnar cacti. But looks can be deceiving; the f_lora of the Baja California Peninsula, long isolated from mainland Mexico, has followed its own course of evolution. The Sierra de la Giganta today supports an extraordinary number of endemic ...
4: La Higuera to Agua Escondida
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The road to La Higuera follows a long valley rising gradually to the remotest and highest reaches of the Sierra de la Giganta. The valley is more open compared to others, the head of it more distant. Horizons are sof_ter, slopes a little gentler. Mesas replace the jagged and convoluted ridges of the Sierra crest. Long vistas and arroyo crossings on water-worn bed-rock with an abundance of palms add to a dif_ferent impression here—a sense of tranquility ...
5: Rancho Viejo to Tiombó
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The next time I saw Tista, he had started rebuilding his cocina, enlarging it by erecting a new roof over the old one that he would then tear down. Tista built his present cocina eighteen years ago af_ter Juanito was born. In spite of ample ventilation, the palm thatch and structural members are totally black with soot. But Tista has told me more than once that Tista is an excellent craf_tsman. He had several large-diameter palm posts cemented in ...
Appendix: Rancheros Visited for This Work
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Page Count: 136
Publication Year: 2013