- For other uses, see Loreto.
Loreto (or Conchó) was the first Spanish settlement on the Baja California Peninsula. It served as the capital of Las Californias from 1697 to 1777, and is the current seat of the municipality of Loreto in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur. The city of 10,283 people (2005 census) is located on the coast of the Sea of Cortés, about 350 km (220 miles) north of the state capital, La Paz.
The town was founded in 1697 by Jesuit missionaries. The Misión Nuestra Señora de Loreto was founded in the town in 1752. The town served as the capital of the province of Las Californias from its founding until the capital was moved to Monterey on February 3, 1777. The town then became the headquarters for the Lieutenant Governor of California Viejo (later the province of Baja California).
The city is now a tourist resort, catering mostly to U.S. travelers, with daily flights from the U.S. state of California arriving at Loreto International Airport. Many of the American Tourists enjoy fishing in "pangas" for "dorado" (Mahi-mahi or Dolphin Fish). Local restaurants will even prepare the daily catch of the tourists. Loreto has an excellent museum alongside the historic, but still active, parish. The Spanish Fathers found a steady spring of fresh water on this site. The city has an active sister city relationship with Hermosa Beach, California and Cerritos, California, USA.
Loreto is located on the east coast of the Baja California Peninsula
, at 26º00'46" N 111º20'36" W. The town area is bordered to the East side by the Gulf of California
, on the West by the Transpeninsular Highway
and on the South side by the Arroyo Loreto, a dry creek bed that only fills with water after a heavy rainfall. The city is built on relatively flat land; the average elevation is above sea level. To the west of the city area is located the “La Giganta” Mountain Range (“Sierra de la Giganta
”), which extends along the center of the state of Baja California Sur, parallel to the gulf coast.
As for the geology and topography of the Loreto region (from Bahía Concepción to Agua Verde), it’s described by Paul J. Umhoefer as coastal belt that “consists mainly of a narrow belt of ridges, valleys, and pediments adjacent to the escarpment, low- to moderate-elevation ranges transverse to the coast, and narrow coastal plains” (description made in his complete study about the geology of the Loreto region, publicated by the Geological Society of America Bulletin).
Loreto’s climate is hot and humid, with abundant sunshine (desert with some rainfalls in summer). The medium temperature is . The temperatures are hot from June through October. These summer days have highs around and high humidity. According to the National Meteorological Service (Servicio Metereológico Nacional
) Loreto's highest official temperature reading of was recorded on August 1965; the lowest temperature ever recorded was in January 1971. On spring season, the temperatures are moderate and template. Autumn and winter months are usually windy.
From January to March, winds blow from the NW (night hours) and the North (day hours), the rest of the year, the winds blow usually from the West. Loreto's yearly precipitation is low; averages about . The wettest months are August and September, when there are occasional short-lived rainfalls. One concern for Loreto is the Pacific hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30, and some times causes heavy rainfall and floods in the area. The last time the town area had a hit by a hurricane was in September 2nd and 3rd 2006, when the hurricane John hit the Baja California Peninsula.
According to INEGI
, there are 10,283 people, 2565 households, residing in the city. There are 2565 households, out of which 77.67% are male householders and 22.32% are female householders The population is young, and is spread out with 29.75% from 0 to 14 years of age, 19.19% from 15 to 24, and 6.42% who are 60 years of age or older. For every 100 females there are 102.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 100.5 males. The Municipality of Loreto
(which includes Nopoló
, Puerto Escondido
, San Javier
and the rest of the little villages from the coast and mountains) has a population of 11,839 people.(Source: INEGI. Conteo 2005
Loreto has a small population and low immigration. As a result, the presence of large families is very characteristic and repetitive last names can be found frequently among the inhabitants (this phenomena is similar in other state localities). The two largest families are the “Davis”, which predominate in the east of the city, along the beach (in fact, there is a street in the area named after this last name, the “Calle Davis”) and the “Murillo”, which predominate in the South along the Arroyo Loreto, in the neighborhood known as “barrio del Muro” (named after the retaining wall built to hold flood waters from the creek). Other large families are the Amador, the Arce, the Cota, the Higuera, the Romero and the Villalejo.
There are seven buildings in Loreto from the XVIII to the XX century that are considered “historical monuments” by the federal government, the most important is the Mission of our Lady of Loreto, which is the start of "the royal road" (“el camino real”), an historic corridor that ends in Sonoma USA and follows the ancient route of the Spanish missions.
In the neighbor town of San Javier are five historical buildings, the most important is the Mission of Saint Francis Xavier (Misión de San Francisco Javier), which is considered the best preserved mission in the peninsula. Twenty kilometers North of Loreto there are ruins of the Mission of San Bruno, the first mission of Baja California, which was founded in 1683, but it would be abandoned two years later.
The Jesuit Missions Museum (“Museo de las Misions Jesuiticas”) is located beside the Mission of our Lady of Loreto. It has a collection of religious art, weapons and tools from the XVII and XVIII centuries that were used in the Spanish missions in Baja California.
In the La Giganta Mountain Range there are cave paintings in canyons and rock shelters. The nearest sites to Loreto are “Cuevas Pintas” (15 km to the west) and "La Pingüica" (60 km to the North). The cave paintings from the indigenous groups of Baja California are world famous and some of them have been added to UNESCO's list of world heritage sites.
Loreto has a reputation as an excellent point for sport fishing. This is its main tourist attraction and the main source for jobs (therefore, Loreto’s economy is linked to fishing). It has two well-know fishing seasons: Summer, distinguished by the “dorado
” and other species like marlin
, Atlantic blue marlin
and striped marlin
) and sailfish
, ideal for the fly fishing techniques; Winter, distinguished by the “yellow tail
” (jurel) and other species that usually are deep in the sea rocks. Additionally to the seasonal species, Loreto's waters are home of other species like snapper and seabass, which are found all year long. Thanks to this abundance, Loreto has been home of several IGFA
records. The two “foundations” of the Loreto’s sport fishing are the “dorado” and the “yellow tail” (Seriola lalandi dorsalis
). The dorado is the emblematic specie of Loreto, it likes the warm waters, and its season begins in late May, peaks from July to September, and comes to an end in November. Two important tournaments are celebrated within this season in July and September. The yellow tail is one of the strongest species; its season begins in November, peaks from March to April, and comes to an end in late May
Recreation and tourist attractions
There are several beaches in the Loreto area:
- Ensenada Blanca.
- Agua Verde.
- San Bruno (to the North of town).
Other activities are:
- Diving. Thanks to the good visibility, the warm water (that makes wetsuit not necessary most of the year) and the gulf biodiversity, Loreto offers world class snorkelling and scuba diving.
- Golfing. The Loreto Golf Course is located in Nopoló, 9 km south from the town. It’s a par 72 course with 18 holes and has two artificial lakes.
- Tennis. The Loreto Tennis Center is also located in Nopoló. It has 8 professional courts and a stadium.
- Camping. Loreto offers from full service campsites, as well as deserted beaches.
- Kayaking. There are several companies that offer sea kayak tours.
- Sailing. South of Loreto is Puerto Escondido (now renamed “Puerto Loreto” by the federal government). This port is the seat of the “ Sea of Cortez Project” (formerly known as Nautical Ladder Plan), and is a safe natural harbor surrounded by hills, operated by two government agencies. The Hidden Port Yacht Club is based in this port, it’s an internationally recognized club that is also involved in philanthropic activities.
The city has two public schools of superior studies:
High school students (10th to 12th grade) are served by two public schools:
- Centro de Estudios de Bachillerato.
- Preparatoria Federal por cooperación “Manuel Davis Ramírez”.
Middle school students (7th to 9th grade) are served by two public schools:
- Escuela Secundaria Estatal “Benito Juárez”.
- Escuela Secundaria Estatal “Modesto Sánchez Mayón”.
Elementary school students (1st to 6th grade) are served by six public schools and one catholic private school. There are five kindergarten schools. The School Shelter Number 8 (Albergue Escolar Número 8 "General Venustiano Carranza") is a shelter for children from the mountains villages who attend school, away from their homes and families. It serves approximately sixty five students.
- Fiestas de la Virgen de Loreto. The Our Lady of Loreto Festivities are celebrated on September 8. It's a series of religious, civic and cultural events.
- Fiestas de la Fundación de Loreto. The foundation of the city is celebrated from October 19 to 25th. It's one of the most important cultural events in the state.
- Fiestas de San Javier. The festivities from December 1 to 3th are in honor of Saint Francis Xavier, patron saint from the neighbor town of San Javier. These festivities attract a lot of pilgrims from the peninsula.
- Loreto 400. An off-road racing event that takes place in September. The course is a classic desert offroad race which route includes Comondú, San Javier and the old towns of La Giganta mountain range.
- Loreto 300 milles. Off-road racing event. December.
- Torneo de las Misiones. Fishing Charity Tournament that started in 1993. The 2007 edition will be July 12th-14th.
- Loreto Dorado International Fishing Tournament. Takes place in July.
- Copa Dorado Tournament. State tournament in September.
- Governor's Cup Fishing Tournament. May
The city of Loreto is the seat of the Municipality of Loreto, which is governed by a democratic elected City Council (Ayuntamiento), which is integrated by the Mayor or Municipal President (Presidente Municipal), the Syndic (Síndico) and six City Councilors (Regidores), for a period of three years with no right to reelection. The Mayor is a voting member of the council, the executor of the determinations of the City Council and the person directly in charge of the public municipal administration (the City Manager figure doesn’t exist in the Mexican city government structure). The Syndic is also a voting member, and is in charge of the legal representation of the council and municipal government, as well as watching the municipal patrimony and the supervision of the public servants conduct (similar to an US Inspector General). The City Councilors analyze the municipality policies and vote the determinations of the council.
In the communities, the Mayor is represented by twelve sub-delegates (subdelegados), which are designated by the City Council; the twelve sub-delegations are Agua Verde, San Javier , Ligüi, Colonia Zaragoza, San Nicolás, Tembabiche, San Juan Londó, Ensenada Blanca, Alta Gracia, El Guatamote, El Peloteado and Santa Cruz. The current Mayor of Loreto is Professor Yuan Yee Cunningham, and he’ll remain in office until April 2011.
According to the Federal Electoral Institute
, as of February 3
, the Municipality of Loreto had 9,073 registered voters (lista nominal). In Loreto, the main political parties
- The conservative National Action Party (PAN), which heads the Municipal and the Federal Governments. Locally, the party was conformed in the early 90’s by small merchants and members from the Cursillos de Cristiandad (a catholic movement), as a political opposition to the then undefeatable PRI.
- The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled the country from 1929 to 2000, and was mainly conformed by public employees and labor union members.
- The left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), which currently heads the State government. The political party gain presence within the State in 1998, when the local PRI suffered an escition of disgusted members, which then changed their political affiliation to the PRD.
- The New Alliance Party (PANAL). It's the political organization of the National Education Workers' Union (SNTE), a corporatist union leaded by Elba Esther Gordillo. The party began activities in the municipaly in 2007, when PAN members, including several members of the Davis Family, quit that party and changed their political affiliation to PANAL. In addition, the SNTE provided funds and political activists.
Loreto politics has two characteristics: a) High participation and b) Differentiated vote. Unlike the rest of the country, Baja California Sur State has a high political participation, and Loreto is the Municipality with the highest participation in the State. The local elections have the highest participation, above the participation in General Elections (Elecciones Federales) for President, Senators and Deputies. On local elections the lowest participation was on 1993 with 48.2%; the highest was on 1996 with 83%. In the last General Election the participation was 62.42%.
The differentiated vote means that the citizens’ vote is for the candidate not the political party, choosing different candidates from diverse political affiliation at the same election. As an example of this differentiated vote are the 2005 State and local Election and the 2006 General Election. On February 6th 2005, the citizens of Loreto elected State Governor, Mayor and State Representative: the winning candidates were the PRI candidate Rodimiro Amaya (but he lost the rest of the State), the PAN candidate Rodolfo Davis, and the PRD candidate Antonio Olachea (the current XII District State Representative), that means three different political parties won at the same election day, one for each office disputed. On July 2 2006, the citizens of Loreto elected President, Senators and Deputies: the winning candidates were the PAN candidate Felipe Calderón (the current President), and the PRD candidates Francisco Obregón and Juan Adolfo Orci Martínez (current Senator and Federal Representative). This phenomenon began in 1993, that year the citizens of Loreto elected their first Municipal President (the Municipality was created in 1992) and, for the first time in local history, the PRI was defeated in an election (the PRI won the Governor election, but lost the Municipalities of La Paz, Comondú and Loreto, as well as the State Congress), since that year to 2006, each election has different winners, despite their political affiliation. From 1999 to 2005 even though the PRD had won almost all the local elections across the State, the Loreto Municipality had been won by the PRI or the PAN, while the PRD had won the Governor’s election or the State Representative Election. This change in the local elections on February the 3rd 2008, when the PRD candidates Yuan Yee and Francisco Rubio, won the election for mayor and state representative office.
2008 mayoral election
In the mayoral election of February the 3th 2008, according to the preliminary results system, the winning candidate was the PRD
candidate (and former PAN
member), Professor Yuan Yee Cunningham
, with 3,569 votes (54.23%); the 2nd place was for the New Alliance Party PANAL
candidate (and also a former PAN
member) Servando Davis Davis, with 1,552 votes (23.58%); the 3rd and last place was for the PAN
and Green Party
alliance candidate Carlos Amador (a former Municipal Social Development Secretary with corruption accusations), with 1362 votes (20.70%); the PRI
did not present candidate. In the State Representatives election of the same date, the winner was the PRD
candidate Professor Francisco Rubio
with 3,793 votes (49.97%); the 2nd place was for the PAN
candidate Rodolfo Davis Osuna (the current mayor, who left the office temporary in order to run for a seat in the State Assembly) with 1,693 votes (22.30%); the 3rd place was for PANAL
candidate Bernabé Quintana with 1,439 votes (18.96%); 4th place was for the PRI
candidate with 491 votes (6.47%).
The city has one local radio station, XHLBS 92.5 FM “Estéreo Loreto”, that plays popular music and offers local news.
Loreto was the setting for the 7th season finale of ABC reality TV show "The Bachelor”, aired May 16
- Ann O’Neil and Don O’Neil (2001), Loreto, Baja California: First Mission and Capital of Spanish California, Tio Press, ISBN 0970854102.
- Alan Axelrod, David Axelrod and Aaron Bodansky (2007), Best Guide: Loreto, Loreto, Baja California Sur, Mexico; ISBN 0970045584.
- Brett Alan Wyatt (2005), You Decide Travel Guide:Loreto, Riley Books, ISBN 0970889852.
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- Miguel León-Portilla (1997), Loreto's key role in the early history of the Californias (1697-1773), California Mission Studies Association, OCLC 37842990.
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- Sergio Morales Polo (1993), Loreto : some relevant facts about the history of the keystone of California culture, Editorial Londó, OCLC 39034134.
- Nicole Dyan Peterson (2005), Casting a wide net decision-making in a Mexican marine park, Ph.D. dissertation, UCSD, OCLC: 64507505.
- Loreto: Baja California, Mexico fishing chart and guide (1999), Baja "Directions", Inc., ISBN 1929394055 9781929394050.
Morales Polo, Sergio, THE MISSION OF SAN JAVIER. A beautiful link of Jesuit Missions chain in the Royal Road of the Californias. Edit. Londó, México 2007