LOCATION: The state of Baja California Sur is located in northeastern Mexico, on the peninsula of Baja California. It is bordered to the north by the state of Baja California Norte, to the west by the Pacific Ocean, and to the south and east by the Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortes.
GENERAL INFORMATION: By the shore of the Gulf of California, the climate is dry and desert-like. On the Pacific Ocean shore, the climate is semi-arid with rainfall in winter. Along the mountain range which runs down the spine of the peninsula, the climate is mild and semi-humid. In the capital city of La Paz, the temperature reaches a maximum of 40°C in summer and 11°C in winter.
The land surface of the State is 75,677.5 square kilometers.
Baja California Sur has a population of 329,892, according to the 1990 census. The largest municipal area is La Paz, with 161,010 residents. Comondu (74,165 inhabitants), Los Cabos (43,545), and Mulege (38,606) are other major municipalities.
COMMUNICATIONS: Baja California Sur has 6,066 kilometers of roads and 1,349 kilometers of paved highways. The Transpeninsular Highway runs from Los Cabos to Tijuana, Baja California Norte, and connects with most of the main population centers of Baja California Sur.
There are 66 airstrips located throughout the state and 3 international airports, located in Loreto, La Paz and Los Cabos which offer easy access to the main cities in the country.
The state has 23 ports serving the commercial fishing industry, tourist travel, coastal trade, and international cargo traffic. The main ports are San Carlos and Pichilingue. Both have deep water berths, extensive warehouse facilities, and full-service industrial parks as well as good highway connections both to La Paz and the American Border at Tijuana. Ferries connect the ports of Santa Rosalia and Los Cabos with the port of Mazatlan.
The city of La Paz is located 1,457 kilometers from Tijuana and 1,606 kilometers from Mexicali.
SUPERIOR EDUCATION: The state’s capital city of La Paz is one of the most important educational centers of northwestern Mexico. This is attested by the existence of sound higher education institutions, such as the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur, the Regional Technological Institute, the Pedagogic University, the State School of Music and several high-level scientific research institutions.
ECONOMIC PROFILE: About sixty percent of the labor force of 102,673 is employed in commerce and services, including tourism. Twenty percent of the state´s labor force is involved in mining and industry, while nineteen percent works in primary sector activities, including agriculture.
Baja California Sur has a Gross State Product of 825 million US dollars, about one-half of one percent of Mexico´s total Gross National Product. Trade and other services combine to account for almost sixty percent of the state´s economic output, with mining providing another seventeen percent of the total. Agriculture and construction each account for nine percent of total production, while six percent comes from manufacturing.
The richest growing zones for agricultural products are located in the municipalities of La Paz and Comondu. Among the main crops harvested are wheat, corn, beans, chick-pea, cotton, chile, melon, watermelon, tomato, avocado, mango, oranges, papaya, and asparagus.
Baja California Sur also has vast fisheries located off its coasts. Commercial species in Baja waters include shrimp, tuna, oysters, shark, abalone, lobster, scallops, sardines, and squid.
Gypsum, phosphorite, and salt are the major minerals mined in the state; there are also small deposits of gold and silver. Industries in the state produce a wide variety of manufactured goods, including shoes, leather products, paper products, and chemicals.
The state has two industrial parks, Los Planes and Sur, which provide all modern services and which have an industrial infrastructure to accommodate international corporations.
TOURISM: Tourism is the state’s largest industry in terms of revenue. Baja California Sur has three main tourist areas. Los Cabos is the largest and most extensively developed. The city of La Paz and the Loreto-Nopolo-Puerto Escondido Corridor, both located on the shores of the Sea of Cortes, offer a wide variety of the finest water sports such as sailing and scuba diving. The natural beauty and geographical variety of the state´s tourist areas have made them all of them centers of ecotourism. Specially trained guides escort visitors on excursions to the sierra of La Laguna and sierra of San Francisco cave paintings. Wildlife enthusiasts come to the state to see the whales offshore and to study the flora and fauna of the desert regions, among others. These areas also offer excellent hotels, restaurants, bars, night clubs, R.V. parks, marinas, travel agencies, car rental offices, wharves for ocean liners, ferry terminals, passenger bus terminals, movie theaters, and many stores, boutiques and bazaars.
HISTORY AND CULTURE: The territory that is now Baja California Sur was explored by Hernan Cortes, Sebastian Vizcaino, and Isidro de Atondo y Antillon. All of their early efforts to colonize the region failed, and it was not until the arrival of the Jesuits that permanent human settlements took root, with the establishment of the missions of Loreto (1697) and San Javier (1699) by the missionaries Eusebio Francisco Kino, Juan Maria Salvatierra, and Juan de Ugarte, among others.
The daunting combination of arid land, the scarcity of water, and the hostility of the natives toward the Spaniards–a product of aggressions of adventurers searching for the famous pearls of the Peninsula–made the colonization of Baja California extremely difficult.
In the beginning, the first mission established, Loreto, was the political, religious, and economic capital of Baja California. In 1829, Loreto was devastated by bad weather, and the capital was moved in 1830 to San Antonio in the municipality of La Paz. The shelter of its bay allowed La Paz to develop into a major port of load and supply, especially on the second half of the 19th Century, when it became the outlet for the minerals mined at Triunfo and San Antonio.
La Paz is also one of the most important cultural sites of northwestern Mexico. It is home to the Library of the Californias, where the most important documents of the history and culture of the Peninsula are kept. The Anthropology and History Museum in La Paz boasts more than 1,200 pieces on exhibit and an ethno-botanic garden. The city´s Cultural Unit of Jesus Castro includes the City Theater, libraries, art galleries, and historical monuments. The La Paz Aquarium showcases the region’s marine wildlife in a faithful reproduction of their natural habitat.
The following article is reproduced with the kind permission of the Consul General in Austin Texas. It first appeared in their : Gaceta consular, January 1997 – Austin, Texas – Year IV, Number 25