pixel

Oldest Bar in Baja, Hussong’s Cantina
By Martina

Oldest Bar in Baja, Hussong’s Cantina

By Martina
Photos by Bill Veale Graphics

Hussong's Ensenada

In 1889, a Pacific Coast Steamship chugged through the blue diamond water, docking in the beautiful harbor of a small Mexican town south of San Diego. With sounds of an air horn blasting overhead, a young German man disembarked with a stream of other excited passengers. Johann Hussong was deep in thought about his sweetheart, Louise, left behind in Germany and was wondering if he hadn’t taken his dream a bit too far. From the dock he walked across the beach headed to the settlement. He was startled from his reverie by charging horses pulling a fast moving stagecoach. He watched as the driver cracked his whip overhead, leaving him standing in a cloud of dust. The stage was headed into the Santa Clara Mountains where gold had been discovered, sixty miles southeast of what is now known as Ensenada. Johann was not the only one hoping to “strike it rich.” He, like many, believed the newspaper articles written by zealous journalists about new veins of hope being discovered in “lower” California. Looking around the small village, Johann headed towards the assay office following a sweat-incrusted prospector leading his burro, laden with clanking pot and pans. The news wasn’t good, journalists had created the “rush” to make headlines and prospectors filled every steamship and schooner from San Diego. Fevered thoughts of gold would soon be lost in the reality of the day.

Johann was an enterprising chap of 25, he turned his attention to less speculative work. It didn’t take long for him to find other sources of income. He changed his name to John and began to run supplies up and down the Baja coast. He hunted fowl and sold these to the restaurants. Doing so well, in 1890 he began running a six-horse carriage service between the town of Ensenada into the gold rush camps on a very bad road. Hussong's EnsenadaOne day he and his companion, Newt House, flipped the carriage and Newt broke his leg. With no nearby hospital for recuperation, Newt was put up in a cantina owned by J.J. Meiggs, the only “watering hole in town.” Meiggs had a wife that he apparently didn’t like all that well, or maybe it was too much hooch, because he went after her with an axe as the story goes. Meiggs never returned and John managed his bar for nearly a year.

Johann talked Louise into coming to the new frontier to be his wife. Their love survived the nearly three year separation. Now that would make another story. Across the street from Meiggs Cantina was the Southern Lane stagecoach stop. John purchased the building, remodeled and opened a small restaurant where he sold beer for a nickel and whiskey for a dime. In 1892 he bought his liquor license, #002, which is still on the books today. John Hussong at 29, now owned what would become the oldest and most famous bar still in operation in all of Baja California.

Modern day Ensenada. Hussong's EnsenadaA mammoth cruise ship is moored in the bay and disgorges hundreds of people who walk along the dock towards the main street. Stop lights create great gatherings of people on the corners as four lanes of traffic sweep by. Overhead, a hearty ocean breeze unfurls the majestic Mexican flag, rippling red, green and white. It is a festival every day of the week. The only reminder of the “old days” is a horse drawn carriage that passes with the sounds of hooves clip clopping on pavement and Hussong’s storefront squeezed between towering buildings. Stepping in off the sunlit sidewalk into the dim cave-like interior is an immediate sense of the past. Everyone appears in a shadowy play of light and dark. History permeates the very wood of the walls that are covered with layers of century old paint. Lazy fans hang from a very high ceiling and stir the air. The acoustics create a sense there are many more people in animated conversations then there actually are. It is easy to imagine what it was like 123 years ago as the customers holler for another drink and fill up on their basket of peanuts. The well-worn bartender, with 35 years behind the bar, responds in slow measured movements. It’s as if he had been tending this bar since the earliest days and the only difference today was the style of dress.

Sitting at the bar you look into a smoky reflection of who you are, cracked by a long-ago accident in the original mirror. The heavy wooden bar had to be replaced, but everywhere you look, you will see signs of the history left behind. The oak wood floor is the very same floor walked on by the four generations of Hussong’s that would continue the lineage up to the great grandchildren. Hussong's Ensenada Mariachis wait out on the street to begin their day’s work of bringing music into the dusky interior. They lean up against the hitching posts where prospectors used to tie up their burros while they went in to “wet their whistle.”

Ensenada is now known as a destination tourist attraction and there are numerous “watering holes,” fine restaurants and entertainment. Yet we are drawn to the nostalgic past that gives us a place; it grounds us in its history in a way we might not understand. We are lucky that places like Hussong’s still exist. We can experience firsthand that the Wild West was not a fantasy of the movies, but rather a place where real people lived and loved, creating a future for generations to come.

If you plan on staying for a round or two, bring your designated driver. Parking can be problematic, there is secured parking in the back, accessed by going around the block.

Sources:
Wikipedia
Ann Hazzard, Baja Insider and Ensenada Historical Society
Connie Ellig of the Ensenada Gazette
Sylvia K. Flanigan, The Baja California Gold Rush of 1889
The Journal of San Diego History, Winter 1980, Volume 26, Number 1

Martina's email: mteomaya(at)gmail.com

4.7 146 Reviews
  • user logo
    Tony Vigil
    From logo

    My wife and I were in Baja the 1st week of October. Insurance through Baja Bound was quick and easy. Thank you

  • user logo
    Mark Sokol
    From logo

    Easy to obtain, good quality, auto insurance for Mexico.

  • user logo
    Kyle Spahn
    From logo

    I have used Baja Bound for years. Very easy and affordable.

  • user logo
    Pim Handgraaf
    From logo

    Great company. unlike their competitors, Baja Bound answers the phone and you're talking to a real person. Highly reccomend!

  • user logo
    Rebecca Marie Serratos
    From logo

    We've used Baja Bound Mexican Insurance for years, its quick, easy, and affordable. Whether you drive across the US/Mexico border once or...

  • user logo
    Teresa Stricker
    From logo

    Great service and prices!

  • user logo
    Edward Ramos
    From logo

    Great service, quick response time.

  • user logo
    Juan Zavala
    From logo

    Excellent

  • user logo
    benjamin bakke
    From logo

    Easy insurance for peace of mind

  • user logo
    richard colman
    From logo

    This is an update to my previous review. Baja Bound, unbidden on my part, reached out to me to assist. They coordinated a contact with...

  • user logo
    Rivera Jose
    From logo

    Quick easy to navigate website

  • user logo
    masa SAL.
    From logo

    Good seevice have use baja bound for many years good price....

  • user logo
    jos en elly balemans - wouters
    From logo

    We were trying to get an insurance for our RV in Mexico, we come from Europe and we drive with Belgium license plates. I tried a lot of...

  • user logo
    Isi Soto
    From logo

    Easy to get and the price is right

  • user logo
    John I. Mitchell
    From logo

    Professional and affordable.

  • user logo
    Clarissa Gomez
    From logo

    Thank God I had a safe trip but it did have me at peace knowing I was fully covered. The staff were friendly and very helpful.

  • user logo
    Michael Marble
    From logo

    Best Mexican insurance

  • user logo
    Rail1riders
    From logo

    Quick, easy, well designed website and not just for Baja. Good rates for temporal residente gringos. We’re now living in Jalisco. Printed...

  • user logo
    Jeff Dippel
    From logo

    Honestly their app is so fantastic and saves all my info I can literally buy the same insurance for my Baja trips in less than 45 seconds...

  • user logo
    Hector Cortez-aponte-cabrera
    From logo

    Been with Baja Bound for a while now. Never had the need to file a claim, until recently while in Baja. Someone crashed into our vehicle....

  • user logo
    Charles Gee
    From logo

    Incredibly fast and painless. Paid about $180 for a month of coverage. It was easier than going on line.

  • user logo
    Chyla Nava
    From logo

    Great, easy to use service. I haven't had to file a claim (and hope I never have to) but the online portal is very easy to use, and it's...

  • user logo
    Kierian Kuklok
    From logo

    I have been a customer for years and when I really needed them they stepped up in every way. I had a freak accident to my car and they...

  • user logo
    Lourdes Montoya
    From logo

    Easy, fast, and affordable.

  • user logo
    Aj
    From logo

    Reasonable prices and we thought best chance to actually get results if we needed them.

  • user logo
    Benny Marquez
    From logo

    Great company and they use CHUBB which is a top notch insurance company.We got our policy online 30min before crossing the border and were...

  • user logo
    Adrianna Dorsey
    From logo

    Great company, great prices, and even better customer service. We've lived in Baja for 7 years and have used them for the past 6years....

  • user logo
    Gary Counts
    From logo

    So convenient and easy to navigate thru the online process. I'll never use any other Mexican insurance service!

  • user logo
    Joey Digiovanni
    From logo

    Easy to work with 😉. Always courteous and helpful. Have used them for all trips to Mexico. Easy website to navigate

  • user logo
    Jolene Bibian
    From logo

    Shauna at Baja Bound was AWESOME!! We had specific questions about how to quote the policy based on our vehicle type and she was super...

  • user logo
    Rebecca Newell
    From logo

    Great service!

  • user logo
    Maria Elena Smith
    From logo

    Easy and affordable.

  • user logo
    Mehdi Fahid
    From logo

    I reapplied for my Baja Bound Mexican car Insurance yesterday and I spoke to Ms. Shauna. This lady processed my application quickly and...

  • user logo
    Benjamin Driebe
    From logo

    Absolutely fantastic, I already forgot her name because I have a terrible memory but the woman that helped me on the phone was wonderful,...

  • user logo
    richard carr
    From logo

    fast replies and great price!

  • user logo
    Juan Zuniga
    From logo

    I just would like to know if you guys are going to update the fastpass direction any soon, during the month of January the lane changed to...

  • user logo
    Richard Schweiger
    From logo

    Very professional, very helpful, great policy, I couldn't be happier with Baja Mexican Insurance, the friendly smiles and ease of it all in...

  • user logo
    Ryan Frisby
    From logo

    We use them every time we travel to Mexico. Luckily we have not needed their services yet but getting insurance through them is quick and...

  • user logo
    Jan Muhammad
    From logo

    I need a tourist visa for maxico I'm from pakistan help me sir

  • user logo
    Tracy Moore
    From logo

    Very easy, quick, and professional

  • user logo
    robert kepper
    From logo

    They are very good . There website doesn't show you need a title to bring a vehicle across the border.I was stopped and told I had to...

  • user logo
    Edilver Martinez
    From logo

    Our go to Baja car insurance, everytime we take a visit down south . Usually it's for a day trip either for a quick getaway with the family...

  • user logo
    Daniel “Dan M” Markofsky
    From logo

    Third time working with Baja Bound and they made it easy! Thanks!

  • user logo
    Steve Bender
    From logo

    Have never needed to use the insurance fortunately but the website always works great. Can buy a policy in about a minute.

  • user logo
    Jose Paez
    From logo

    Had a great experience getting insurance at Baja Bound, before I always stoped at the border to purchase my insurance, not anymore. By the...

  • user logo
    JUSTINE SERRANO
    From logo

    I purchased insurance through them & CHUBB for our trip to San Felipe. Unfortunately, we had to cancel due to our vehicle having an oil...

  • user logo
    Christian Minor
    From logo

    Team were on point, provided inside information, prices were great and they had my proposal already in the system when I called back....

  • user logo
    George
    From logo

    Excellent customer service

  • user logo
    Kellye Pummill
    From logo

    Fast and easy!

  • user logo
    Jennifer Toups
    From logo

    Baja Bound is and has been my go to Mexico insurance company. The website is extremely easy to use, keeps all your info for a quick...

  • user logo
    Cesar Lopez
    From logo

    Very convenient, great price !!

  • user logo
    Louis Schneidman
    From logo

    I had an awesome experience with Baja Bound. Family owned and highly personal, top notch customer service. I have total peace of mind...

  • user logo
    Phil Noble
    From logo

    If you’re looking for Mexican Insurance that you can trust and feel good about while traveling in Mexico, you’ve found the right place....

  • user logo
    Jeff Bunker
    From logo

    Great coverage options . Price buy and print policy , very quick and easy , highly recommend them when driving in Mexico

  • user logo
    Burrell DeVine
    From logo

    Easy to navigate and very competitively priced! I had to call in and add an additional day, they couldn't have been any more pleasant to...

  • user logo
    Nereyda Torres
    From logo

    Me gusta la asuguranza porque la puedes comprar por un dia y te asegura en Mexico por el tiempo que vas ya sea hasta por mes (Translated...

  • user logo
    james whitmer
    From logo

    Best insurance I've had so far

  • user logo
    Matt B
    From logo

    I always use Baja Bound to source my insurance while traveling to Mexico. Fortunately, I have not had to file any claims. I do appreciate...

  • user logo
    Refugio I. Rochin
    From logo

    Excellent online and by direct phone. Spanish and English with proven response to questions. Website is very informative about driving in...

  • user logo
    Kelly Carney
    From logo

    Yara is very helpful and explains everything. Love working with companies like this.

  • user logo
    Slumdog Gump
    From logo

    Changed some money. Good rate and friendly people.

  • user logo
    Jeff G
    From logo

    Went down to TJ June 11 2020 No problems going into TJ but the way back was a ordeal 6 hours in line to get back into the USA but no...

  • user logo
    don letson
    From logo

    Great renewal process, if only south Dakota would do the same for car registration.

  • user logo
    len buckholtz
    From logo

    SIMPLE, STRAIGHTFORWARD. OLD GUYS LIKE THAT. WILL DEFINITELY USE IN 6 MONTHS IF STILL RUNNING AROUND THE WILDS OF BAJA.

  • user logo
    Susana Judd
    From logo

    Easy, quick and fair prices. Easy to deal with if needed.

  • user logo
    Seismic Waterfinder
    From logo

    Very excellent service, needed insurance for Mexico, price was fair. The custumer service rep was Yara

  • user logo
    Nicolas Dervé
    From logo

    Very good ans very fast. We hope all will ben good if we need it.

  • user logo
    Blake Glassco
    From logo

    I will never drive south of the border without Baja Bound in my center console. I was in an accident a couple hours south of Ensenada and...

  • user logo
    JohnPaul Gemelli
    From logo

    Baja Bound could not have made it an easier ... also, I made a mistake and called them having to leave a message ... but, they called back...

  • user logo
    Jeff Brandt
    From logo

    so far so good, however I have read good things about them

  • user logo
    Sengoz N
    From logo

    SERIOUS.

  • user logo
    Kenneth Trass
    From logo

    Getting a policy was simple, Provided more than provider for price comparison.

  • user logo
    Esther Valencia
    From logo

    Super easy to purchase just the coverage you need when crossing the border in your own car. I especially appreciate the fact that I was...

  • user logo
    Larry Cottingham
    From logo

    Great service, very helpful people there.

  • user logo
    Luis Cortes
    From logo

    Easiest way to purchase insurance when traveling to Mexico. I have used their service for the last 7 years and it only gets easier and...

  • user logo
    j dougher ty
    From logo

    EZ Peasy insurance purchase. Great service every time I've used them. Had to cancel one time when my travel plans went away - no problem....

  • user logo
    Paul Niehouse
    From logo

    Extremely easy to acquire a policy. Many options available. Reasonable rates.

  • user logo
    Colin
    From logo

    Super-easy and instant. Very happy with initial purchase.

  • user logo
    Howard M Elster
    From logo

    2nd year with Chubb. No problems

  • user logo
    Cyndee Congrove
    From logo

    Great customer service, quick, friendly staff helpfully answered all questions, very patient with my learning curve on a new product. Would...

  • user logo
    Art Eugenio
    From logo

    I've had Baja Bound insurance for more that ten years now with thousands of miles logged in Baja. Fortunately, I've only had one fender...

  • user logo
    Gabe Matthews
    From logo

    Where do i start..... you dont know you have good insurance until you have to actually use it. I have had Baja Bound INS for over 5 years...

  • user logo
    keith berkley
    From logo

    Been going to baja for 45 years. This is best insurance company i have come accross.

  • user logo
    Ryan Perkio
    From logo

    I have been using BajaBound Insurance for 15 years - multiple trips per year. Their website is easy, their coverage is great, and the...

  • user logo
    RaMon McBride
    From logo

    I have not had any claims thus far so rating is based on ease of purchase.

  • user logo
    Larry French
    From logo

    By far the best service for Mex insurance in Baja. They are personally there for you if you have problems south of the border.

  • user logo
    Tudor Thomas
    From logo

    Baja Bound makes buying insurance for going south of the border as easy as it gets. The website is the easiest I have used and the staff...