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Rosarito Beach Hotel's Grand Centennial Events
by Martina

Rosarito Beach Hotel's Grand Centennial Events

By Martina

Rosarito Beach Hotel 100 Fiestas
Rosarito Beach Hotel 100 Fiestas

The Rosarito Beach Hotel is turning 100 and we are all invited to the rich cultural events throughout the summer and into September. Be a part of honoring this 100-year-old historic site!

Rosarito has acquired a name over the years as a party town, however the Torres family wants to share that the opening of the hotel in 1924 featured community cultural events which continue today. The intention then in all the upcoming events will be to bring the history and rich culture of Baja California to all who attend. Two synchronistic discoveries add to the bounty of what the Torres family has planned.

Hugo Torres, the icon of the Rosarito Beach Hotel, had submitted a request to the ministry of Culture in March 2003. He requested that his hotel become a Cultural Heritage Site. The family had to wait only 21 years for this important declaration! In a meeting on February 8th of this year, chaired by Gov. Marina del Pilar, it came to a unanimous decision giving the Rosarito Beach Hotel this distinction adding to the centennial celebration. And if this wasn’t enough goodness coming to fruition, a painting called The Market, which had been hanging in the hotel for decades, was discovered to be the work of Alfredo Ramos Martinez. Martinez is known throughout Mexico as one of the most important artists of the 20th century. He is considered by many historians to be the father of Mexican modern art. His work stands alongside Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Monet and Matisse. Unlike his counterpart Diego Rivera, Martinez painted with a serene and empathetic brush reflecting Mexico in the 1930, rather than for political impact as did Rivera. Martinez died in the United States and his work now hangs in many stateside museums. This all came together at the same time for the celebration. The Secretary of Culture said that the hotel is considered an icon of Baja California and defines heritage as “identifying ourselves with everything that unites us, and above all, promoting the legacy that we leave to our children and new generations.”

Rosarito Beach Hotel 100 Fiestas
Rosarito Beach Hotel 100 Fiestas

In 1924 when the beautiful hotel opened its doors, Rosarito Beach was mostly scattered ranches. A newly paved two lanes were completed from Tijuana to Ensenada in 1923. To get an idea of travel time for those who crossed from the states, it was an all-day trek on a desolate road from Tijuana to Ensenada. The first outpost was Medio Camino, aka Half-Way House, with its old fashioned swinging doors. It was the first cantina and very popular during prohibition. This was followed in 1924 by Rene’s, a legendary gathering place, which was sadly turned into a casino that failed before it could celebrate its 100 years. It was a historic loss for Rosarito as we see gentrification happening. Rosarito Beach Hotel will be protected now by its new status given as a Cultural Heritage Site.

Rosarito Beach Hotel 100 Fiestas
Rosarito Beach Hotel 100 Fiestas

So, you can imagine when the ritzy Rosarito Beach Hotel opened it would have been a stunning event for the local people. It began to attract the wealthy who showed up in their shiny new Model T Fords. Soon, word reached the US during prohibition. The women were greeted at the front door with these now famous words, “Through This Door Pass the Most Beautiful Women in the World.” How thoughtful that was. Today, as we step into the grand reception hall, our attention is immediately captured by a bright red truck in the lobby. This isn’t any ordinary truck, but one from the past. It is a restored Ford Model T truck. One like this was used to carry the construction materials for the hotel. It is hard to imagine the simplicity of life that something so fragile helped build this magnificent icon.

We turn our attention to what would have surely awed people a 100 years ago. The breathtaking architecture of soaring ceilings and arches with the grand staircase curving to the second floor. The expansive walls are covered with the original murals by Matias Santoyo depicting an earlier era. They give you a sense of the picturesque life of the Mexican people. I am particularly fond of the woman hanging the bird cage outside her window. From here we can wander around noticing the extremely fine tile work, gracing floors and following the curving arches. Manuel Barbachano was the architect and builder of the original hotel. He was a lover of Mexican art who purchased the recently discovered artwork by Martinez. Barbachano included a casino in the hotel. This was like a seductive Baja California siren calling the Hollywood types caught in prohibition to cross the border. They brought their gala parties and the hotel took very good care of them. Their names will never be forgotten: Kirk Douglas, Orson Welles, John Wayne, Gregory Peck, Frank Sinatra and leading ladies, Rita Hayworth, Marlyn Monroe, Kim Novak, Lana Turner. More recently when blockbusters like Titanic, Master and Commander, Pearl Harbor, 007 and All is Lost were being filmed at Baja Studios, we were star struck often!

Rosarito Beach Hotel 100 Fiestas
Rosarito Beach Hotel 100 Fiestas

There was a serendipitous moment when I met Hugo Torres leaving his office. He was looking very dapper and his blue eyes sparkled with life. I was quite charmed when he added his warm invitation to celebrate the milestone year with the series of events lined up to commemorate the significant occasion. It is suggested to treat yourselves for an overnight stay, which will enhance the overall experience. There will be dinner and wine pairing and a night honoring the Beatles. This unique offering should be very popular. It is a musical saga through the ages to honor the 100 years of music which was played here. The legendary mariachis will start it all off. The Glen Miller era will move us forward to the present. July 20th is the official date for the Centennial and guests will dance into the night with the music of Tikos’ Big Band. You do not need to be a guest of the hotel to attend. There are a cover charges and reservations are required. The events will be held on the lawn in the gardens with an impressive view of the Pacific. Thousands of people are expected to attend. So, pack those bags prepared for chilly coastal evenings and come on down to join in the fun!

Jeff Nevin's Mariachi Champaña & Orchestra
Friday, May 24

Revolution Band - A Beatles Tribute
Saturday, June 15

Tikos' Big Band
Saturday, July 20

Wine Pairing Dinner
Saturday, September 21

Piano Gala with Isaac Namme
Saturday, September 28

Rosarito Beach Hotel 100 Fiestas
Hugo Torres
About Martina
Storytelling is an ancient oral tradition among many of the world’s early inhabitants. Martina, author, freelance writer and journalist, presents her version of how storytelling can vividly portray travel in Baja. Her stories are visual, vibrant and authentic with intriguing hints of Baja magic filtering through her words. She has traveled and lived in both states of Baja California since 1993. Martina offers the reader a truly heartfelt journey. Enjoy! Martina can be reached at: mteomaya(at)gmail.com.
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