The seagull walked along the low stone wall of the San Bruno marina. Its laugh sounded almost human, though a bit demented. The gulf waters were shimmering with morning light and there was a pleasant salty sea smell. It was very quiet, not with the expected activity of fishing pangas coming and going. I'd driven past San Bruno for too many years and today it was the destination. San Bruno is a small fishing community south of Santa Rosalia, BCS and is rich in sea life and prehistory mystery. Walking out on the man-made jetty the salt encrusted earth crunched under my feet.
Sometimes you have to sit very still, so the story can find you. Always, there is a level of trust that there is one, even though you might not be aware of it in the moment. The gentle water sounds on rocks and the heat of the morning set the stage. I waited in the shade. Then I spied him, an old fisherman walking toward the marina. His name was Juan Manuel. He knew the gulf waters intimately as did his father before him. His grandmother, the matriarch at 100 years old, used to live on Isla San Marco, 15 minutes by boat. The south end of the island has extensive mining of gypsum and its own airstrip. But Juan Manuel told me that on the north end are found several beautiful caves, a legacy of Baja's volcanic creation. He said that a pangero named Sergio Escobar took people out. This isn't a tourist area, so the price he quoted was very reasonable.
The prehistory of San Bruno goes back 10,000 years. All that went before has nearly been lost. The accounts that remain are written by Europeans who had no frame of reference for what they saw. In this area of Baja Sur the Pericú, Guaycura, as well as the Cochimi lived for thousands of years as hunter gatherers. While the San Bruno “episode” is said to be well documented it was done with a “jaundice eye” and written as fact, sometimes with an extremely condescending tone. Alsatian Jesuit Johann Baegert took a “sour view of his charges,” at one point characterizing them as "stupid, awkward, rude, unclean, insolent, ungrateful, mendacious, thievish, abominably lazy, great talkers to their end, and naïve and childish." So absurd, it makes you want to laugh, if it wasn't so sad. Each critical word would have its counter part. Having time to enjoy life could be seen as “lazy” by A types and who wouldn't be a little “rude” when you had just been invaded? Happy and playful adults, might seem “childish” and since all the indigenous of the Baja had an oral tradition, talking to one another was the local newspaper and its historic library. Any culture having survived 10,000 years is anything but stupid. Never the less, it took only a couple hundred years for the intelligent and civilized Europeans to cause the extinction of the Pericú culture and language.
Just as Juan Manuel was leaving for work. Two boys, Julian and Jesus, rode in on their bicycles; curiosity overcoming shyness. I asked if there was a taco stand as I still hadn't seen one. San Bruno has no facilities or restaurants for the tourist. Boys will make anything fun and so they had me follow them on their bikes to a store that sold burritos. I told them to get a soda; they picked out a the huge Power drink. Kids. Gotta love them.
I can't resist a dirt road into the unknown, even though I do not have benefit of 4-wheel drive. It was the reason I met the Music Man of San Bruno. Everything seemed bleached white in the heat of the day. I spotted a man on a bike. Stopping him, I asked about the road conditions. Carlos wore a beaded shark tooth necklace and had a full head of white hair. Lovely classical music floated out of the milk crate on the back of his bike. The selection of his music was so unusual in this setting, it caused me to pause, happy in the moment. He said the road was good and I took off thinking of how wonderfully in-congruent Baja experiences can be. Suddenly, I found myself in a sand trap. Carlos hadn't mentioned to bare right on the good road, because didn't everyone know the sand blew into dunes along the beach route. I spent time beach combing for jetsam to put down in the deep sandy tracks. Dry Seaweed, brittle flip-flops, cardboard left behind from another fellow traveler were all laid in. A lone vulture sat on a pole, staring silently down at the odd human below. I hollered up, "Hey, it's all part of the journey!"
Martina's email: mteomaya(at)gmail.com