Visitors looking to take a relaxing break from the crowded, energetic streets of Rosarito during high season may drive just a bit south of the city to enjoy the peace and tranquility of Misión El Descanso ruins. Preserved and studied today by Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, these adobe walls and stone foundations represent a once vibrant Misión complex which was one of the last to be created in Baja California.
Misión El Descanso was the brainchild of Dominican missionaries having trouble with consistent flooding at neighboring Misión San Miguel because they had constructed it too close to the Guadalupe River. Vowing to find higher ground and a more practical location, they discovered the preferable El Descanso site on the banks of an arroyo in the El Descanso valley and in 1817 charged Dominican Tomás de Ahumada with the task of establishing their new Misión.
Over time the El Descanso land was developed for agriculture and several buildings were constructed, including a chapel, sacristy and missionary rooms in the form of a square. Walls were created using an especially tough adobe made from a specialized mixture of pebbles, crushed shells, sand, soil, water and clay. Roofs were woven together from rush branches placed over oaken beams.
The Dominican missionaries took pride in cultivating their vegetable and grain crops, orchards, and vineyard which thrived thanks to the relatively mild and humid climate of the Pacific Coast region. They grazed domesticated animals like sheep and cows in local pastures and enjoyed trading with sea vessels which cruised the Baja California coastline looking for goods such as grains, vegetables and otter pelts.
After Father Félix Caballero built the adobe chapel in 1830, Kumeyaay neophytes from both Misión El Descanso and Misión San Miguel came to worship frequently at the new site. However, this success was short-lived. Just four years later, thanks to politics and the wishes of a new Mexican government, the Catholic Misión system was abandoned all throughout Baja and Alta California.
Although some of the former Misións were converted into local parish churches, this was not the case for El Descanso. By 1853, the site had been completely deserted and the buildings themselves were left to crumble. Today the most significant ruins remaining at the Misión El Descanso site are part of a small protective fort created on a hill just to the south of the Misión’s stone foundation.
A quiet afternoon spent reflecting at this sacred site will leave travelers reinvigorated to return to the exciting hustle and bustle of Rosarito, where they can experience the fun of beach afternoons, outstanding dining options, shopping, fishing, horseback riding and an electrifying nightlife at the many bars of Boulevard Juárez.
Wikipedia.Org, Misión El Descanso,Author Unknown, Cited on April 4, 2007