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WELCOME TO MULEGE, BAJA CALIFORNIA SUR, MEXICO

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About the Town:

Mulege lies 38 miles south of Santa Rosalia, one of the prettiest towns in Baja California Sur. The village is situated between two hills, in a valley provided with life by a stream that runs till it joins the estuary which flows to the sea; edged by huge palm trees, orchards and fences where bougainvilleas of all colors tangle


This privileged place was discovered by the Jesuit father Juan María de Salvatierra on his return from a trip to Sonora. Salvatierra made his first exploration trip in 1702. In August 1703 the fathers Francisco María Piccolo and Juan María Basaldúa arrived. The last one, father Juan de Ugarte - a Honduran Missionary who left a deep mark on these lands - , founded in 1705 the mission called Santa Rosalía de Mulege. The origin of the name Mulegé drifts from the Cochimíes voices "Carmaañc galexá", that means "Large Ravine of the White Mouth".


On September 14 of 1719 the first vessel built in the Californias was launched in the Bay of Santa Inés, with woods from the mountainous region of Mulege. The author of this feat was father Juan de Ugarte who called the ship "Triunto de la Santa Cruz". It is said that this ship served the colony for 54 years.

 

In 1754 father Francisco Escalante began the formal construction of the church's mission, which was completed in 1766. Built with stone, it's characterized by it's "L" form, by it's tower erected several meters behind its main facade, and by it's own suggested simplicity of the California missions. Abandoned in 1828, it has been restored several times. Actually it conserves the original appearance and in the interior a statue of Santa Rosalia and a bell, both from the XVII century.

 

On October the 2nd of 1847, a heroic armed action took place here against the North American invaders. The Mexican forces formed by a military group and a numerous group of volunteers, Comundeños and natives and under the command of Capitán Manuel Pineda defeated the enemy.

In Mulege you'll find the old state penitentiary, finished in 1907. Novel because it was the only jail without bars. The prisoners could go out to work during the day, they just had to be back at night. Escape attempts were rare, and when someone did, the other prisoners pursued the escapees to bring them back to jail. The Mulegé population lived together with all social classes to whom they offered respect and a fondness, maybe that's why they are the best hosts in Baja California Sur.

From the original groups that inhabited the area, there are known to be extraordinary samples of rupestrian art, that exist in the surroundings of this paradise called Mulegé, such as the cave paintings in the Sierra de San Borjita, the most well-known, photographed and investigated. Also the paintings and petroglyphs of La Trinidad.

Mulege has been a favorite traditional destination of the tourist that look for rest and contemplation of nature; to the sport fishing lover, the history student and ecologist; the lover of the beautiful bay; Bahía de Concepción, a few kilometers from Mulegé with awesome landscapes and a multitude of beaches with soft, white sand: Santispac, Concepción, Los Cocos, El Burro, El Coyote, Buenaventura, El Requesón and Armenta.

In a tour through the town, a visit to the mission church; the regional museum (located in the old state penitentiary building); the banks of the river estuary and the beach at El Sombrerito are all recommended.

Mulegé, of course, provides quality services for the visitor. Different hotel classes, R.V. parks, restaurants, bus depot, a national airport (Loreto) and airstrip; sport fishing and scuba diving agencies and tours combining cave paintings and ecology.   Check local weather (Santa Rosalia & Loreto).

The Battle of Mulege
 

"The Mexican-American War-Momentous events occurred in the outlying Mexican lands that are today a part of southwestern United States. Texas had declared itself a separate republic in the 1830&s, and Mexico's General Santa Ana was defeated by the forces of Sam Houston. In Alta California, there were only scattered Mexican forces and settlers along the coast. English-speaking peoples from the east were migrating west and taking up lands. It became clear that both England and France coveted possession of Alta California and its fabulous harbor at San Francisco. By 1837, the United States was making proposals to Mexico for the purchase of Mexican lands in the west. A mood of expansionism, manifest destiny prevailed in the United States. In 1845, James Polk was elected president, standing on a political platform advocating the annexation of Texas and the purchase of Alta California from Mexico.

As a result of the election mandate, the United States issued, and received acceptance of, an invitation for Texas to join the Federal Union. This annexation infuriated Mexican authorities and resulted in armed conflict along the border. In addition to the issue of Texas, the United States had various grievances against Mexico and also feared the potential takeover of California by England or France. As a result, the United States declared war on May 11, 1846.

Prior to the outbreak of hostilities, the United States had been prepared to pay approximately $25 million for California, depending on the inclusion or exclusion of Baja California. This either/or proviso would seem to indicate that obtaining possession of Baja California was not a primary goal of the United States government. However, once war started, military steps were taken to bring the peninsula under United States authority.

The decisive battles of the Mexican-American War took place in main land Mexico. Invading United States forces under the command of Zachary Taylor and Weinfield Scott conducted successful compaigns. The latter General captured Mexico City on September 14, 1847. Lesser actions took place in New Mexico and Alta California. Perhaps the least known of all were the battles that took place in the Baja Peninsula, where the fighting was actually heavier than it was to the north.

1. A squadron of eight United States navy ships and their marine contingents had been stationed in Pacific waters for some time. There were commanded by Commodore John D. Sloat, who was under instructions to occupy San Francisco and other Alta California ports in the event of war with Mexico. Sloat stationed his fleet at Mazatlan, where there was a United States consul; it was apparently the best site along the entire Pacific coast for him to receive instruction from Washington.

On May 16, 1846, he received word that fighting had begun along the Rio Grande. While he did not know that war had been declared several days earlier, he moved his ships north along the California coast and during July, took possession of Monterey, San Francisco, and San Diego- without resistance.

2. After completing the assignment, some of the American ships returned south to blockade the Mexican coast and take possession of additional ports. In September 1846, these ships arrived in La Paz. The United States commander told local authorities they were under American control and secured an agreement that they would remain neutral. The United States forces were under orders to utilize this neutrality approach to pacify the Mexicans and to make them more receptive to change in authority.

3. On March 29, 1847, the United States sloop Portsmouth sailed to San Jose del Cabo and imposed the same arrangement.

4. Prior to the declaration of war, the United States Congress had authorized the formation of battalions of volunteers as backup forces to the regular army. The first was to be the First Battalion of Volunteers from the State of New York. It was composed mostly of young boys eager for adventure and was referred to in New York newspapers as the Baby Regiment,

The Battalion was placed on ships and transported around Cape Horn to Alta California, where it arrived in spring 1947. The boys were assigned to guard the various towns in the region. Subsequently, two companies were ordered to La Paz, where the went ashore without incident on July 20, 1847.

5. Word reached the Mexican government of the neutral position taken by their small military force that was stationed at La Paz. In anger, they dispatched Captain Manual Pinada and a small group of officers and arms to take over military matters in the peninsula. Pinada had previous knowledge of the terrain and people of Baja. He crossed the Sea of Cortez from Guaymas and arrived at Mulege in September 1847. Here, he organized the local people into a force to defend the peninsula from the Americans.

6. Hearing of Pinada's arrival, the Americans dispatched the sloop Dale to Mulege, where it arrived in October. The sloop's commander sent a message ashore demanding that the inhabitants preserve neutrality. Pinada responded with a prideful message that he and his soldiers would defend their country until the last drop of blood was shed.

Hearing this, the United States commander sent boats ashore with some 60 men and a small artillery piece. This force was fired upon by Pinada and his small group of men. There followed a considerable exchange of gun fire, including some 135 canister shots from Dale. The Mexicans held fast, and by afternoon the Americans returned to their ship.

Having met with resistance, the Dale left Mulege leaving a smaller ship behind to provide a blockade. All this action took place at the mouth of the Rio Santa Rosalia near El Sombretito, a small bit conspicuous peak that now bears the Mulege lighthouse. It is in plain view from the high way and is several hundred yards from the Hotel Serenidad.

7. The heroic defense of Mulege gave rise to considerable public spirit. Pinada was able to recruit a force that Mexican historians say numbered about 300 men. They came from the pueblos of San Ignacio, Mulege, and Comondu, and later from San Antonio and Todo Santos.

8. Pinada marched his soldiers south. Part of the force was detached sent to San Jose del Cabo. On November 16, 1847, the main body of some 180 men under Pinada attacked the New York Volunteers who had fortified themselves in buildings with La Paz. There was to follow 12 days of fierce fighting, with the Americans defending themselves with cannon fire and by tearing down buildings which were providing the Mexicans with cover. At one point these forces penetrated to within 100 feet of the fortified Americans, but Pinada finally had to withdraw due to lack of ammunition. After the fighting was over, American reinforcements arrived by sea. "

From the "MAGNIFICENT PENINSULA", by Jack Williams


 

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