Sierra de la Laguna
But a quick visit to any of these communities gives you a sense of what Baja California was like during the 19th-century silver-mining boom as well as a snapshot of present-day Mexican life in the peninsula’s interior.
In the 19th century, two neighboring settlements in the Sierra de la Laguna formed the epicenter of Baja California’s gold- and silver-mining boom; today El Triunfo and San Antonio are smaller, quieter communities sustained by agriculture and basket weaving, although there is talk and much controversy over proposed plans to begin mining operations again.
Miners first discovered silver in the area in the mid-18th century, near present-day San Antonio (then called Real de Minas de Santa Ana). The town became the first Baja municipality founded without a mission.
In 1862 better mineral deposits were discovered near El Triunfo, and the Progreso Mining Company arrived in 1878, bringing with it thousands of workers from Europe and China. A thriving company town emerged with a population around 10,000 that was in many ways similar to the mining town that grew at the same time around Santa Rosalía, on the Gulf coast to the north.
The miners built towering smokestacks, the largest of which, La Ramona, stands ten stories high. Historic photos of El Triunfo’s mining towers are on display at the Centro Cultural in Todos Santos.
The two towns prospered until a hurricane flooded the mines in 1918. By 1926 the mines had closed and the towns were almost abandoned.
© Nikki Goth Itoi from Moon Baja, 9th Edition