Ranches for the Peninsular Gentry ...continued

  • Drawing water at Rancho de los Pozos, 1971
    Many rural people depend for life and livelihood on hand dug wells, often to heroic depths. In the mid-peninsula several descend three hundred feet. Windmills are expensive and require maintenance. At some ranches, water is regularly raised from those great depths by means of burro or mule power. A child or an oldster directs the animal while a man or woman awaits the bucket, swings it out of the wellhead, and dumps it into a barrel or watering trough. The process is usually repeated for an hour or two, once or twice a day.
  • Kitchen scene at Rancho de Pie de la Cuesta, 1971
    Baja California ranch cooks produce savory dishes despite the limitations of adobe stoves fired with hardwood twigs. Tortillas and beans are standard fare, but the rest of the cuisine is not that usually associated with Mexico. Principal dishes are a sopa, consisting of rice or pasta and a mixture of cut up onions and other vegetables cooked in broth, and a guisado, beef, fish, or turtle sautéed with onions, chiles, garlic, potatoes, or other vegetables-a ranch stir fry. Kitchens often appear to be the flimsiest structures at a ranch because their sides are infilled only with woven rushes or small branches to assure air movement during the central peninsula's long hot season.
  • Kitchen scene at Rancho de la Vinorama [de arriba], 1980
    When the weather is cold or when the wind is howling, social life moves from the corredor into the kitchen. The more isolated the ranch, the warmer the welcome awaiting visitors. They are plied with coffee and encouraged to impart whatever news or gossip they can recall. Hosts often have a list of dozens of relatives to ask about, so inter-related is the population in all the central and southern parts of the peninsula.
  • Berta's mural at Rancho de Santa Marta, 1973
    Berta Ojeda Arce decorated the plaster wall in the corredor of her home when she was eleven. Family and passersby admired her work and there it remained after Berta was grown, married, and moved away.

Centuries-old Devices May Remain in Use into the Twenty-First Century

To this day there is no electric power at sierra ranches. All sorts of manual machinery that we no longer use and handcrafts that we no longer practice are part of everyday life a few hundred miles south of us.

  • Treadle sewing machine at Rancho de Pie de la Cuesta, 1971.
  • Grindstone at Rancho de Guadalupe, 1980.
  • Tanning Vats at Rancho de San Nicolás, 1971.
    Until recently, leather was tanned at a few ranches in each sierra from mid-peninsula to the cape. Competition from large tanneries in Sonora and the interior of Mexico has reduced demand and this wonderful old craft-along with fine regional leatherwork-is becoming rare and even endangered.
  • Flume at Rancho de San Gregorio, 1971
    Water is rare; sources of water near irrigatable plots of ground are rarer still. At Rancho de San Gregorio, water has to be brought a quarter of a mile in open channels cut into the rock and flumes that pass across an arroyo. Planting areas had to be built with high stone walls and filled with earth painstakingly brought in leather bags on burroback from hundreds of tiny deposits found within a radius of three or four miles.
  • Picking dates at Rancho de San Martín, 1980
    The extensive stands of date palms at San Ignacio, Mulegé, and Todos Santos are well known. Few people suspect that scores of lesser sites, including some in large arroyos in the sierras, have subterranean waters that support up to several dozen palms.
  • Cattle in the tinaja at Rancho del Zorillo, 1980
    Some hard rock water catchments are very large but shallow. Great quantities of water accumulate in minutes during the occasional summer storm, but, in a matter of a few weeks, the waters evaporate or drain out through crevices in the underlying rock. Local people take advantage of this ephemeral bounty by bringing goats and cattle to the larger pools. In this way, they use not only the water but also the verdure that responds to the same rains that fill the basins.