As you see yourself, I once saw myself; as you see me now, you will be seen.
      Mexican Proverb


México is the most populous Spanish-
speaking country in the world. According to the latest statistics, México's total population is over 99 million. Mestizos, of Indian and Spanish blood), make up 60% of the population, followed by indigenous peoples  (30%), whites (9%), and other ethnic minorities  (1%).

Carnaval in Mazatlan

Visitors and locals scream, sing, shout and dance amid confetti and ribbons. Bands of all kinds play the infectious rhythms of the State of Sinaloa. And the food–oh, the food–camarones (shrimp) prepared in every way possible, washed down with ice cold Pacifico beer, for it’s Carnaval Time, Mazatlán’s biggest pachanga (fiesta). 
                     Read more

March 12, 2006

by Bob Brooke

During the heyday of westerns, films showed cowboys riding through the Great Sonoran Desert from Arizona to what is now the State of Sonora in Mexico. The desert is still there and so are the cowboys.

Sonora is Mexico's wild west. In some ways, it reflects the Old Mexico of the by-gone days of yesteryear. In others, it reflects the new Mexico–the Americanized Mexico of Wal-Mart and Sam's Club, Pizza Hut and Burger King.

Beginning in Nogales on the Arizona border with the U.S., I decided to make a trek into an area of Mexico that's often left off of the main tourist beat. The main roads through the State are well-marked and maintained due to Sonora's almost fraternal bond with its northern neighbor, Arizona. Since I was already within the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, the landscape changed little as I crossed the border.

Unsuccessful early Spanish attempts to settle what's now the state of Sonora left the area nearly invisible until the 17th and early 18th Centuries. But the discovery of gold in Alamos brought a steady stream of settlers from the south, and by 1824 the former province of Sonora y Sinaloa had become the State of Occidente. Eventually, the Mexican government divided Occidente into the States of Sonora and Sinaloa.

Luckily, at about the time the mines played out, agriculture in the Yaqui and Sonora River Valleys expanded to support the local economy together with fishing in the Sea of Cortez. Perhaps, it's Sonora's pioneering spirit that spawned three of Mexico's presidents–Alvaro Obregon, Abelardo Rodriquz, the founder of the PRI party, and Plutarco Elias Calles.

But Sonora has always been the home of two very important indigenous tribes, the Yaqui and the Seri. While the Yaqui inhabited the valleys between present-day Guaymas and Sonora's capital, Hermosillo, the Seri developed their culture amid the cactus along the coast above Guaymas.

As I drove south, I saw signs for some of missions founded by Jesuit missionaries, most of which stand near the border with Arizona. The missions encouraged the growth of haciendas, which became productive units and the social organization of the Sonoran countryside. During the 1880s, railroads helped spawn growth and by the 1920s, the Sierra had become the most prosperous region of Sonora due to the boom in mining, cattle and agriculture.

The Road to Hermosillo
The road to Hermosillo, the state capital, runs through the heart of the Sonoran Desert, more than two-thirds of which lies in Mexico. A young desert, it's less than 10,000 years old. But it's one of the most complex, due to the great variety of species and general structure of volcanic rocks sedimentary and metamorphic.

Subtropical deserts, such as this one, tend to have more plant species. Occasionally, I passed a cattle loading station, since Sonora is known for its fine beef, but not much else.

Tall Palo Verde "trees" dotted the landscape along with plants with names like creasote and Indigo bushes and Mormon tea, and all forms of cacti–pencil, cholla, barrel, Christmas and prickly pear cactus, as well as velvet mesquite. After a few hours of desert, I arrived in Hermosillo.

Hermosillo, Sonora's capital, is a clean, well-planned town carved out of the rugged desert terrain. It's set amidst sweeping plains of golden grasses and green-tufted hills with taller, serrated peaks rising abruptly in the background. This bustling city is the only town in Mexico in which all water is purified before it's sent to homes.

Though the Spanish tried to impose a settlement called Santisima Trinidad del Pitic on the existing indigenous settlement called Pitic in 1700, confrontations with the Pima and Seri Indians forced them to wait nearly a century until they considered the area safe for habitation. In 1828, the city's name was changed to Hermosillo in honor of a general from Jalisco who was a hero in the war for independence from Spain.

A pleasant mix of modern Mexico and old Sonora, Hermosillo today is a common stopover for North American visitors, like myself, heading down the coast. It's worth a stopover to enjoy downtown strolls along the laurel-lined avenues.

Plaza Zaragoza lies at the city's heart. This spacious plaza, built in 1865, features a lofty, Florentine-style kiosk built in the early 1900s. At either end of the plaza are the Palacio de Gobierno and Catedral de Asuncion.

The Palacio de Gobierno, one of the most impressive government buildings of Northern Mexico, was originally constructed in the neoclassic style in 1859, using Yaqui labor and local stone. In 1881, Gov. Don Carlos Rodriguez had it rebuilt to serve as an institute of fine arts, but he was forced to leave office before his term ended. The next governor converted it into the Palacio de Gobierno in 1884. Unfortunately, it was almost completely destroyed in 1948 by fire.

The twin-towered cathedral with its striking white, tiered facade sits opposite the Palacio at the other end of the plaza. The original adobe chapel on this site, completed in 1778, had decayed so much by 1877 that 800 local women petitioned the Catholic diocese to have it replaced. The current neoclassical building was constructed in 1908 with a tall single bell tower. The south tower was added in 1912. Between the two is a huge cupola, with tiered columns, niches, and arches, giving the effect of an elaborate wedding cake.

I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the Museo de Sonora, a 19th-century stone building that once served as a state prison from 1907 to 1979. In 1985 the city converted it into a museum with exhibits on Sonora's history, geology, natural history and anthropology.

About two dozen maquiladoras, assembly plants, call Hermosillo home. A well-trained workforce assembles everything from Ford cars to Barbie dolls in clean, ultramodern facilities set in fancifully designed industrial parks. But though industry has moved in, Hermosillo is still an agricultural center for wheat, cotton, soy, grapes and oranges.

After overnighting, I head west from Hermosillo along a modern four-lane highway for about an hour to the seaside resort of San Carlos.

Next Page>>


All contents copyrighted@2004, Bob Brooke Communications
Site designed and developed by BBC Web Services.