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Baja California Sur ( , literally: South Lower California) is one of the 31 states of Mexico. Before becoming a state in 1974, the area was known as the South Territory of Baja California. It has an area of , or 3.57% of the land mass of Mexico and comprises the southern half of the Baja California peninsula, south of the 28th parallel. It is bordered to the north by the state of Baja Californiamarker, to the west by the Pacific Oceanmarker, and to the east by the Gulf of Californiamarker, also known as the "Sea of Cortés." Also, the state has maritime borders with Sonoramarker and Sinaloamarker to the east across the Gulf of Californiamarker.

As of 2005 population was 512,170. The state is home to the tourist resorts of Cabo San Lucasmarker and San José del Cabomarker. Its largest city and capital is La Pazmarker, a tourist resort and historic landmark. It includes Loretomarker, the historic first capital of all three Californias (Baja California Sur, Baja California, and Californiamarker), the town of Santa Rosalíamarker which is the site of a historic church designed by Gustave Eiffel.



Pre-Columbian period

The first inhabitants are thought to have arrived to the peninsula at least 11,000 years ago, to judge by the archaeological discovery of several Clovis points in the northern part of the state. The possibility of an even earlier occupation has been raised by radiocarbon dates from a site on Isla Espíritu Santo, but this interpretation still remains controversial.

Before phases of the state's prehistory are manifested in several archaeological complexes:

  • The Las Palmas Complex in the Cape Region and on nearby islands in the Gulf of California is primarily a mortuary pattern. Hallmarks include caves or rock shelters containing secondary burials of human bones painted with red ochre.
  • The Comondú Complex represents late prehistoric occupation throughout the central portion of the peninsula, perhaps dating between about A.D. 500 and 1700. It is recognized, in particular, by small, triangular projectile points that attest to the introduction of the bow and arrow into the region.
  • The Great Mural Rock Art is the best-known archaeological phenomenon in northern Baja California Sur. In the Sierra de Guadalupe and Sierra de San Francisco, many rockshelters contain larger-than-life paintings of humans, deer and other animals.

Four distinct ethnolinguistic groups were encountered in Baja California Sur by the early explorers and missionaries: the Pericú in the south, between Cabo San Lucasmarker and La Pazmarker, and on several of the islands in the Gulf; the Guaycura from La Paz to south of Loretomarker; the Monqui, in the area around Loreto; and the Cochimí, in extensive areas throughout the middle of the peninsula.

Colonial period

The European discovery of Baja California Sur is credited to Fortún Ximénez, a mutineer on an expedition dispatched by the conqueror of central Mexico, Hernán Cortés in early 1533. Cortés himself led an expedition to the "Island of California" 1535, but he soon abandoned the fruitless enterprise. In 1539–1542, both coasts of Baja California Sur were reconnoitered by Francisco de Ulloa and Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo. Over the next century and a half, a variety of explorers and pearl hunters (including Sebastián Vizcaíno) visited the peninsula's shores but seem to have had little lasting impact.

The Jesuits began their involvement in 1683–1685 when Eusebio Francisco Kino, along with the admiral Isidro de Atondo y Antillón, made two major but ultimately unsuccessful efforts at colonization, at La Pazmarker and then at San Bruno, north of Loretomarker. In 1697 the Jesuit missionary Juan María de Salvatierra established Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó, the first permanent mission in Baja California Sur. Jesuit control over the peninsula was gradually extended, first in the region around Loreto, then to the south in the Cape region, and finally toward the north across the northern boundary of Baja California Sur.

The Jesuits were expelled from the peninsula in 1768 and replaced by the Franciscans under Junípero Serra. In 1773, the Franciscans in turn ceded control of the Baja California missions to the Dominicans. The native population of Baja California Sur steadily diminished during the colonial period, primarily under the impacts of Old World diseases but also in occasional violent conflicts. While the Jesuits had striven to limit lay Spanish or Mexican settlement on the peninsula, fearful of corrupting influences and competing power centers, the missions under the Franciscans and Dominicans had to accept a growing lay presence and increased control from central New Spain.

The peninsula was divided into two separate entities in 1804, with the southern one having the seat of government established in the port of Loreto.

  • The colonial governors were:
  • 1804–1805 José Joaquín de Arillaga (s.a.)
  • 1806–1814 Felipe de Goycoechea
  • 1814 - 11 April 1822 José Darío Argüello

Post-independence period

After the Mexican War of Independence, President Guadalupe Victoria named Lt. Col. José María Echeandía governor of Baja California Sur and divided it in four municipios (municipalities). In 1830, the capital was moved to La Pazmarker after Loreto was partially destroyed by heavy rains.

On October 2, 1847 the army of the United States was defeated near the town of Mulegé by Captain Manuel Pineda, as part of the Mexican-American War. As a consequence of this battle, the U.S. army was forced to withdraw from the peninsula and could not lay claim to it as part of the new territories acquired through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848.

In 1853, a group of 45, led by journalist William Walker, without the authorization of the United States Government, captured the city of La Paz, before the Mexican Army forced the 45 to retreat back to the United States.

The Territory of Baja California was created in 1888 under the government of President Porfirio Díaz. In 1930, Baja California was again divided into North and South parties, renamed later as North and South districts, then, into North and South territories.

In 1952, the North Territory of Baja California became the 29th state of Mexico, Baja Californiamarker. The southern portion, below 28°N, remained a federally administered territory until 1974, when the South Territory of Baja California became the 31st state, Baja California Sur, along with the state of Quintana Roomarker.

Geography and ecology

Deserts, sierras and coastline flatlands make up the landscape. The climate is desert like in most parts of the state. Cardon, mezquite and wild-lettuce, along with mountain lions, plants and wildlife characteristic of this ecosystem, are found in the Central and Vizcaino Deserts.

Parallel to the coast lies the Sierra de la Giganta, with pine and oak forests. To the west, the coastline flatlands form beautiful plains like the Llanos Santa Clara, Magdalena and Hiray, just to name a few.

The Biosphere Natural Reserve of El Vizcaíno, with its 2.5 million hectares, is the largest natural reserve in Latin America. It is located in the Mulegé municipality and extends from the west end of the Vizcaíno Peninsula and the San Ignacio and Ojo de Liebremarker lakes, passing over the San Francisco Sierra, to the shores of the Sea of Cortezmarker and the islands in the Gulf of Californiamarker.

The state is known for its natural features. The Vizcaíno Desertmarker and small coastal lakes San Ignacio and Ojo de Liebre in the north are protected by the federal government. The state includes the Pacific islands of Natividad, Magdalena, and Santa Margarita, as well as the islands of San Marcos, Coronados, Carmen, Montserrat, Santa Catalina, Santa Cruz, San Diego, San José, San Francisco, Partida, Espíritu Santo, and Cerralvo, which are located in the Gulf of California. Rocas Alijos are a group of tiny, steep and barren volcanic islets found offshore.

Numerous flora and fauna are found in Baja California Sur. Notable among the tree species is the Elephant tree, Bursera microphylla, which species exhibits a contorted multi-furcate architecture.


The 2005 Population and Housing Census registered 512,170 inhabitants. According to the number of inhabitants per state, Baja California South ranks last in the country at 32nd place. It also has the lowest population density: only 6 persons per sq. Km.

The state population is very young- more than half of it is under 29 years old.Only 2% of the population speaks an indigenous language, mixteco, náhuatl and zapoteco being the main ones.


Baja California Sur enjoys the lowest illiteracy levels of the country (3.6%).

Institutions of higher education includes:


Baja California Sur is subdivided into five municipalities (municipios). Seemunicipalities of Baja California Sur.

Major communities

See also

Line notes

  1. William C. Massey. 1947
  2. Don Laylander and Jerry Moore. 2006
  3. C. Michael Hogan. 2009


  • Harry W. Crosby. 2005. Antigua California: Mission and Colony on the Peninsular Frontier, 1697–1768. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.
  • C. Michael Hogan. 2009. Elephant Tree: Bursera microphylla,, ed. N. Stromberg
  • Don Laylander and Jerry Moore (editors). 2006. The Prehistory of Baja California: Advances in the Archaeology of the Forgotten Peninsula. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.
  • William C. Massey. 1947. "Brief Report on Archaeological Investigations in Baja California". Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 3:344–359.
  • Ignacio del Río. A la diestra mano de las Indias: descubrimiento y ocupación colonial de la Baja California. Gobierno del Estado de Baja California Sur, La Paz.
  • WorldStatesmen — see each present country

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