Santa Rosalia, B.C.S: Baja's Daily Bread

One of the many generous concessions to foreign investors during the Porfiriato was a 70-year contract granted to the Compagnie du Boleo to mine copper in the town of Santa Rosalia,B.C.S from 1885 until their tax exemption ended in 1954. The venture ended in a state of bankruptcy, and all attempts since then to revive the mine haven't been profitable. The French mining company installed a prefabricated metal church designed by Alexandre Gustav Eiffel, French architecture, and a bakery to give homesick Frenchmen the dignity of fresh baguettes. 
It took a few years for Panaderia El Boleo to arrive(there must of been mutinous talk at the close of the 19th Century),but it was clearly designed to feed an army of workers with its gigantic ovens. I had never lucked out driving to and from Loreto to experience Santa Rosalia by day–at night it almost feels like a ghost town–until a few summers ago when I got to see the Southern Baja California's northernmost outpost on the Sea of Cortez at sunrise. We had to wait for signs of life in the sleepy town that France forgot, but were rewarded with some of the best pan dulce I've ever tasted–this is a required stop for all Baja adventurers road-ripping the peninsula. 


Santa Rosalia  doesn't have beautiful beaches, and probably only sees action for a few hours a day before the slumbering town closes down the few businesses that are scattered throughout its quiet streets. On the other hand, It's a gorgeous place to take a stroll and experience a very different piece of Mexico–it looks like a lost village of New England with really amazing fish tacos. Stop by the church to see classic French architecture from the mind of Monsieur Eiffel himself.       
It's a peaceful, and beautiful old town–there's something special about the clapboard housing in this unspoiled setting, just be sure to stop at the ATM here if you're heading on to Loreto or beyond, because there are no ATM's on the road from Santa Rosalia to Loreto.

Along the main entrance to the town are some food stands, and yes there are fish tacos–this is Baja. There wasn't much going on when we arrived–many vendors were just setting up–but Tacos El Arabe was serving fish tacos, with a full array of gourmet condiments: pickled onions with olive oil and oregano, sweet pickled red onions, various salsas, guacamole, and a creamy salad of onions, olives, and tomatoes.  

Bill Esparza
Taco de pescado at Tacos El Arabe

The tacos themselves were cooked in as they should–crisp on the outside, and tender inside–and well-seasoned inside and out, to provide satisfaction in each bite. The special condiments added levels of sweet and savory in colorful, moist dressings to  exceptionally clean-battered fish strips.    


Bill Esparza
First customers of the morning at Panaderia El Boleo 

Back at the bakery was a small line to grab bags of pan dulce to–undoubtedly–accompany a cup of Nescafe–there's always a slow pace here unless you happen to be around when the ferry arrives. From Santa Rosalia you can take a ferry across the Sea of Cortez to Guaymas, Sonora on mainland Mexico; the ferry from Guaymas is an overnight trip that arrives in Santa Rosalia a few hours before the hour of pan dulce(when La Panaderia El Boleo opens).   

Bill Esparza
Pan dulce

The bakery has a short list of items from birotes( bread buns) for making tortas, sweet empanadas, sugar covered donuts, and sugary ojos de buey , or bovine's eyes that come with or without shaved coconut. Ojos de buey are two pieces of bread covered with a gritty pink frosting that are fused together by more sweet, sticky stuff–they are heavenly at El Boleo.   

Bill Esparza
Bag of pan dulce, Panaderia El Boleo 

Or you can just get a bag of pan dulce to go, which are typical birote-style pan dulce covered in light sugar, and filled with just enough nectarous spread to make this the ultimate Mexican sweet bread. It's a perfect storm of seasoned brick ovens, experienced baking, and freshness next to the calm waters of the Sea of Cortez. Look at your map and figure out how to make this a stop on your way south, or on the return trip to the States.

Santa Rosalia, Baja California Sur

Panaderia El Boleo, and Tacos El Arabe are on the main road into downtown Santa Rosalia off Santa Rosalia-Loreto Highway 1