Loreto

Loreto (or Conchó) is a city in and municipal seat of Loreto Municipality, located on the Gulf of California in eastern Baja California Sur state, Mexico.

The city of 14,724 people (2010 census) is located about 350 km (220 mi) north of La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur state.

History

Loreto was the first Spanish colonial settlement of the Viceroyalty of New Spain on the Baja California Peninsula.

The town was founded in 1697 by Jesuit missionaries, who found a steady spring of fresh water on this site, as the Misión Nuestra Señora de Loreto. The Jesuits were expelled in 1767, and control of the Baja California missions was given to the Franciscans. In 1769, the Franciscans were ordered to turn over the Baja missions to the Dominican order and accompany the expedition of Gaspar de Portolà to establish new missions in the unexplored northern frontier that became Alta California. The expedition departed from Loreto on March 24, 1769.

The town served as the capital of the province of Las Californias from its founding until the capital was moved to Monterey on February 3, 1777. In 1768, the province had been split into Alta California (today’s U.S. state of California) and Baja California. At first, the two provinces continued with a single governor. Later, the town became the headquarters for the Lieutenant Governor of California Viejo (the province of Baja California).

Geography

Loreto is located on the east coast of the Baja California Peninsula, at 26º00’46” N 111º20’36” W. It is bordered on the east by the Gulf of California, on the west by the Transpeninsular Highway, and on the south by the Arroyo Loreto, a dry creek bed that only fills with water after a heavy rainfall. The city is built on relatively flat land with an average elevation is 10 meters (33 ft) above sea level. “La Giganta” Mountain Range (“Sierra de la Giganta”) lies to the west, extending along the center of the state of Baja California Sur, parallel to the gulf coast.

The geology and topography of the Loreto region, extending from Bahía Concepción to Agua Verde, is a coastal belt consisting “mainly of a narrow belt of ridges, valleys, and pediments adjacent to the escarpment, low- to moderate-elevation ranges transverse to the coast, and narrow coastal plains”.

The city is a tourist resort, catering mostly to U.S. travelers, with daily flights from the U.S. state of California to Loreto International Airport. Many American tourists enjoy fishing in “pangas” for “dorado” (Mahi-mahi or Dolphin Fish). Local restaurants will willingly prepare the daily catch of the tourists. Loreto has a museum that coexists alongside the historic, but still active, parish. Loreto has active sister city relationships with the California cities of Hermosa Beach, Cerritos, and Ventura.

Climate

Loreto’s climate is hot and humid, with abundant sunshine (desert with some rainfall in summer). The median temperature is 24.4 °C (76 °F). The temperatures are hot from June through October. These summer days have highs around 34 °C (93 °F) and high humidity. According to the National Meteorological Service, Loreto’s highest official temperature reading of 44.2 °C (112 °F) was recorded on July 2, 2006; the lowest temperature ever recorded was 0.0 °C (32 °F) on December 15, 1987. In spring season, the temperatures are moderate and temperate. Autumn and winter months are usually windy.

From January to March, winds blow from the NW (night hours) and the North (day hours), the rest of the year, the winds blow usually from the West. Loreto’s yearly precipitation is low; averaging about 160 mm (6.3 in). The wettest months are August and September, when there are occasional short-lived rainfalls. One concern for Loreto is the Pacific hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30, and some times causes heavy rainfall and floods in the area. The last time the town area was hit by a hurricane was on September 2 and 3, 2006, when the hurricane John hit the Baja California Peninsula.

Demographics

According to INEGI, the 2005 city population was 10,283 people with 2565 households, with 77.67% male and 22.32% female householders. The population is young: 29.75% are from 0 to 14 years of age, 19.19% from 15 to 24, and only 6.42% are 60 years of age or older. For every 100 females there are 102.5 males, and for every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 100.5 males. The Municipality of Loreto (which includes Nopoló, Puerto Escondido, San Javier and the rest of the little villages from the coast and mountains) has a population of 11,839 people.

Due to Loreto’s small population and low immigration, large families are characteristic, and residents often have the same last name, a phenomenon also found in other state localities. The two largest families are the “Davis”, predominating in the east of the city, along the beach (“Calle Davis” is a street with this last name), and the “Murillo”, predominating in the south along the Arroyo Loreto, in the neighborhood known as “barrio del Muro”, named after the retaining wall built to hold flood waters from the creek. Other large families are the Amador, the Arce, the Cota, the Higuera, the Romero and the Villalejo.

Culture

There are seven buildings in Loreto from the 18th to the 20th century that are considered historical monuments by the federal government; the most important is the Mission of our Lady of Loreto, which is at the start of El Camino Real (“The Royal Road”), an historic corridor that follows north along the ancient route of the Spanish missions, to its ending in Sonoma, California, USA. In the neighboring town of San Javier are five historical buildings, most importantly the Mission of Saint Francis Xavier (Misión de San Francisco Javier), the best preserved mission in the peninsula. The ruins of Mission of San Bruno, the first mission of Baja California, founded in 1683 by Jesuit missionary explorer Padre Eusebio Kino. It was ordered abandoned by the Spanish Crown a mere two years later. It is located twenty kilometers north of Loreto.

The Jesuit Missions Museum (Museo de las Misiones Jesuíticas) is located beside the Mission of our Lady of Loreto. It has a collection of religious art, weapons and tools from the 17th and 18th centuries that were used in the Spanish missions in Baja California.

In the “La Giganta” Mountain Range (“Sierra de la Giganta”), there are cave paintings in canyons and rock shelters. The nearest sites to Loreto are “Cuevas Pintas” (15 km to the west) and “La Pingüica” (60 km to the North). The cave paintings from the indigenous groups of Baja California are world-famous and some of them have been added to UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites.

Fishing

Loreto has a reputation as an excellent sport fishing location. This is its main tourist attraction, as well as the main source of employment in the area, thus linking Loreto’s economy closely to fishing.

There are two well-defined fishing seasons:

  • summer features “dorado” and species like marlin (black marlin, Atlantic blue marlin, striped marlin) and sailfish, which are ideal for fly fishing
  • winter fishing features “yellow tail” (jurel) and other species that usually are deep in the sea rocks

In addition to these seasonal species, Loreto’s waters are home to other species like snapper and seabass, which are found all year long.

Thanks to this abundance, Loreto has been home of several IGFA records. The two “foundations” of Loreto’s sport fishing are the “dorado” and the “yellow tail” (Seriola lalandi dorsalis).

The dorado is the emblematic species of Loreto’s warm waters, its season beginning in late May, peaking from July to September, and ending in November, with two important tournaments, in July and September.

The yellow tail is one of the strongest species; its season begins in November, peaks from March to April, and comes to an end in late May.

Events

  • Fiestas de la Virgen de Loreto. The Our Lady of Loreto Festivities are celebrated on September 8. It’s a series of religious, civic and cultural events.
  • Fiestas de la Fundación de Loreto. The foundation of the city is celebrated from October 19 to 25. It’s one of the most important cultural events in the state.
  • Fiestas de San Javier. The festivities from December 1 to 3 are in honor of Saint Francis Xavier, patron saint from the neighbor town of San Javier. These festivities attract a lot of pilgrims from the peninsula.
  • Loreto 400. An off-road racing event that takes place in September. The course is a classic desert offroad race which route includes Comondú, San Javier and the old towns of La Giganta mountain range.
  • Loreto 300 milles. Off-road racing event. December.
  • Torneo de las Mision Fishing Charity Tournament that started in 1993. The 2007 edition will be July 12–14.
  • Loreto Dorado International Fishing Tournament. Takes place in July.
  • Copa Dorado Tournament. State tournament in September.
  • Governor’s Cup Fishing Tournament. May

Government

The city of Loreto is the seat of the Municipality of Loreto, which is governed by a City Council (Ayuntamiento), consisting of a Mayor or Municipal President (Presidente Municipal), a Syndic (Síndico), and six City Councilors (Regidores), all eight elected by direct popular vote for a mandatory single term limit of three years. The Mayor is a voting member of the council, and as head of the public municipal administration is directly responsible for actual implementation of the City Council’s decisions, somewhat analogous to a City Manager. The Mayor of Loreto is Jorge Alberto Avilés Pérez, whose term runs until April 2014.

The Syndic (or Trustee), also a voting member, is responsible for the legal representation of both the council itself and of the municipal government more generally, and monitors municipal assets and supervises public servants conduct, similar to an US Inspector General.

The other six City Councilors are voting members whose principal function is analysis and overall direction, rather than direct implementation of the council’s decisions. The Mayor is represented at the community action level by seven subdelegates (Subdelegados Municipales), who are appointed by the City Council to perform certain functions: presently serving are Agua Verde, San Javier, Ligüi, Colonia Zaragoza, San Nicolás, Tembabiche, and San Juan.

Local media

The city has one local radio station, XHLBS 92.5 FM Estéreo Loreto, which plays popular music and offers local news.

Loreto was the setting for the 7th-season finale of ABC reality TV show The Bachelor, aired May 16, 2005.

Transport

The city is served by Loreto International Airport, offering domestic flights on carriers Aeromexico, AeroCalafia, and Aeroservicio Guerrero. It is also one of the few places to get aviation fuel in the Baja area. International service is currently provided by Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air to Los Angeles.

Tourist Assistance + Emergency Numbers

You can dial 078 from any phone, where you can find free information about tourist attractions, airports, travel agencies, car rental companies, embassies and consulates, fairs and exhibitions, hotels, hospitals, financial services, migratory and other issues.

Or dial the toll-free (in Mexico) number 01-800-006-8839.

You can also request information to the email correspondencia@sectur.gob.mx

MORE EMERGENCY NUMBERS:

General Information: 040 (not free)

SNational Emergency Service: 911

Radio Patrols: 066
Police (Emergency): 060
Civil Protection: +52(55)5683-2222
Anonymous Complaint: 089

Setravi (Transport Mobility): +52(55)5209-9913
Road Emergency: 074

Cruz Roja: 065 o +52(55)5557-5757
Firefighters: 068 o +52(55)5768-3700


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