Baja Bound: Christmas in the Sun
by Karen Misuraca

On a secluded beach behind Land's End, on the southern-most, last bit of sand before the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez, I was submerged up to my elbows in the swimming pool, a Margarita in my hand, gazing across the pounding surf as a red sun slid into an azure sea. A subtle reminder that it was the Christmas season, a few strands of silvery tinsel fluttered in a river of bougainvillea, startling magenta against white stucco walls. I believed at that moment that the pool at the Solmar Suites was the world's best vantage point from which to watch a sunset, and I contemplated my good fortune to be spending Christmas and New Year's in Baja.

Escaping a chillier clime and the stresses and strains of the holidays at home, I had run away from home to Los Cabos, to play in the sun and the sea, to fish for a striped marlin, and to play golf on the new courses that are attracting world-wide acclaim. In the land of the jet ski and the motor yacht, the disco and beach club, I sought a warm Baja-style Christmas spirit, finding it in the towns, the marketplaces, and even at the resort hotels.

Hoping to rekindle memories of Christmases past on the mainland of Mexico, I headed for the least crowded, most truly Mexican community on the Cape (as the bulging southern tip of Baja is called) the 250-year-old village of San José del Cabo, whose narrow streets are shaded with ancient palms, jacaranda and mango trees. Colorfully painted 18th and 19th century buildings surround the Plaza Mijares, the town square, where wrought-iron benches and leafy paths lie beneath blossoming orange trees. Across the street is the beating heart of town, the Iglesia de San José, built in 1734, one of the first in the chain of California missions. This humble, twin-steepled church, and all the churches in Mexico, are decorated whimsically at Christmastime, with gold and silver tinsel, paper garlands and flowers.

A few blocks away, the Mercado Municipal is redolent of fresh produce, fresh Dorado and tuna from the Sea of Cortez, and spicy smells from the taco stands. Piles of oranges and mandarinas, foot-long papayas, and sweet finger bananas are a tropical rainbow during the holidays. Baskets of little wooden and plastic toys and wrapped candies are for the pinatas, eagerly anticipated by every Mexican child. On sale are firecrackers and sparklers for Ano Nuevo (New Year's Day), Barbie dolls, the latest rock and salsa tapes, and even a few piñon branches from high in the Sierra de la Laguna range, the monumental mountain barrier which looms above the desert landscape of the Cape.

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©Karen Misuraca; all rights reserved.