Sunday, January 26, 2014


El Triunfo is an historical mining town with a lot of flavor.
The Catedral at El Triunfo marks the entrance to town. 

El Triunfo, Population 321
El Triunfo is a quaint, albeit dusty, historic town with barely over 300 residents nestled in green hills less than an hour from La Paz. Once the largest city in Baja, as well as the capital, the town folk numbered over 10,000 in its heyday.  In 1862, gold and silver were discovered in the surrounding Sierra de la Laguna mountains, and adventurers seeking their fortunes largely from the United States and Mexico, but also England, France, Russia, Italy, and China found their way over rough terrain to work the nearby mines. The town boomed and was the first in Baja to install electricity and telephones.  Two weekly competing newspapers prospered. Sudden wealth attracted dance hall girls, merchants, and musicians in addition to the miners. By the turn of the century El Triunfo was a bustling cultural center. 

Musical concerts became frequent attractions. The most famous local musician was Francisca Mendoza. A local gal, Francisca studied music in San Francisco, and returned home to perform and teach piano. The newly affluent sought her out to teach their children to play the piano. In fact, so many pianos were imported to El Triunfo the town boasted more pianos per capita than any other town in Mexico!  Francisca married Carlos Aramburo, a commercial merchant who came from the mainland and opened a market bearing his name. By 1918, the as mining industry was losing momentum, the town started to decline, and the couple moved to La Paz. 
My favorite hereford in town.
Today, the ever popular Aramburo market stands in its original spot on Madero Street, along with more scattered across growing La Paz. It’s my favorite market because of their fresh produce and great meats, but mostly I love large hereford heifer that hangs over the entry and can be seen a block away. Lovingly referred to as the “Flying Cow”, at Christmastime, the heifer sports a Santa Costume, sans the beard. 

I digress, back to El Triunfo. By 1926, after a hurricane flooded all the mines, the entire mining operation was shut down. The town evaporated as quickly as it had flourished. Once again, El Triunfo is gaining popularity as visitors flock to enjoy cruising around the mining artifacts, photographing restored buildings, and to sample the fabulous food at the Caffe. Our group of 6 seekers were no exception.

Lunch or sightseeing? LUNCH! Then sightseeing. 

Photographers heaven
After a tasty lunch at Caffe El Triumph we armed ourselves with cameras and roamed arounds the ruins strewn about the countryside. Remnants from the past include a cemetery, numerous wells still in operation, and a variety of abandoned rusty mining machinery manufactured in Chicago and San Francisco.  However, the biggest attractions are the 2 tall towers or chimney stacks. The newer and larger stack standing at 115 feet, named “La Romana”, was designed in 1900 by the famous Gustave Eiffel. The smaller chimney is named “Julia”.  I have no idea of the origin of the names, or why such obviously looking phallic symbols acquired feminine names.
Eiffel's Romana
 Romana stands at 115 feet including a crown!
The red brick was manufactured in England.
An old well and tumbling bricks, quite picturesque. 
There is also a Piano Museo which was closed, but is reportedly worth the 20 peso admission. Sadly, most of the beautiful old buildings lie in decay, with crumbling red brick walls overgrown by wild weeds.

3 layers of brick for insulation
Here's a renovators challenge
Jaye's been looking for a Baja Bungalow, could this be it?
A potential garden with lots of possibilities 

Happily, recent renovations by an Italian and Marcus Spahr, a biker-restaurateur from Oakland, have transformed a couple of dilapidated historic buildings, as well as the Caffe El Triumph, into works of art  worthy of Architectural Digest. The stonework featuring colored glass block and ceramic animals embedded into the mortar is exceptional. We suspect that his latest renovation across from his restaurant is destined to become a moderate sized Inn. Smart guy. Create a fabulous cafe, offer a one-of-a-kind Mexican Casa, throw in an art gallery or two, and voila, the long winding trip down the Baja peninsula becomes a destination in itself. Kind of a small Todos Santos without the ocean.

An avid biker, the owner of Caffe El Triunfo parks his Harley Davidson inside the restaurant. It comes as little surprise that his current reno project across the street is on Harley Davidson Lane. Guess he carries some influence in the sleepy little town.

A future Inn?
 One of 2 main entrances to the Casa
 Darrell checks out the stonework
Elaborate Stonework
See No Evil Monkey's over a main entrance.

I Love the Lanterns
If you get a chance to peek into the yellow house on the corner, do it. The owner winters in La Paz and summers in Rome, yet maintains a garden of perfection at his El Triunfo casa. It used to be a Bed and Breakfast Inn, but due to his valuable and vast collection of period antiques he decided not offer rooms to the public any longer.
 I could live here......
The Secret Garden
A Garden Studio, of course.
This is a functional old well, wells are very common in El Triunfo.

 The owner admitted that keeping the garden lush is a huge responsibility, especially in the summer. Looks worth it to me. More recently the he has renovated the old barber’s house, a blue casa on the corner across from the main part of town. He has it listed for sale. We also took that tour. It’s another example of his attention to detail.
 This could be yours. Furnished!

It's all in the details, and the owner is a detail maniac!

If you are a shutter nut, El Triunfo is for you. Load up your camera and go hungry. In our group, the 3 women went nuts, especially for all the doors, some faded, some brightly painted, all enchanting.

 The last building is an Art Gallery, 
but I have never seen it open. Darn!
Faded Beauty.
There has been talk of reviving mining operations in El Triunfo.
That would indeed be quite a Triumph! Or would it? I rather like it’s  rustic charm beautified one building at a time.
I'll say a little prayer that I return soon.

The "kids", Murphy and Sparky, are hoping for a beach expedition.
Patient Boys.

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