Baja California

Learn about the history of the iconic road that crosses the Baja California Peninsula

Discover how the road was created and how it allows us to enjoy the beautiful scenery and tourism of Baja California and Baja California Sur

A few days ago I was driving along the federal highway Mexico 1 and during a stop for the famous lobster and crab burritos at the Mama Espinoza restaurant, located in El Rosario, I talked with brothers Hector and Alejandro Espinoza Arroyo, who gave me very valuable and interesting information regarding the history of the road that runs along the entire peninsula of Baja California, from Tijuana to Los Cabos.

Alejandro, a well-known native historian of El Rosario, the town of missionary origin founded in July 1774, which makes it the oldest town in Baja California, told me that several stretches of the road were based on what were the millenary paths, those that were traced and traveled through the communities. The first settlers made their own paths to go hunting, to the beach to fish or to other places. When the missionaries arrived in our lands, they also respected these paths to make their routes, and when this route joined one mission with another they called it the Camino Real Misionero (Royal Missionary Road).

That Camino Real Misionero was long, stretching from the Mission of San José del Cabo to the Mission of San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, located in northern California. Although Americans call the Camino Real the road that leads from the latter mission to the Mission of San Diego de Alcalá, which travels through the missions in our state and Baja California Sur, it is called the "Camino Real Misionero de la Baja California" (Royal Missionary Road of Baja California).

We quickly recall that the Jesuits arrived in Loreto in 1697, built several missions on our peninsula, basically in Baja California Sur, and in 1768 left the Spanish territories. The Spanish crown assigned the religious orders formed by the Dominicans and Franciscans to continue the missionary work in these lands. The Franciscans didn't waste much time and a year later they built the Mission of San Fernando King of Spain of Velicatá (1769), in the area of El Rosario, which by the way was the only one they founded in B.C. Right there they made a pact with the Dominicans to separate the peninsular territory and divide it into Alta California and Baja California. Tijuana remained situated in Alta California. The Franciscans went north and in July 1769 they founded the Mission of San Diego de Alcala, that was the first of 21 that they founded in Upper California, the last one was in Sonoma in 1823, when Mexico had already become independent from Spain. The Dominicans stayed here and founded several other missions, the last one being the mission of Our Lady of Guadalupe del Norte in the Guadalupe Valley in 1834.


What's interesting about all this is that we can place some sections of our iconic highway based on historical trails and routes, while on modern California highways the same thing happened in several sections, such as the section from U.S. Route 101, Los Angeles to San Jose; also on State Route 82, San Jose to San Francisco; on U.S. Route 101, San Francisco to Novato; on State Route 37, Novato to Sears Point; on State Route 121 from Sears Point to Sonoma, among others.

Since the Baja California peninsula is far from the center of the country, the Mexican rulers wouldn´t look at us, Porfirio Diaz did, just to look for minerals and mines to exploit. It was not until after the Mexican Revolution that the first attempt was made, which is reported to have definitively united the populations of the northwest of the peninsula, so it was recorded towards the end of 1916. In fact, it was on December 10th of that year, when Silverio I was the Government's delegate in Tijuana. Romero, when a contract was signed with Brothers Rubén and Manuel Barbachano for the construction of the Tijuana-Ensenada highway, to be built on the same "missionary road".

During the period of President Lázaro Cárdenas (1934-1940), he promoted the Road Construction Program and, in our region, took advantage of the work begun under the regime of Colonel Esteban Cantú, to extend the Tijuana-Ensenada road to San Quintín.

Afterwards, the world went into war and our President Manuel Avila Camacho saw a way to protect the sovereignty and therefore, he ordered the start of the road to join the city of La Paz with the Naval Base of Bahía Magdalena, in Baja California Sur. In his first government report, he mentions the Transpeninsular highway for the first time.

As President of Mexico Adolfo López Mateos, refers to the highway and the territory of Baja California Sur, saying that "it has been paved up to kilometer 212 of the main highway that goes from La Paz to Parallel 28, having already passed Villa Constitucion and the expansion and construction of the one from Loreto to Santa Rosalia continues. This information confirms that Mexico 1 was built in sections and in stages, since the distance from the center of the country made it difficult to move machinery and materials for its continuation.

During the administration of Lopez Mateos (December 1, 1958 to November 30, 1964), work on the Playas de Tijuana-Ensenada scenic road was also planned and started, but it is during the period of Gustavo Diaz Ordaz (December 1, 1964 to November 30, 1970) when the most beautiful highway in Mexico begins to operate, it ran in 1967, since then the toll is paid to travel its 98 kilometers, which was granted to Caminos y Puentes Federales de Ingreso (CAPUFE) by that administration.

Without a doubt it was Diaz Ordaz who gave a strong impulse to the construction of federal highway number 1, because he knew of the importance of the road for economic integration and of the enormous tourist possibilities for the populations of the peninsula. Luis Echeverria Alvarez replaced him in the presidency and followed that path, allocating a significant percentage of the budget to complete it. It was precisely President Echeverria who had to unite all the parts of the road that had been under construction for years, decades.

It was on December 1, 1973 when Echeverria's committee arrived at Parallel 28 to formally inaugurate the road. For this purpose, a stylized eagle was erected, whose wings link the two peninsular Californias, united by the soul of the structure, which is the homeland. This monument located in the Biscayan desert is visible from 5 kilometers away.

With 1,711 kilometers the federal highway Mexico #1, named by President Luis Echeverria as "Transpeninsular Highway Benito Juarez", connects the Californias from one end to the other. It begins in Tijuana, the busiest border in the world and ends in Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur. With hundreds of attractions, generous views, landscapes and natural spots, the route is traveled by thousands of international and national tourists every year. At the same time it is a symbol for all Baja Californians. If you still haven't travelled it completely, you can start by sections. There is a lot to see in Baja California and Baja California Sur, and Highway Mexico 1 is the way to travel it, you will enjoy it!

Alvaro Montaño Rubio
Author of "Welcome to Tijuana".


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