History Medallions

36- A walk through modern history at Escuela Paulito Verjan …

History walk at Escuela Paulito Verjan, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

The air is sweet with blossoms, night birds call, and ghosts walk.

The streets are empty. I will see no else on this walk from Calle Comercio to the Middle School and back. But I am not alone. I am with everyone that have walked this very night walk through the years. My shoes fall in their footprints. There is rustling in flowering vines.

History walk Escuela Paulito Verjan, Alamos, Sonora, mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Shadows are small as the sun nears its zenith. Medallions speak of other zeniths.

How many times as this man took this path to Alamos Centro? How many times has he stopped to read a history medallion? How many times has he appreciated where he is? How many times has he felt grateful this is where his family is? Some of his grand children, at this momen,t may be behind the school’s portales studying.

1684 history medallion, Escuela Paulito Verjan, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Alamos is now an official city as Spanish colonization continues north and west.

1684, sixteen-eighty-four, and Alamos is part of the new frontier. Thinking back makes me wonder about the future. 2084, twenty- eighty-four, and what will one see standing in this very spot? And, 2184, twentyone-eighty-four? and… Whoa! Time to take a couple of deep breathes and enjoy being in the present.

first printing press in sonora, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Civilizations mature and expand with the introduction of printing presses.

History is the record of events occurring and needs being fulfilled. It is easy to ask what came first. The answer, or better yet answers, are part of a grand multiple causation continuum and are not that easy to formulate. But we try, that is part of being human.

history medallion for first publication in Sonora, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Being the first in Sonora meant being the first in the Californias.

This is another milestone in the development of Sonora and all of western settlement. Here, it is easy to answer what came first. First, there was a printing press and then there was a publication. It is the human way. Alamos, Sonora, Mexico has a long and literate history.

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©2013 Anders Tomlinson, all rights reserved.


40 … Government agencies come and government agencies go …

Conasuop warehouse, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Conasupo, Compania Nacional de Subsistenias Populares, was everywhere.

In the mid-60′s Conasupo was created. Conasupo would impact agricultural policies, food products, food consumption and rural economics throughout Mexico. The Alamos Conasupo distribution warehouse was in the barrios northwest of Alamos Centro and served all of the Alamos municipality. Following the debt crisis of 1982, Conasupo was reformed by the Mexican Government as part of a market liberalization process. For villages, ranches and the poor – Conasupo meant access to subsidized food staples like corn tortillas.

Conasupo truck, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Big truck, large mission, enormous landscape.

Conasupo was seen on signs and trucks throughout Alamos and all of Mexico. It managed stores that sold food staples to the urban and rural poor. Conasupo controlled production, processing and distribution of barley, beans, corn, rice, sorghum, soy beans, wheat, copra, cotton, sesame and sun flowers. It was the Mexican government managing Mexico’s food chain. And it was also human nature taking advantage of opportunities. Corruption and Conasupo were one and the same in the eyes of Conasupo detractors.

loading Conasupo truck, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Boxes, bags, sacks and materials are loaded to be distributed far and wide.

During the 80′s and 90′s the Mexican political landscape was changing with intervention of the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, and the World Trade Organization, WTO. Conasupo began terminating one market-control-crop-subsidy after another. In 1999 the Zedillo administration eliminated corn tortilla subsidies and finally liquidated Conasupo. Direct government intervention in agricultural markets was coming to a close. For the young man above, lifting one heavy sack after another, it meant finding a new job.

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Geologic Timeline

A step back in time starting with the coming of the age of mammals…

Atop Sierra de Alamos at sunrise, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico. Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Atop Sierra de Alamos, near Gringo Point, looking south at sunrise into Sinola.

So much of Alamos-Sonora-Mexico.com is about history. In that spirit let us peek at the region’s geologic history, stand earth time. The Sierra Madre Occidental and the Rocky Mountains began to form 90 to 30 million years ago along the west coast of North America. Ocean levels were much higher than today, back then there was no Florida. The age of mammals started 66.4 million years ago. Sierra de Alamos was beginning under great pressure deep in the earth along with what would become Aduana’s silver deposits.

Granite Outcroppings on Sierra de Alamos, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson

Sierra de Alamos is granite, only recently has it emerged from the earth.

Northwest Mexico, including Alamos, was buried under thousands of feet of ash, cinder and lava flows. Volcanic eruptions began 25 million years ago and continued another 12 million years, give or take a day or two. The Sea of Cortez began to form 12 to 3 million years ago as the Basin and Range block building was underway. Sierra de Alamos was still underneath a layer of all things volcanic. Over time erosion cut into ash flow plateaus creating landmarks like Barrancas del Cobre, Copper Canyon, whose materials were washed away and deposited near Sierra de Alamos. The rising mountain was still cover by blankets of earth.

View from atop Mt. al;amos looking south west, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by anders Tomlinson.

Atop the mountain looking southwest towards farmland and the Sea of Cortez.

As time marched on climate changed. The region began to cool 15 to 30 million years ago. Two to four million years ago it was warming up and raining. Most of the past two million years has been an ice age with 15 to 20 glacial periods. And now the planet is warming again. From a distant gallery it may look as if earth’s climate ebbs and flows like clockwork as the solar winds race past our blue planet, a molten rock with the thinest of crust and atmosphere.

Atop Mt. Alamos looking north at Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Spring time on the mountain looking north with Alamos waking up below.

Today, Sierra de Alamos rises thousands of feet above its surroundings. And many have visited Alamos to research the region’s geology, flora and fauna. Josephine Scripps was asked by the San Diego Natural History Museum in the 1940′s to lead a group of six young men, none who spoke spanish, on a natural science expedition to Alamos. They were to bring back a rare mountain sheep’s skeleton and hide. Josphine, 1910 -1992, was the granddaughter of Edward Scripps, founder of the Scripps – Howard newspaper chain. Her life-long pursuit of collecting mineral specimens from across the planet began on that trip to Alamos.

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©2013 Anders Tomlinson, all rights reserved.

La Aduana

The landscape of La Aduana has rebounded from the best and worst of man..

Street in La Aduana, Sonora, Mexico. Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Downtown Aduana on a typical weekday morning. Remants of mining dot the hills.

Spanish conquistador Vasquez de Coronado camped here during the winter of 1540-41. He was searching for gold in what turned out to be mountains with veins of silver. The mines closed in 1906 after nearly 400 years of continuous mining. La Aduana was the “custom office”, it was all about taxes and royalties. Life was hard and short with the hazards of the mines and the chemicals used in the extraction process. The curse of quicksilver had a wide footprint.

Looking east at La Aduana, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Today, seven miles west of Alamos, Aduana is what it is.

Here seven miles west of Alamos, at 2,500 feet elevation with surrounding mountains as high as 4,700 feet, Aduana has less than 300 people where once there was 5,000. A church, country store, cemetery, a small restaurant-inn, a plaza with a dry fountain in its center surrounded by the past is Aduana today. And for some this is their home. And these are their hills with their months of desert and long summer of jungle.

Cooperativa Artesanos La Aduana, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

The woman come out to show their wares when visitors arrive.

Located near the church is La Aduana Art & Crafts. This is a cooperative of local ladies, seen here, with their products. This photo was taken in 1997. I wonder what Aduana is like today. I know the dust is the same and radios and televisions sing and speak from isolated homes. But has the realities of 2011 arrived? While researching Aduana on the internet I was surprised to see alamos-sonora-mexico.com being quoted, some would say plagiarized, by others sites. Indeed, this is 2011. In the next wave of Alamos video editing – mid May, scenes from Aduana will be posted.

cactus in wall of la adauna church, sonora, mexico.  photo by anders tomlinson.

A cactus grows out of a church wall and people come to pray.

This is not the London Bridge or the Grand Canyon but it is a quiet moment, in a now quiet town, that inspires those who believe.

burros drinking watr in la aduana, sonora, mexico.  photo by anders tomlinson.

Two generations gather for a drink at the local water hole - more puddle.

These burros could be descendants of working Aduana burros from the 1600′s. It was a hard life: grinding down ore in quicksilver or moving silver from the mines, to the Alamos treasury to Mexico City and back for another trip loaded with needed supplies.
Beasts of burden relax and calm La Aduana morning. Birds and insects fill the sky with sound. It is becoming warmer.
entrance to a mine in La Aduana, Sonora, Mexico.  photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Just think of all that took place deep within this silver mine. Think of the men. Think of how and why they are there. Think of their typical day. Think of where they laid down to sleep. Think of what they eat.

Here was Silver

Once this was a major silver mining town in all the world. Today, it is tucked away up in the hills with a quiet plaza and dry fountain. It is calm. Mining remnants dot the hillside. They are reminders of what was and what is.
Photos and editing by Anders Tomlinson. Music from “Camino Songs” by SonicAtomics.

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Alamos Short History

Back in the Old West When There Was No Old West

The Chuc

Looking west, explorer Coronado was struck by this mountain and landscape.

Tucked away in a picturesque valley in the foothills of the Sierra Madre is an enchanted Shangri-La that sings of other eras. Indians called this region Calimaya long before Spanish Explorer Vasquez de Coronado noted in 1540, ” here is something special…

The Spaniards called this land Real de los Frailes because of some tall white rocks resembling hooded monks overlooking a small Indian village shaded by cottonwoods.

These towering rocks speak loudly. They call for, and command, your attention.

In 1683, 143 years after Coronado, two abundant veins of silver were discovered seven miles to the west of present day Alamos. The mines of Aduana and Minas Nuevas, in a zone 4.5 by 1.5 miles, produced an estimated $100,000,000 in 1910 dollars.

Aduana is now a sleepy little village amid mine ruins.

Soon, Alamos was the richest and most important city on the El Camino Real. Juan de Anza departed Alamos in September 1775 with local families and freshly mined silver to settle San Francisco. Alamos money and citizens were also vital for expeditions that settled Monterey, Santa Barbara and five years later, Los Angeles. Father Kino used the Royal treasury to finance a chain of missions in northern Sonora and southern Arizona. The Bishop and Governor resided in Alamos, as did the first high school, printing press and newspaper and important trading center.

The plaza was the heartbeat of Alamos as it grew in power and prestige.

The lure of silver brought international miners from Europe and other continents. On the Sea of Cortez galleons from Asia, Phillipines and Europe called on the port of Huatabampo loaded with cargo, a week by burro from Alamos. They brought luxuries such as silk and satin and the world’s finest furniture. Opera Companies visited. China minted coins here. Merchants came from India and Japanese supervised a silk factory. The indigenous population included Mayos, Yaquis, and Tarahumaras. Hordes of miners and traders, who endured great hardships in their travels, overran Alamos.

As many as 30,000 people made Alamos their home during the peak of its glory in the 18th century. Here, new Spain was pomp and circumstance with a beautiful Church, grand haciendas built in the style of Andalusia, Spain, flower-filled patios, romantic serenades, elegant carriages, flourishing commerce, and mines that ranked amongst the most productive in the world.

The Past is Alive in the Structures and the Sparkle of an Eye.

For the past 300 years Alamos has been built and shaped by families of wealth and taste. Experienced builders and skilled craftsmen, through good times and bad, have gone about town building and restoring ruins. Today it is a National Colonial Monument, an ageless tribute to the men and women who entrusted their designs, possessions and dreams to the future.

The Plaza was the prize, conquer the Plaza and Alamos was yours.

The Sunday promenade in Plaza de Armas goes back to the 1680′s. In peaceful times families gathered here for conversation, worship and grand public celebrations. The church and prominent colonial mansions were built surrounding the plaza for protection against the Indians: Tarahumara, Yaquis, Mayos and Apaches. Later, the plaza afforded a prestigious address.

Looking down from the Church at a street sweeper on Calle Comercio.

The Alameda, the commercial center of Alamos, was laid out in 1769.

For Every Action There is An Equal and Opposite Reaction.

With prosperity came hardship. The poor could not afford the inflated prices of merchandise shipped by pack trains from Guadalajara and Mexico City, a hazardous trek that took four months. Indians were used as slaves or cheap labor. Sanitation and disease were a problem: in 1770 alone plague wiped out 6,000 people.

There are times when the Plaza is quiet and reflective and there are times when...

There were continual power struggles between Colonels, Governors, Admirals, Priests, Bishops, and an unending parade of Royal emissaries. The city was heavily taxed by the Crown and by those who controlled the local territory. Political instability raged, treaties and agreements were broken. Alamos had its ups and downs depending on the mood of the day, month and seasons.

Alamos endured two centuries of siege mentality and the prize was control of silver and politics. At one time or another the plaza was overrun by the Spanish, Mexican colonists, Federalists, Liberals, French, Apaches, Independents, Reformers, Pancho Villa, Renegade soldiers and bandits. Along with droughts, pestilence and floods Indians continued constant uprising. Apaches came south to plunder and the independent Tarahumara sought revenge for their forced slavery. By 1849 only 4,000 people remained in Alamos. The miners had left for California’s gold rush.

And Then They Were Gone.

Trade shifted from El Camino Real to coastline ports. Plazas, arches, ornate ironwork, hand carved wood, high ceilings and cobblestone streets fell upon hard times. Roofs caved in leaving two to five foot thick walls open to the sky. The once great patios filled with debris. Despite the wars, bad weather and impoverished neglect. old families stayed, as did some miners. Alamos continued on… the sun would rise another day in this land that remained in a forgotten age.

The streets of this National Colonial Monument echo history, here, one is never alone.

The Plaza is peaceful these days. Alamos streets are safe from intruders and invaders.
Town folks sleep well at night knowing tomorrow is another day, another song, another hug, another laugh, another challenge, another moment to be part of Alamos…

And Then Along Came A Man Named Levant.

Not until the 1950′s did a lone American, Levant Alcorn, come to the cobble stone streets, and see the potential for the future. He saw value in the plazas, arches, ornate iron-work, carved wood doors, high ceilings, five-foot thick walls and proximity to the United States International border.

Late in his life, a childlike Levant had a quick smile and a fading memory.

He began to acquire ruined mansions. Soon, he was selling property to independent Americans hoping to realize their dream standard of living. Restoration projects began and continue today. Now, Alamos has over 200 American families as part of its social fabric.

Roofs are always in need of repair. They are also another place to relax.

Each wall, every window and door is a story. Where did it come from, how and when did it get here? Was it made by an Alamos or imported craftsmen?

There is a prideful sense of ownership that comes with undertaking a restoration project that in reality will never end. And there is a humble realization that the casa is really owned by history and this is but a brief opportunity to be part of a continuum of gatekeepers and masters.

Restoration-maintenance is an industry, it is a way of life. Owners, maestros, workers
and house-help are a team that can last a lifetime.

Think of the coats of paint these columns have worn over the past 200 years.

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©2013 Anders Tomlinson, all rights reserved.

Alamos Population History

55… Talking population: past, present and future…

Independence day celebration in Plaza, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Alamos school kids attend Independence Day celebration in the Plaza.

When I think of Alamos I think of its history and my first question is how many Indians were in the area when Diego de Guzman, nephew of Spanish explorer Cortes, passed through the region in 1533 on well traveled native trails. Mexico’s Indian population was estimated to be as high as 25 million in 1519, most living in the great valley of Mexico. By 1523 the considered Indian population had been reduced to 16.8 million and further cut to 6.3 million by 1548. The Indian population continued to decline in 1580 with a thought of 1.9 million and one million in 1605. If these numbers are any way close to what actually happened they speak of apocalyptic times for Mexico’s Indians.

Kissing Alley, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

People from many nations have walked, for centuries, on these cobblestones.

The population of Alamos through the years is sketchy at best. The first information I could find was for 1760 when Alamos had an estimated 800 families and a population of 3,400 with 5 – 6 priests. At this time the world’s population was 846 million.
6,000 are estimated to have died from the plague in 1770.
1780 Alamos reaches its largest population, 15,000 to 30,000. Can you imagine what the lifestyles of both rich and poor were in this protected valley at that time?

Funeral procession, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

The stories of population are the stories of birth, migration and death.

Alamos populations fluctuated during the 19th Century as mining and political interests rising rose and fell, came and left.1800, Alamos estimated population was 9,000.
1803, there are some 7,900 folks here.
The world’s population reached one billion by 1804.
1825, Alamos population is an estimated 5,000 to 7,000.
1837, an interestingly specific figure of 2,872 people is noted.
1849, 4,300 inhabitants call Alamos home. At this time many miners have, or are, leaving for the California gold fields.
1850 – 1880, the population apparently remains a steady 5,000.
The first official Mexican census was accomplished in 1895.

Night time in the Plaza, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico. Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Through feast and famine there has been a Sunday promenade in the Plaza.

Here is an outline of the population in 1908: 10,000 for the region. This figure is then broken down to 3,000 in Alamos, 1,000 in Aduana, 1,000 in Navajoa, 1,000 in Promontories, 1,000 in Minas Nuevas and 1,000 in Camoa.
The world’s population reaches two billion in 1927.
The population estimate for the region in 1940, official census count, was 21,477: 11,543 men and 9,835 women. I found another from another source that the population of the city at this time may have been 5,369 hombres and 4,848 mujeres over the age of six.
The world’s population reaches three billion in 1960, four billion in 1974, and five billion in 1987.
The census for 1990 has Alamos with 6.132 inhabitants and a total of 13,000 for the municipality.
The world’s population reaches six billion in 1999 and is forecasted to reach seven billion in 2011.
Today, Alamos population estimates are 13,000 for the city and 30,000 in the municipality.

And here is a thought for the future, the largest migration across the USA – Mexico border may not be south to north, as it has been in the past, but retired baby boomers heading south during the coming decades. Planet Earth is always in motion, always changing.

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©2013 Anders Tomlinson, all rights reserved.

Alamos Horses

100… An Alamos moment with some horses…

A horse on Calle Comercio, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson

A solitary horse stands in the middle of Calle Comercio.

A man in the background is working on repairing a drain spout Calle Comercio. Behind the horse is the former Governor’s mansion. Why is this horse here? Because it is here. In the bigger picture the answer could be that Christopher Columbus brought the first domesticated horses on his second voyage to the new world. His expedition selected 25 horses from Andalusia including the Spanish Jennet, know for their athleticism, medium size and comfortable gait. The Spanish royal architects who laid out Centro Alamos as it is found today were also from Andalusia.

Hernandez de Cordoba in 1517 brought horses to Yucatan. Conquistador Cortez set sail with 16 horses, 500 men and 11 ships in February 1519. He landed on Mayan territory in the Yucatan peninsula and marched inland to what is now Mexico City. Today, Andalusians are bred with quarter-horses and Mexican Criolla to produce the Mexican Azteca, beautiful and durable. The horse above, living in the moment, is unaware of all of this.

Horse near buckets of food scraps put out for trash pickup, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

The lone horse knows there is food in the trash buckets waiting for pickup.

The horse has found food scraps to rummage through. Food is food. While taking this photo I wondered if someone realized this horse was possibly not where this horse should be? And, would they go looking for the horse or is this a regular occurrence and the horse returns unassisted? A horse on its own in Centro Alamos is not a common sight but it should not be a surprise given Alamos, Sonora, Mexico’s old west nature.

Posts for hoses to tie up to, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico. Photos by Anders Tomlinson.

Looking through the Museos' window at the old Alamos fort's front door.

All of Centro Alamos is a museum as illustrated by looking out Museo de Costumbrista de Sonora’s northern windows and seeing La Ciudadella, one of the oldest and best kept buildings on the Plaza. This was the town’s original Spanish fort. It is said that a Spanish soldier’s ghost is here protecting hidden treasure. This ghost is not alone. There are reports of ghost throughout Centro Alamos, purchase a home and a ghost, or ghosts, come along in the deal.

Detail of horse head to tie up horses, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Small details tell stories and events that transcend time and space.

Mystery and magic are in the details seen from the street. Events are recorded in the weave and pattern of old sidewalks. Pride can be found in the well-intended performances of skilled workmen and artisans. Days of old remain with the care and respect of today’s owners and helpers. It is community mindset and municipal dictate that perpetuates past legacies.
The streets of Alamos are living history.

The old fort off the main Plaza in Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Maria Louisa, the first owner of La Ciudadella, died from a loose ceiling brick.

La Ciudadella went from a government fort to a private residence to two residences and then restored back to one 22 room mansion. In the early days this was a fortified mansion to securely store silver bars from the Aduana mines. Behind these doors Important business was conducted that had implications as far north as San Francisico. Inside the compound there were ramps to move the treasure along with a dungeon, deep well and secret emergency escape tunnels.

When I visited La Ciudadella in 1995, David and Jennifer McKay were living there. I sat down with David at a big old table from the soldier’s mess hall and had a glass of water and a brief conversation. Today La Ciudadella, 15 Cardenas, is owned and watched over by Margo and Richard Howell. During the winter and spring seasons La Ciudadella is often included on the Saturday house tour that gathers at 10 or 11 a.m. in the Plaza. The modest house tour fee benefits local charitable organizations, this is a long-standing tradition.

Four horse scenes in Alamos, Sonora, Mexico. Photos by Anders Tomlinson.

Horses can be seen on the streets and arroyos of Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.

Counter clockwise from upper left: Independence Day celebrations feature horses, music, food and beer in the arroyos. A grandfather and grandson ride together on a quiet weekday in downtown Aduana. A summer rodeo and music concert is staged in the baseball park, nothing started on time. A young man walks his horse in front of the church.

Horse drawn tours of Centro Alamos started in the Plaza, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.

A private entrepreneur started a tourist horse drawn carriage ride around town.

And now for a little horse history in Mexico. In 200,000 B.C. Equus Mexicanus were common in North America. Starting around 136,000 B.C. they began to leave for Asia. Some 76,000 years ago Toba, one of the world’s four super volcanos, errupted in Sumatra and wiped out many species on earth. The human population, reduced to a thousand breeding pairs, barely survived. In recent times the onager, a wild ass, was common throughout North America. And then the Spaniards arrived. In the background are the steps leading up to the Monastery, formerly the Boor’s mansion. The pink building on the corner is now the Alamos hostel.

four horse scenes on the streets and roads of Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photos by Anders Tomlinson.

Be it for transportation or recreational activity the horse is part of Alamos.

Counter clockwise from upper left: A couple of charros, horsemen. pass Calle 5 de Febrero as they ride eastward in Arroyo La Aduana. Horses and riders gather and celebrate Independence Day in Arroyo La Aduana. A woman and child on horseback near the cemetery along Calle de Las Delicias. Man and horse rest as the Plaza fills with summer tourists.

Rock walled stables on

A magnificent Arabian purebred stands in the high noon warmth of spring

Dr. Martin Dale Edwards and Zora Tyler owned Rancho Las Crucecitas, a 15 minute walk from the Plaza, when these photos were taken in 1995. They had two large houses, with two caretaker families living in one, two barns and 23 corrals. Water was provided by an abundant well and a dam behind the main house which caught and stored runoff from Mt. Alamos. They had an Arabian breeding program that used the son of Fadjur as their primary stallion. We are not sure where Arabian horses came from: northern Syria, southern Turkey, northern edge of the Fertile Crescent, Iraq, across the Sinai, Egypt, southwestern Arabia… We do know that around 1500 B.C. records begin to appear talking of the impacts these powerful “hot blooded” Arabian horses were making.

Horses in front of the main house on what is now Estancia Chrysalis.

Soon the mountain behind the main ranch house will be vibrant green

These horses lived a different life than the horse on Calle Comercio that began this scene-segment-post. Life in the undisturbed country is much different than the narrow streets and homes wall to wall in downtown. These city homes do have their walled-in courts – patios where outdoor living, and privacy, is a given. But in the countryside, wide open spaces present an all encompassing freedom. Here, the sounds are of surrounding wildlife and of your own making. I believe Rancho Las Crucecitas was named for a murder that took place on the property where an old woman is buried. The herd of Arabian horses would die years later at Las Crucecitas from bad food or disease or? Something had gone terribly wrong.

Las Crucecitas’ 175 acres was purchased from Zora by Sharon Bernard and renamed Estancia Crysalis. Frank Bernard, her father, had owned a 1200 acre ranch that was three miles northwest of Alamos and might have been named Estancia Crysalis. He was a hotelman and a former Spanish Consul to Vancouver. After he sold the ranch its name was changed to Rancho El Palomar. Frank, and his second wife, Atie, then purchased Calle Comercio 8, the Bishop’s mansion in Alamos Centro. I met briefly with Frank in 1993 and he told me that I had brought a talented crew to film Alamos over the Christmas holidays. Horse spirits and ghosts are everywhere.

©2013, Anders Tomlinson, all rights reserved


72… Forces of change challenge human nature at every turn…
Part One of Three on an Eternal Debate.

Summer vegetation in the surrounding hills, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

In days of old, man moved by foot paths through sparsely populated lands.

There was a time and a day that Indigenous people, speaking one of 18 Cahita dialects, were those who knew this land as their own. They numbered 115,000, the largest Indian group in Northern Mexico, and lived along the lower reaches of the Sinaloa, Fuerte, Mayo and Yaqui rivers. The Spanish called these agriculturalist Indians, spread out across the region in small groups, “rancheria people”. They had come from Asia, and possibly Europe, thousands of years ago. We know that those that came from these distant places were in turn descendants of those who started the great human migrations out of Africa and the Middle-east. There is truth in the belief that we are all, under the sun, brothers and sisters. Various cultures and traditions, if they helped people survive, will be adopted by others. This is a hallmark of human nature – adaptability.

Columns and window details, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico. Photo by Anders Tomlinson

End of day's sun illuminates a classical column of another time and land.

One day the sun came up and menacing rattles of Spanish Conquistador swords, moving fast on old Indian trails, grew louder. December of 1529, Nuno Beltran de Guzman, once a lawyer, led an army of 500 Spanish and 10,000 Tlaxcalans, Aztecs and Tarascans into Sinaloa. March of 1531, Guzman defeated 30,000 Indians in present day Culiacan. Many that survived were captured and enslaved. Later, Guzman’s Amerindian army was wiped out by epidemics and hunger. His was a reign of terror. Spanish colonialization was approaching Alamos.

And then Silver was discovered near Alamos. And the world was attracted by the riches:
miners from Europe, merchants from India, silk makers from Japan, coin makers from China, Philippine sailors and to work the mines: African slaves, local Indigenous people, free mulatos and Indians from other parts of Mexico. Globalization arrived in Alamos.

And the riches brought in the finest goods from around the world. An international settlement was growing along the arroyos. Cultures and traditions blended together as did the people. Apexes of personal consumption were reached by those who could pay the price. The poor observed the rich and knew they were the human engines that made the rich richer. Lessons on modern times were there to be learned and mastered, the art of supply and demand was at hand. Consumerism flourished in Alamos.

Column and shadow on Calle Comercio, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson

The shadow of Southern Spain spread across Alamos and the Southwest.

Alamos became a valuable resource to fund California coastal settlements along with emerging political movements – militias throughout Sonora and Sinaloa. Alamos was now helping export traditions and customs that not long ago had arrived here.

And then, things change like things do. Much of the International mining community left Alamos for gold and silver discovered in Central California’s Sierra Nevada foothills. Miners come and go to where there is buried treasure and international prices high enough to make mining profitable. Alamos experienced economic fluctuations that is the nature of mining boom towns. Many of these become ghosts towns and others continue on. Some Alamos families faithfully remained and made their livings amongst the aging architecture in a village that was a reduced footprint of its former self. The world had touched them. It could be seen in the art, furniture, books, and music left here and there, and so it was and so it is. Alamos was one of the mining towns that accepted, adapted and continued on. Over the next hundred years Alamos had a couple of small economic upturns and several longer downturns that turned into dust covering ruins of once grand mansions. The silver boom and busts had come and gone.

©2013 Anders Tomlinson, all rights reserved.

History: Time Marches On

An introduction to a Short History of Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.
“Here is something Special”, Spanish explorer Vasquez de Coronado noted in 1540 as he headed north, passing by tall white rocks on Alamos de Sierra. This is the opening chapter to “A Short History of Alamos” written, filmed and edited by Anders Tomlinson. Narrated by Bruce Miles. Soundtrack by AtomicSonics and Estudiantina de Alamos.

Alamos shares a strong maternal bond, steeped in history, with all the Southwest.
Juan Batista de Anza departed Alamos in September 1775 with silver, and local families, to settle “Monterey and the Californias”, including San francisco. Another expedition, five years later, left Alamos to settle Los Angeles.

The conclusion to a Short History of Alamos, Sonora, Mexico embraces the Sierra Madre.
Here, Bishop Reyes’ Cathedral in the Plaza, a three-tiered belfry, shines gold in morning light. Here, looking east, one’s imagination is stirred by the forbidding beauty of the Sierra Madre Occidentals. Together, they shape the Alamos experience.

Special thanks to the following contributors:

Pember, Elizabeth and Kit Nuzum, Puerta Roja Inn, Estudiantina de Alamos, Quartet de Alamos, Los Angeles Cathedral Choir, Museo Costumbrista de Sonora, Antonio Estrada, Francis Curry, Antonio Figueroa, Teri Arnold, Sharon Bernard, Rudy Hale, Chaco Valdez, Dr. Joaquin Navarro, Ernesto Alcorn, Antonio Mendoza, San Sanchez, June Ray, Swickards, Meisenheimers, Frielobs, Cooks, Stephanie Meyers, Bruce Miles, Earle and Joan Winderman, Doug Reynolds, Robert Ganey, Gary Ruble, AtomicSonics, William Brady, R. Harrington, Donna Beckett, Del Mar TV 38, Robyn Ardez and all the people of Alamos for their grace, warmth and hospitality.

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©2013 Anders Tomlinson, all rights reserved.