Mama and Papa Diaz
I was in Bahia de Los Angeles a few years back, looking for
information on the close culture from long-term locals. We knew
many because we spent so much time there, but you can't learn the
history from the present. Carolina, from the museum let me make a
copy of an old newspaper article she had. It was written by Luis
Montes Pinal and published in the El Mexicano out of Ensenada on
Sunday, July 17, 1988. It featured a review of the life and times
of Antero (Papa) Diaz, who had recently died. I started
translating but gave up after too many trips to the
Spanish-American dictionary. I'll give the article to the Spanish
teacher at our local high school so he can assign the kids an
ambitious project and learn some history to boot.
The effort of learning caused me to review what I knew personally
of the patriarch and matriarch of the settlement.
I was late in my Baja travels in visiting the bay. Before the
pavement went in, we were destined for more dramatic locations;
the bay was a 66 kilometer drive on the dirt. We first went
there, to live for the summer, in 1974.
The village was smaller in those years and most tourists arrived
in private aircraft. The dirt airstrip was in the center of the
village, terminated at the gas station where Patricio pumped auto
and aviation fuel. It was common to have cars, trucks and planes
all in the same line, waiting for gas.
Antero had a good sized fishing boat, seems like about 40 feet,
that he kept anchored a few hundred yards out in the bay. The
life of the village then, as today, was focused on fishing, for
food and tourists both. I don't know whether Antero held any
official position in the town, but he was clearly the senior male
in the village. He dominated the tourist fishing concession.
Antero appeared to have many high-powered bons vivants on both
sides of the border that came to visit him at his home.
The Diaz compound, much the same as today, was the center of the
village activities and nightly many locals gathered on the
elevated patio for visits while children of all ages played
soccer in the twilight.
Cruz (Mama) quietly ran the store attached to their patio in the
compound. The store was a collection of dusty canned goods, beer,
sodas, and no ice. In those days you had to go to the original
Dos Pinos to buy non-potable and half-melted block ice from
Miguel. In the Diaz store Mama kept small spiralbound notebooks
and pencils tied to each rack of goods. The few customers would
collect their goods, document them in one of the pads and sign
their names. Payment was made on departure, or payday, as the
case might apply. Honesty was expected and maintained by all. On
return from their daily sea-bourn adventures the fishermen
collected on the Diaz patio in the mid afternoons for a cerveza
and the days' gossip.
Mail to the village was addressed to a Diaz post office box in
Ensenada. Whenever anyone went there, they posted outgoing mail
and brought the incoming back to the village. Antero reviewed the
mail. If there were posts for others, he placed them in a box
fastened to the wall of his office. When we came into the village
for supplies, we'd always check the "mail box."
Meals were served at the Diaz ranch, if you had made a
reservation so they could know in advance how much food to
prepare. The service was family style at a large common table and
everything self-served. You never knew who you'd be seated next
to, which added to the fun. It was mostly tourists of course. The
Diaz store, kitchen, and the dining room are attached and it was
pleasant, in the afternoons to sit in the coolness of the
building and sip a cerveza and listed to the Spanish chatter from
the young girls working in the kitchen. Mama always snitched us a
sample of whatever they were cooking for the evening meal.
Somewhere in the middle of summer, it was either Papa's birthday
of the 4th of July, the Dias family threw a party. The entire
town was invited. A steer was sacrificed and the barbeque fired
up. A huge sidetable was positioned outside the restaurant and
loaded with chips, guacamole and salsa and a huge bowl of
margaritas. Music was provided from an old tape player and the
celebrating lasted throughout the afternoon and well into the
night. As we were leaving an east wind was building. Mary Ann
dropped her purse. It fell open and the contents blew across the
landscape. A huge scampering went on with everyone collecting
what they could. Among the papers were 19 hundred-dollar bills. I
was totally dismayed. We had planned a year away from work and
that money was well needed. But everyone collected what they
could and Sammy (Antero's oldest son) handed me $1600. The
villagers had located all but three of the windblown bills. Hard
to make a stronger statement toward true integrity than that.
Papa passed on in the late eighties. Mama lasted nearly until the
new-century mark. After Papa was gone she spent more time with
her daughters, in Ensenada or points north. It will never be the
same at the village. There are several markets now, and ice is
always available. There is a telephone kiosk and you can call out
whenever they're open for business. They even have several
Internet cafes where you can come abreast of worldly affairs from
the heart of Baja.
It's just not quite the same heart as it was during the reign of
Papa and Mama.