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Stories by Mike Humfreville

Reflections on Mama and Papa Diaz and Bahia de Los Angeles    ( Posted September 4, 2003 )

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.

Copyright 2003-2006 Mike Humfreville

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