La Ventana Bay has seen many people visit its shores. Pericue Indians, were the first to arrive more than 10,000 years ago. They regularly visiting this area to harvest vegetation and marine life. On the knolls above the shoreline, they left middens of clamshell and stone tools used for grinding seeds. Projectile points, called arrowhead can also be found in nearby arroyos.
In 1533 Fortun Jiminez landed on a palm grove along the shore, becoming the first European to set foot on any of the Californias. Two years later, Cortes anchored in what is now the Bay of La Ventana and gave Isla Cerralvo its first name: Isla Santiago. For a short time after silver was discovered in El Triunfo, ingots were brought from San Antonio to an embarcadero on the south shore of the bay where they were loaded onto ships destined for the mainland and Spain. Dutch and English pirates passed this way looking for Spanish ships to plunder. Around 1865, an American company made a brief attempt to establish a mining settlement here. The Ruffo family from Italy settled in La Paz in the late 1800s. They sent armadas seeking pearls in LaVentana Bay and in the waters off the island of Cerralvo, much later establishing local markets and setting up a seafood buying center.
Around 1900, a cattle rancher built his headquarters in an adobe house near the present La Ventana campground. The first settlement of La Ventana was built among the palms of the present campground. It consisted of a few casitas with palm roofs and cardon walls on dirt floors. Josepha Amador Leon, who often sells tamales in La Ventana, was born here in November of 1948. Her grandfather, pearl diver Salome Leon, founded the tiny pueblo in 1931. Salome had brought his family by burro from La Paz to found a fishing village here, in a region then called Miramar.
It was renamed La Ventana for the arch of trees that formed a window overlooking the bay where the arroyo across from the cemetery opens onto the beach. There was no road or electricity. Fishermen paddled canoes for four hours to reach Isla Cerralvo. Furnishings for the small houses were sparse: beds were made of cardon planks, lighting was by candle or kerosene lamp. Each simple home had an outdoor kitchen for cooking over a wood fire, and water that was hauled from a hand dug well. Food consisted mainly of rice, beans, tortillas de maize, fish, homemade cheese, wild fruits and vegetables.
The night sky was a marvel to behold, a constant source of entertainment and wonder yet to be eclipsed by electric lights. Children were educated from the stories and songs taught to them around a campfire in the evenings. They learned the trails through the mountains leading to arroyos that had mangoes in season. The surf teamed with fish. People rarely got sick, and everyone knew what plants could be used for food, building materials or medicine. Fishermen recognized the winds, waves, and skies that predicted fair weather or impending storm.
On the early morning of September 11, 1958, an unnamed tropical storm or hurricane spawned waterspouts that came ashore dropping tons of water on the slopes behind the small village that flowed back down to the bay, joining a tidal surge. Water rose in the small houses forcing everyone to stand on beds or tables to escape wildlife caught in the floods from both the hills and the sea. Two houses and Salome’s Buick were buried in sand. No one was hurt, and the pueblo was soon rebuilt on higher ground. About 1988 the first gringos settled in the area, and soon thereafter vagabundos began to arrive from the north looking for wind, warmth & other wonders. The first kite surfers arrived around 2000.
©2009 TS Research credit Tom Spradley.