Not All Gold Glitters


2019 - Ongoing

Baja California, Mexico

Prospecting for gold involves carefully combing a harsh terrain where, from time to time, an opaque nugget appears, encrusted with stones, quartz, or sand. Not All Gold Glitters is an allegorical essay that dusts off stories from northwest Mexico that remain hidden due to their ordinary nature, yet profound and necessary to present a larger context, congruent with the reality of a territory that has been historically misinterpreted and that deserves a better standing.

The dominant image of Baja California, the westernmost region in Mexico, and the land where I grew up, is one of an endless desert of narcos, migrants, and violence. An obliterated territory where, seemingly, the desert has been preserved as it is but its richness has been kept hushed by a privileged and exploitative few. Through my travels and research on these grounds, I have found a laboratory in which it is possible to navigate a vast terrain of themes and observe the subtleties of conflicts in a place where civilization and nature exist in their widest varieties.

These explorations, which follow the pace demanded by the territory, are intended to detonate a question: how might we encourage long-term thinking and grow awareness that the present is already part of the future?

By focusing on the contemporary history of the peninsula, this long-term project challenges the current narratives that portray its apparent barbarism and strengthen the perspective of the alarmist press and the interventionist practices of its northern neighbor. In contrast, this research offers a framework that understands this land as a vital organ of the planet, filled with sublime flora and fauna, dinosaurs, indigenous history, and other worthwhile stories that we can still connect to.

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  • In 1870, after a rancher discovered a big gold vein, the town of Real del Castillo became the first capital of Baja California.

  • Artisanal gold prospecting is rare on the peninsula but still practiced by a few feverish men. A kilo of gold pays approximately 60,000 dollars.

  • More than 13 million tons of minerals, including gold and silver, are extracted annually at the San Felipe unit of Real de Angeles Mining Company, owned by the richest man in the country.

  • Tattoos are one of the many cultural manifestations of the Cucapá people that are slowly disappearing.

  • The Rumorosa highway gets its name from the roar of the wind as it hits the mountain boulders.

  • Under the 110° F of summer, Adolfo Medina makes clay bricks in an open kiln on the outskirts of Algodones.

  • Villa del Campo is one of the newest settlements in Tijuana. It is said that the city grows one block per week.

  • In 1864 the first major concession of the peninsula was granted by then-President Benito Juarez to an American Mr. Leese to colonize Baja California from the 31° to 24°20' parallel: four-fifths of the territory destined for deliberate plunder.

  • Detail of hand with six fingers and breast, at Mesa del Carmen cave painting. It is believed that this representation of people with six fingers is due to the use of native entheogenic plants, which provoke altered states of consciousness.

  • Sara wants to be a light aircraft pilot, like the ones that fly near her home, a territory dedicated to the transportation of illicit substances.

  • Night glow of Ojos Negros village, named after the beautiful black-eyed Kumiai women who inhabit these lands.

  • The Baja 1000 is the longest off road rally in the world. A popular event banned in other countries for its high environmental impact.

  • One day Meltí Ipa Jalá (Coyote-God-Moon) took off his coat to contain water, air, fire, and earth. That is how the world was created according to the Kiliwa people.

  • Martín Rangel, oyster farmer in the false bay of San Quintín, considered one of the world's most pristine water areas.

  • Great white shark fetus with one eye, collected at Popotla Beach. Local fishermen believe these congenital malformations are related to the aquaculture farms along the Pacific coast.

  • Vanessa Vázquez is the leader of the community group PEJESAPO, responsible for the whale shark monitoring program in Los Angeles Bay.

  • According to fossils found in the region, the first settlers of the peninsula had contact with horses back in the late Pleistocene.