Iglesia Santa Bárbara de Santa Rosalía

The Baja peninsula is full of quirky landmarks and attractions with incredible stories. One such marvel is the small church in the town of Santa Rosalía. The prefabricated, white-painted metal Iglesia de Santa Bárbara de Santa Rosalía was said to be designed in 1884 by the famous Gustave Eiffel who also designed the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The simple structure was originally destined for reconstruction in Africa and because of that was made entirely of stamped steel sheet squares, for easy portability. The church was shown  at the 1889 Exposition Universelle of Paris, and then moved to Brussels where the Boleo Mining Company acquired the church and had it installed in Santa Rosalía in 1897.

In the late 1800s, local ranchers discovered copper deposits (boleos) in the hills of Santa Rosalía. The French Boleo Mining Company (Compagnie de Boleo) bought the rights to the El Boleo Mine in 1884 and built the town of Santa Rosalía. This is why the town was built in a French style with buildings having wooden siding and porches and balconies overlooking the streets. The French mining company was granted a 70-year tax exemption to encourage development of this arid and undeveloped area. In 1954, when the tax exemption expired, the project went bankrupt and was sold back to the Mexican government. The mine ran under the Mexican government until the 1980s when it was closed down. El Boleo sat dormant for a number of decades until early 2015 when the mine became active again.

The local community still uses Iglesia de Santa Bárbara for regular worship. The church is located on Calle P. Altamirano between Constitución and Álvaro Obregón. If you visit Santa Rosalía also pay a visit to Panadería El Boleo, that at one time was considered one of the best bakeries in Mexico. And if you’re still hungry, check out Tacos el Faro Verde right in the little plaza near the entrance to town. The stand serves the usual fish and shrimp tacos in addition to a unique and tasty chile relleno taco. For an overnight stay, both Las Casitas and El Morro hotels are on the coast just south of town along Highway 1.

If you’re looking for more Gustave Eiffel in Baja, head farther down the peninsula to the small East Cape town of El Triunfo. Here in the old mining grounds, you’ll find the a large 35-meter-tall smokestack, “La Romana” that is also rumored to be designed by Eiffel.

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