The history of Cabo San Lucas begins in a remote place in time when it was inhabited by settlers of whom little is known even though they left tracks of their presence in the area. One of the most important findings is the Man of Matancitas with height between 1.75 and 1.80m and longevity of at least 75 years who fed on vegetables and proteins. Later inhabitants include the honest and friendly Pericúes, men with a remarkable resemblance to the more modern villagers who were well formed.
The Pericúes were first encountered in an expedition commanded by Courteous Hernán, who made a survey of the region in 1535. Nevertheless, the first formal contact with the native culture was carried out in 1542 by the expedition of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. The richer historical facts came with the establishment of the routes of galleons from Manila. Because of a long and laborious route, ships were forced to make port where the crews could recover from scurvy and ships were repaired.
The necessity of putting into port also arose due to the introduction of English pirates to the region. At this time there were infinite legends of treasures buried in the colonies of the south. The first pirate was Francis Drake in 1578, with his ships Pélican (later the Golden Hind), Elizabeth and Marigold. Thomas Cávendish arrived in 1578 who commanded the Desiré and the Content, and in November attacked four galleons from Santa Ana obtaining rich booty. These names stayed alive in the minds of some settlers, but mostly are lost through the generations. The disaster of Santa Ana accelerated the search for a place to establish an intermediate port. New expeditions arrived with that aim; first came Sebastián Vizcaíno on September 3, 1596 who remained 7 days, enough time to get to know the region and its inhabitants. Vizcaíno returned to Cabo San Lucas June 15, 1602, on which occasion the first detailed survey of the area was made.
The success of Woodes Rogers attracted another privateer, the Georges Shelvokl, who came August 13-18, 1721. During his stay he made detailed observations correcting Rogers´ account. He published the oldest drawings of the Pericúes who were described as follows: The men are high, straight and are formed with very great arms and black, heavy hair which is uncared-for, that does not reach to their thighs as reported by a previous navigator, but hardly to their shoulders. The women are of a smaller stature and their hair is longer than the men and in some cases almost covers their faces. Some of both sexes have good aspect, although of a color darker than that of other Indians who I have seen in these seas, being of the dark copper color.
Of human conditions he expressed: “The reader can conclude rationally that they cannot be wilder. But there is much difference between that which one would at first sight think of them and what they truly are, so that by all observed of their behavior between each other, and towards us, they are equipped with all imaginable humanity that would give no shame to any nation, so that during all our stay there we perceived constant and perfect harmony between many hundreds of them; when one of us gave something eatable to an individual, he always divided it in many parts between all the people around and normally reserved the smallest part for himself”. Although Cabo San Lucas was frequented by boats of diverse nationalities and therefore known among them, it mainly remained uninhabited due to a lack of funds and Jesuit missionaries. In the last years of the colonial stage, Cabo San Lucas witnessed of the arrival of the Chilean ship Independence under the command of William Wilkinson on February 17, 1822. This ship, along with the Araucano, was sent to Mexican waters by Chilean Admiral Lord Thomas Cochane, under the pretext of helping the insurgents in the wars of independence. Under the 1824 constitution, the peninsula was named the territory of California which was divided into the municipalities of Cabo San Lucas, Santa Gertrudis and San Pedro Mártir. National political events did not resonate in the area with the same importance that they had in the rest of the country.
When the armed warfare of 1910 concluded, Cabo San Lucas, like the rest of the peninsula, initiated its process of development in all areas of human activity. In 1905 a lighthouse was put into operation on the Pacific ocean, on the point of the peninsula known as Cabo Falso slightly to the southwest of Cabo San Lucas, in order to orient and to protect the navigators of rocks off the coast of the cape, but also to let stand out on this coast infested with North American military ships the presence and sovereignty of the government of General Porfirio Diaz and the country of Mexico. The necessary materials for its construction arrived in boats at the port of Cabo San Lucas and were transported by donkey and mules to the work place. It was designed and constructed under the direction of Spanish engineers Joaquin, Palaces and Gomez. Today, known as the Old Light, this historical monument is in danger of extinction. In 1917, an American company initiated the operation of a tuna cannery with most of its activities on a floating plant.
In the beginning of the 1920´s, the breach of many years between San Jose Los Cabos and Cabo San Lucas was united. The construction of the asphalt highway was finished between 1969-1970 and was called “the marullos”, “the old sandpaper”, “old doors”, the “tube of the devil” and “espinazo of the devil” alleviating the challenges and headaches to drivers of the times. In 1927, Compañía de Productos was founded that gave to life to the port and the town of Cabo San Lucas for many years until it was relocated to Port San Carlos at the end of 1979 with the influx of the tourism industry.
Captain Ritchie was a singular man and outside the common way of life. He had an adventurous spirit which distinguished the first pioneers of this coast, and owned a generous heart always ready to give of its abundance when needed. He had that peculiar faculty which sees justice from an abstract point of view, and was guided by the internal principles of his conscience rather than the dictates of convention or the urgency of the laws of society. When a boy of only seventeen years, he fled an English whaling ship and settled in Cabo San Lucas for more than 50 years. He had two Mexican spouses (though some say seven). He founded a great family and by the last years of his life was an absolute judge in the district whose word was considered law. The parties in his court were always satisfied with their verdict and never appealed to a superior authority as is often the case in outposts or unpolished communities.
Ritchie rarely left his house, with occasional trips to La Paz and Loreto, and on one occasion to San Francisco where the noise and bustle were too much for the old man who was happy to seek the seclusion of his Pacific home. Every sailor had an amiable word for Old Ritchie and he was spoken of with such respect it was a safe indication that the sterile point of Cabo San Lucas had a genteel heart and an active brain. His resting place is much beloved and calls forth many pleasing memories of an old friend who was widely respected, even idolized.
J. Ross Browne, a journalist and explorer, came to the Peninsula in the mid-1860’s and published an article in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, October 1868 entitled Explorations in Lower California. He writes:
Captain Ritchie, an old Englishman, lives here. He is the only European in Cabo, and I mention him since he is one the institutions of the country. Forty years ago he was an assistant cabin boy of a ship that belonged to his uncle. He became fascinated by the enchantments of a dark-haired lady of San Jose, lowered one of the boats and hid in it until the ship had weighed anchor. Since then he has lived in Cabo or its neighborhood.
His history is one of marked adventure and is full of interest. Ritchie has been host of all the navigators who have visited the coast in the last forty years. Dealing in contraband, ranching, fishing, farming and import/export have been some of his occupations. He now has a large family of mixed race around him, none of which speaks English. He has made and lost a dozen fortunes mainly through selling and drinking whiskey. No man is better known on the coast of the Pacific than ¨Old Ritchie¨.
He has undergone many tribulations at the hands of the Mexicans. Without cause they have robbed him, have made him pay taxes, have taken him prisoner and have threatened to kill him. He is now considered an inevitable and unavoidable citizen of this country.
At one time, his property was confiscated and he was thrown into prison in Mazatlan. An English warship threatened to bomb the city if he was mistreated or abused anew. Because he survived the severe wounds inflicted upon him, which would have killed any other man on Earth, it was said it would be miracle if he were ever to die.
Captain Ritchie´s house in Cabo San Lucas is a
hearth to adventurers of all parts of the world. Admirals, commodores,
captains, common sailors and pirates all took refuge there. Miners,
merchants and cattleman all made use of the house. In a word, the
door was open to all. All that have money can pay; to those who
do not he gives food and drink for their companionship from his generous
heart. No traveler went away from his door without rest and support.
Since the opening of the mines San Antonio and Triumph, Captain Ritchie
has done a good business bringing passengers and cargo to the mines.
Whalers find it advisable to arrive at the house with fresh beef so that
there is always enough meat for all.
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