Today I only had a short half-day ride of 60km. I started at 8am near San Quintin and was finished by 11am. It was a cool and easy ride in the morning, except perhaps the last 10km, where a 300m high mesa needed to be crossed. Hot on the uphill, fairly steep near the top, then a military checkpoint – not sure why in the middle of nowhere they would have a checkpoint – and then a steep and fast descent. But this post is not about the bike…
Once in El Rosario I stop at Mama Espinoza’s place. Every travel guide will tell you that it is here that the Lobster Burrito was invented, that this was the first checkpoint of the Baja 1000 off-road race (from Ensenada to La Paz) ever since it started back in 1969, that many famous politicians and movie stars like Steve McQueen stopped here and signed the guest book – so it’s a place with some history. I had also heard about Doňa Anita Grosso de Espinoza from the missionary Peggy (where I stayed two nights ago). Apparently Mama Espinoza was also very active in charitable causes, which is why I wanted to relay my project to her and hear her own stories.
The folks running her restaurant now arranged for a meeting with Mama Espinoza in her living room, which was most pleasant as she speaks English fluently.
She was pleased to see a project for a charitable cause and wished me good luck on my journey. As for her own charitable work, she recounted the following story (which I reprint here from a copy of an article in the Baja Times, August 1/15, 2006):
One day in November of 1961 a small plane was caught in a dust storm and forced to land on an airstrip near the town. One of the passengers on board was ill and in need of medical attention but the local hospitals had been shut down. It was Anita’s ability to speak English that got her involved with the group and she and her husband helped them find shelter, medicine and fuel for their plane. The group thanked them for their help and promised to return at Christmas time. True to their word, nine planes came back to El Rosario loaded with medicines, food and presents for the townspeople.
One of the people who returned was a man named Dr. Dale Hoyt. He noticed that many people in the town were in need of medical attention and Anita and Heraclio’s place became a temporary doctor’s office while he saw anyone that wanted to come in. Dr. Hoyt made several return visits and soon other doctors began to follow suit. They earned the name “The Flying Samaritans” for their work. Throughout their time bringing free medical aid to the people of El Rosario, it was Anita who cooked for them and gave them a place to stay in her home.
According to her own words Mama Espinoza was born in 1907, which makes her 102 years old – a living legend indeed. The article states that she had a total of fifteen (!) children, some of them still living in El Rosario, others having left the Baja and “spread out into the world”.
Mama Espinoza passed word that I could set up my tent on her property. She thanked me for my charitable initiative and wished me good luck and safe travels. “Vaya con dios!”
P.S.: In the restaurant is a portrait painting of Mama Espinoza which is featured here. A good portion of the proceeds from buying this print go to “The Flying Samaritans”.