On Sunday we went to the Instituto de Investigaciones Culturales. The museum had three main exhibit areas. One exhibit was devoted to objects of cultural significance of the area such as pottery, glass and clothing. Another exhibit displayed the geological and biological history of the Baja area. The final one detailed the different types of people, and communities and how they have interacted through history. We took notes of locations of Missionary ruins throughout Baja, and enjoyed the cultural and artistic expression displayed in the museum.
Afterwards, we headed to an area of Mexicali called La Chinesca, basically the “Chinatown” of the city of Mexicali. Chinese laborers came to Baja and Mexicali in the early 1900s to help build an extensive irrigation system and stayed in the area after it was completed. This was a point of contention as the California Development Company refused to hire Mexicans for this work. Many Chinese migrants at the time lived underground with only an entrance above ground. This helped mitigate the extreme heat of the region. With the advent of “swamp coolers” for use cooling homes, the underground portions of the homes was less frequently used. La Chinesca eventually contained all the areas bars and casinos and the underground homes were now used as a huge tunnel system to connect bordellos, opium dens, and to bootleg alcohol all the way to the US during the years of prohibition.
Mexican President Lazaro Cardenas outlawed gambling, cracked down on drugs and alcohol, and invested heavily in education in 1935. Since then, only a single Pagoda, Asian architecture in storefronts, and some Chinese restaurants set the area apart.
Though tempted by the Chinese restaraunts, we went for flautas, which are small tightly rolled tortillas stuffed with meat or cheese, either baked or fried, and usually topped with guacamole. “The modern definition of a flautas (Spanish for “flute” and also known as taquitos) is a rolled tortilla dish was given in 1929 in a book of stories of Mexican people in the United States aimed at a youth audience, where the dish was noted as a particaular popular offering of railroad station vendors.”
After La Chinesca we drove to the Plaza de Toros Calafia, the bull fighting ring. It appears to have been functioning at least recently, though was shut down for the winter season. It would be a great venue for concerts and events, though we are much less inclined to come for a bull-fight. We drove around looking for the older government offices, after seeing photographs of beautiful architecture. However, we only found the current government offices, which are functional but unattractive gray cubes.