Book Report

Oasis of Stone: Visions of Baja California Sur. Text by Bruce Berger, photographs by Miguel Angel de la Cueva. 2006, $49.95.
BY: JEANNINE PEREZ

I cannot believe I have not done a book report yet on this book! I apologize! This book is an important one for any Baja household, and also for visitors who wish to know more and see more of the unique Baja California Sur landscape.

Primarily, this is a large and beautiful coffee table book with full page, full color Baja photographs that truly are works of art. Each photograph would be suitable for framing.

The photographer is a young man named Miguel Angel de la Cueva, who is well known and respected for his other books, photos and documentaries. (He has also done the photographs for another Spanish coffee table book, “La Giganta Guadalupe.”) De la Cueva has won many awards in the arts, both state-wide and nationally. He's the founder of an organization called Planeta Peninsula, and this organization works hard to protect the culture and wildlife of Baja Sur.

The text for this book was done by Bruce Berger, also a nature lover, and a hard working environmentalist. He has authored other books, including “Almost an Island” and “Sierra, Sea, and Desert,” which won the Western States Book Award. Berger has also written for the New York Times, Orion, Sierra, and other publications. Berger's books show his great passion for nature in Baja, and his descriptions are both colorful and poetic.

While other informational books about Baja tend to focus mainly on our coastlines and marine landscape, the author of this book writes about the rocks. The towering skyscrapers, the deep and dark clefts, dead and living volcanoes, and the weird rock towers that are wrinkled, misshapen, and eroded by nature. I can always see faces and sometimes figures, in the Baja rocks and stones that have been sculpted and eroded by powerful nature's forces, and colored tan, gold, and red by wind and sun.

There are four sections to this book: Rock That Flows, A Stroll Through the Thorns, Creatures of Mirage, and The Newcomer. I find these headings to be very thought provoking, and they also divide the history of the Baja into three sections.

The first section tells us about Baja's geological history. The second section invites us to walk, observing the deep silence, the lush beauty and growth immediately after a rainshower, along with the inventive shapes we see in various cacti. These photos are magnificent! Creatures of Mirage, the third section, documents the animals thriving in our hostile environment, one of the few books I have seen to do so.

The last section on newcomers gives information about the little we know about the first humans here, and the changes arriving with European settlers at the end of the seventeenth century. The few survivors of European diseases became the first mountain ranchers, and their cows and goats also became some of the first changes in the ecosystem of Baja.

It is thought that the first humans came here about 12,000 years ago. They were wandering hunters and gatherers, with no cities, permanent dwellings, or agriculture. These first humans had little impact on the environment. That is not the case now, and the book highlights our unique, often disruptive and sometimes destructive, impact on the ecosystem of Baja Sur.

"Because of its exposure, the desert must wait, centuries if necessary, to heal from its wounds. Man inflicted those wounds and must start the healing process," the book tell us. The photos that go along with this are very powerful and moving.

You can find copies of Oasis of Stone at El Caballo Blanco, my little bookstore in Loreto. It’s $49.95, and a treasure for any household. If you’ve read this book, email me at betojeannine@gmail.com and tell me what you think!