El Triunfo Smokestack Get’s A Makeover

Shortly before it was going to keel over
BY: CHIP STONE

After years of planning and months of screwing around at the site, the historic smokestack in the little town of El Triunfo has been patched up and is no longer in danger of keeling over in an earthquake or hurricane.

The smokestack for La Ramona gold and silver mine was built in 1890 by El Progreso Mining Company during a time of great industrial growth in Baja. La Ramona is an icon in the town of El Triunfo with mining operations going full speed in this region until the early part of the 20th century. After decades of unrestricted resource extraction the industry began to decline and La Ramona eventually closed down and after nearly a century of neglect the 155 foot tall chimney has suffered significant structural damage due to its age, lightning strikes and hurricanes. “

At that time, El Triunfo was a settlement with an official population of over 4,000 inhabitants. Now its population might be a few hundreds. The cute but destitute town is trying for a comeback not through mining, but tourism. The impressive looking smokestack that towers over the town and defines the entire region with its historical and cultural significance can be a big part of this economic rebirth.

The plan is for the smokestack to become a place where both tourists and residents can learn about the history of the region and can understand about the inherent tension between economic development and the conservation of the region's natural resources.

The scaffolding has come down, the smokestack is now sound, but still to come is site cleanup and improvements to the surrounding areas. And, oh yes, fund raising. The tower fix was done on borrowed funds and now they need to repay that loan. Acknowledging the thing could topple over at any moment, the International Community Foundation (“ICF”) stepped up and negotiated a loan to restore the monument before this year’s hurricane season. 

But in charge of the work was the nonprofit called Corredor Histórico CAREM (“CAREM”), which was created to protect, restore, and raise public awareness about the cultural heritage and history of the Baja California Peninsula. This is the first project led by CAREM in Baja, although for many years they have managed projects in the northern state of Baja California including the Community Museum in Tecate, and the restoration of various missions and other historic buildings. Chimney enthusiasts’ contact there is James Honey, representative of Corredor Histórico CAREM. Cel: +52-1-612 157 7305 or jameslthoney@gmail.com (email)

To repay the loan, ICF launched an adopt-a-brick campaign (https://donate.icfdn.org/npo/la-ramona-carem-subfund). Anne McEnany, President / CEO of ICF noted, “Dozens of individuals and businesses have already joined the campaign and we hope to bring in many more over the coming months. When you adopt a brick or donate, you are supporting our non-profit effort to respond to a community need of sustainable development.”  So, how does this work? You adopt a brick but you don’t take it home because it’s holding up the whole shabang.

A number of improvements are planned for this summer if they can get the money, including a general clean up and removal of debris, installing fences, benches and tables, and educational signage. A ribbon cutting party is planned for Saturday, October 27.

The hope is that in coming years the site around La Ramona functions as a focal point to understand the history, culture, and natural beauty of the entire area. Hey, Mexico is not just a pretty beach, you know.

 El Triunfo is on highway 1, which goes through Los Cabos, up the East Cape, and winds through some beautiful hills, eventually meeting up with highway 19 that goes through La Paz. It would take you about an hour and a half to get there from Cabo. There are two nice, rather large, and sophisticated restaurants there, so go hungry.