Book Report

The Journey of the Flame. By Walter Nordhoff. Santa Clara University, Santa Clara , California. 261 pp. $14.95. 2002.

This book, written by the author as a youth, but that youth is now an old man in his seventies who is looking back at his life. It is a mixture of memoir, history, travel journal, and a love story about a place and not a person.

The front pages are a two-page map of Alta California; the Pacific Ocean on one side, and our Sea of Cortez, then called the Vermilion Sea. 

The Introduction, (page xxl-xxix) contains a brief telling of the Jesuit’s missions in Lower California, preparing us for this tale of “different races and mixtures of races.” 

The book is a telling of a man’s life; Don Juan Obrigon, know also as Juan Colorado, and also, “Flame,” who was born in Lower California, and died near Rosario, Mexico, "with his face turned south.”

Other names we have heard or learned, who were important Jesuit padres ... Ugarte, and Savatierra, are a big part of this history and the author calls them “the highest type of missionary and of man.”

As with many histories of cultures coming together, the natives were “saved,” but unfortunately, most of them died. It seems that souls were considered more important than lives.

There are 21 chapters in this history, and the book also contains descriptions of plants, fish, and wildlife. It is also a book of short stories that help you understand humans who lived here before us, as well as nature.  

This is a great book to be read in short patches of times, and (for me), reread, to better understand the times and men in the history of Southern Baja. It is available at El Caballo Blanco bookstore in Loreto, Baja, or on Amazon. Southern Baja has an amazing history!

Jeannine Perez owns the El Caballo Blanco bookstore in Loreto. If you’re driving the peninsula, stop in and say hi and browse her huge selection of books, many of them on Mexico and Baja.