Neat Mining Museum

In the quaint mining town of El Triunfo, an hour and half drive away
BY: MALIA DURBANO

A short detour off the main road between Todos Santos and La Paz or Cabo, will take you to the quaint but notable town of El Triunfo.  A new museum, called Museo Ruta de Plata, (silver route), highlighting the mining history of the region, just opened last month after years of planning, construction and creation of the historical exhibits.

The idea to preserve the history of the region came from an American named Christy Walton. Yes, that Walton family. The daughter of Sam lives in La Paz.  While visiting El Triunfo, she observed a group of school children on an excursion, running and playing near the old chimneys that were part of the factory that extracted the gold and silver from the raw ore.  She wondered if they knew about the prior importance of those chimneys so she decided to create the museum to document the significance of El Triunfo and its contribution to the early economy in the Cape region.

The tiny town with a current population of about 300 was once a thriving mining town of approximately 4000 residents when it was booming in the 1880’s.  Baja California’s cape played a significant role in the development of the region and was part of the global economy.  Workers came from all over the globe in search of opportunity and prosperity.

The museum’s interactive, bilingual exhibits are dedicated to preserving and interpreting the rich mining history and settlement of the region from 1750-1930.  The world-class facility and exhibits were designed and built by Ralph Appelbaum Associates whose headquarters are in New York City.  As one of the largest museum exhibition design firms in the world, the company is responsible for over 700 commissions in more than 50 countries. Ms. Walton does things first class.

Entering through the dainty gift and souvenir store, guest’s hands are stamped with a design that is only visible under a black light.  The stamps of six different designs including a cactus, mule, sheep or palm tree are changed daily, so there will be no double dipping.  Photographic displays introduce the history of the region in the exhibit room that leads into the theater. The 12 minute professionally compiled and edited  movie is available in Spanish with English subtitles or plays in English with Spanish subtitles.  

The fascinating history of the area begins with the actual geologic formation of the Baja peninsula 100 million years ago.  It documents the arrival of the Spanish explorers, the Route Camino Real and the Pearl Oyster Beach.  In 1893 the United States, ever the 90 ton gorilla in the room, repealed the Sherman Silver Purchase Act and moved to the gold standard. Silver prices tumbled and silver mines worldwide struggled to survive. Then the Mexican revolution of 1910 to 1917 came down on the town like a ton of bricks. Next a catastrophic hurricane blew through in 1918, destroying much of the town. The final blow, if that was even necessary, came when a new law limited foreign direct investment for natural mineral extraction. The last mine in El Triunfo closed in 1926.

From the theater, guests are directed to a large room with a visual history presented chronologically highlighting events all over the world paralleling the economy and industry in El Triunfo.  The digital scrapbook contains original photos with captions documenting the fascinating past of the region.

Guests can even listen to local residents discussing such topics as music, culture, mining life, family, community, religious life or ethnic diversity in the display of video interviews.

You can push the lever to detonate the dynamite in the simulated mine shaft, that’s fun.  Learn how the dynamite exposed the silver, gold, copper, lead, zinc and arsenic and how they were hauled out in carts drawn by mules and horses. Crude safety equipment, tools and original photographs depict the dangerous and dreary reality of life for the miners.

Following the tour, relax in the outdoor restaurant and enjoy a distinctive salad, homemade sausage and cheeses, and unique fish entrees.  The menu features an impressive list of specialty wines, liquors, artisan beers, tequilas and mescals. On Sunday afternoons, a big pot of fresh paella with pork, chicken, mussels, sausage, squid, shrimp, scallops, vegetables and saffron rice is cooked and served outside in the shaded courtyard.  For 280 pesos, the meal includes sangria, toasted bread and a green salad. Try to save room for an enticing desert.

High English tea is served on exquisite china in a special second floor dining room with a beautiful view of the surrounding area.  Tea, scones and aperitifs are served in delicate cups, saucers and crystal champagne flutes all accompanied by a piano concert on a refurbished 1902 Steinway. Call for scheduled performances.

While in town, reserve time to visit the bakery a few doors down, that features artisan breads and pastries. Explore the Museo de la Musica, the ruins of the mines, and chimneys or the ancient cemetery.

You might enjoy a walk through the indigenous desert, especially now that it’s so green.  The greater area is known for its bird watching and impressive collection of butterflies.

The Facts

Open Wednesday through Monday From 10 am to 5 pm. Closed on Tuesday

Non-Residents - $5

Baja California Sur residents - $4

Students and seniors - $3 

Family of two adults and two children over the age of 6 - $10

Children under 6 free.

Annual memberships are available that come with exclusive amenities.

You can make advance reservations for private historical tours of significant geological and mining sites in the region.

Location

Follow the signs on highway 19, as it’s one block to the south of that. The museum is to the right side of the municipal building, near the clock tower on the cobblestoned Atuntamiento St. between  Progreso St. & Marquez de Leon St. Relax, you won’t get lost, it’s a tiny, tiny town.