Still Standing Guard

The old lighthouse at Cabo Falso turns 112

The lighthouse at Cabo Falso (known as El Faro Viejo, or The Old Lighthouse in English) recently celebrated its 112th birthday, and was given a nice little celebration by the Secretary of the Navy and the Mexican Department of National Defense.


According to historical records, Cabo Falso served as a nautical point of reference for sailors for three centuries before the lighthouse was built. It was in 1890 (or 1896, different sources have different dates) that the construction of the lighthouse was ordered by Porfirio Diaz, the Mexican president at the time. An engineer, Joaquin Palacios Gomez, was hired and visited Cabo Falso to determine the lighthouse’s location. He began drawing plans, allocating 42 acres of land for the approximately 30-foot stone lighthouse with an attached, one-story watchkeeper’s house and the surrounding protected area.

In true Mexican fashion, construction on the lighthouse began years later, in 1904, and was completed in early 1905. The Cabo Falso lighthouse was dedicated in a ceremony on May 5 of that year. At that time, the lighting mechanism in the lighthouse was the most advanced equipment in the world.

The old lighthouse has been inactive since 1967. Today, it still looks out over the water, but is closed, and is fenced off to everyone but those who work at the Pueblo Bonito property, which butts up against it in front of the 7th hole of the golf course at Quivira, on the Pacific side. Locals have even tried demonstrating to get officials to open it to the public which actually owns it, but so far the Coppel family has proven to be more influential than those demonstrators, and the lighthouse is still held by them and off limits. Pueblo Bonito officials have proposed turning it into an art gallery open to the public, but that hasn’t happened, nor do the community activists who want access to it believe it ever will be a gallery or anything else open to the public.

Other than seeing it from a boat, playing golf is the only way you’ll be able to see it, and even then, only from the outside.