Tales Of Treasure Hunting In Baja

Could be treasure here, San Jose was founded by pirates

The history of Baja California is filled with exciting tales of  famous pirates and adventurous priests who mingled with the locals in the sixteenth century. The locals were Indians, the Pirates were here to rob ships that stopped at the San Diego estuary for fresh water.

But this article is not about their adventures, it is about the treasures these people left behind, those who look for them, and the lucky ones who find them .

Since Baja California was an area where pirates pillaged the ships of the Manila Galleon trade route, a commercial route the Spaniards had between the Philippines and Mexico. It would be logical to think that they hid their stolen goods in the area too.  This assumption has attracted a myriad of treasure hunters seeking for the gold and the ancient goods that could be stashed all around the peninsula.

There are  many Jesuit missions treasure stories like the San Javier mission and Santa Isabel mission where the priests had supposedly hidden their riches nearby before leaving after being banished from this land.

gold.jpegThe treasure of Pichilingue is one of the most known treasure tales in the area. The story says that  in 1578 the famous pirate Francis Drake, was running away from two Spanish warships in a gold and silver laden ship of his own when he decided to hide in the La Paz Bay, later landing in the island de San Juan Nepomuceno right by the Pichilingue bay in order to hide his treasure there. The locals saw him during this venue but didnt know what he was hiding. Later the news reached the Spaniards who began looking for the bounty.  Up to this day nothing has been found.

Another pirate treasure story which seems to have come to fruition is the “Cerro atravesado” or pierced hill treasure. This was supposedly buried by pirate Tefall Lamartine together with the body of his recently killed partner.  In 1959 a local newspaper called “El diario de la mañana” reported that two men from the state of  Zacatecas in central Mexico found a treasure near the afore mentioned hill, and unsurprisingly immediately went AWOL, and were never heard of again.

A more recent story is from the 1990s. In La Paz where the streets of Ocampo and Revolucion cross, a gold stash was supposedly found while demolishing a house to build the actual Coppel store.  A construction worker is said to have found a treasure and before multiple witnesses just took off with his finding and we can only guess he lived happily ever after.

About ten years ago, a  local from San Jose who has already passed away would tell me stories about fishermen that he knew that would actively search for this treasures in the caves of the pacific side.  We were on our way to Bahia Magdalena when he brought up this and would point to certain spots on the beach while telling me this stories.

The main reason that if the treasures were to be found it would still remain a secret is that by law if you find a treasure with historical value in Mexican territory, the government would keep it and pay you it's value. But here in Mexico, a lot of people do not completely trust government officials to say the least or wouldn't want their neighbors to be aware of their new found wealth. So if anybody has gotten lucky in their search, they probably kept quiet about it or took it somewhere else.  The thing is, if you find something and don't report it, you might go to jail, so there's that.

If you think that this is treasure seeking is only for fantasy seeking out of touch weirdos, think again because in 2016 in Baja California Norte American explorers found the remains of the cargo of a Filipino Galleon from the XVI century right on the beach, it contained numerous objects that were later exhibited in the Caracol museum of Ensenada. Since most of the objects were ceramic pieces and the like, we can only assume that the heavier stuff like gold, if there ever was any, would still be underwater somewhere in the vicinity.

While not in Cabo recently the remains of a sunken ship with 17 tons of gold and silver was found by treasure hunters who are often in the Baja California area.  This company is called Odyssey Marine Exploration, but they seem to be here for another kind of treasure: The phosphorus mining opportunities, which is very controversial because of the technique proposed to do this mining and honestly would take another article by itself to explore this story and it's ramifications.