Cortés attempted to settle at La Paz in 1534 after one of his expeditions had brought the first Europeans to set foot in Baja, but the land's sterile beauty disguised a chronic lack of food and water; this, and sporadic hostility from local tribes, forced the abandonment of most early attempts at settlement. Jesuit missionary fathers arrived at Loreto in 1697 and founded the first of their 20 missions. The Franciscans and then Dominicans took over when the Jesuits were expelled in 1767. The fathers were devoted and untiring in their efforts to convert the peninsula's ethnic groups, but diseases introduced unknowingly by them and by ships calling along the coasts soon decimated the local population; some indigenous people remain today, but without tribal organization. Scattered about the sierras are the remains of these missions, some beautifully restored, others no more than eroded adobe foundations.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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