Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dos Noches en Loreto

With the beginning of the season and more people arriving every day, this has been an eventful week here in Loreto Bay and in town itself.  Earlier this week Homex, the new Developer who is building homes on the north end of the existing Loreto Bay community, hosted a “Welcome Back” evening at the INN, (which has been recently renamed Loreto Baja Golf Resort & Spa) for over 150 Homeowners.
For many of the recent arrivals, this was the first opportunity this season to meet and greet neighbors and friends and so it was a lively and convivial affair. (I confess that I forgot to take my ever-ready camera with me to the party and so I am unable to share a few pictures here with you – my apologies!)  Although Homex hosted the event, they did collect donations for the Loreto Bay Volunteer Group that was formed last season and is becoming more active and involved in a variety of good causes and projects mainly focused on the town.

As people arrived they mingled and visited at tables for eight set up in the Dining Room and on the adjoining Patio area, around which were about a half dozen small booths stocked with Mexican arts and crafts which was a colorful and interesting way to support some local businesses and create some more atmosphere for the evening.  After cocktails, the buffet was opened and there was an excellent choice of traditional Mexican foods, which impressed me both in the variety and quality – particularly serving a group that size.
Following the meal there was a brief presentation by Justin, from Las Villas de Mexico which is marketing name for the Homex development, and he stressed their good will toward the existing community here and a little about their plans for the coming season.  This was followed by a couple of brief videos, one about their project and another Justin had taken during the recent near Hurricane.  As “Baja Midnight” approached (FYI that’s any time after 9:30 in the evening here) the crowd started to break up, with a number of them making it no further than the Wine Bar across the street where the party continued long past when I left – possibly through to ACTUAL midnight!  My how far we have come here in the past couple of years – an actual nightlife with places to go is now possible!
This Loreto Bay event was followed on Friday night by an even bigger one in town, "La noche de la Conquista" was a celebration of the 315th anniversary of the arrival of Italian Jesuits on October 25th, 1697.  Along with a number of other events this week members of the local restaurant association sold out 300 tickets for a dinner that was held in the Plaza in front of the historic Mission building in the center of town. 
Fifteen of the local restaurants each had a booth featuring a specialty including suckling pig, baby goat, clams, several different skewer combinations, to name just a few - all of which made for a cornucopia of different flavors from the familiar to the exotic.  After sorting out which line was for exchanging tickets for a wristband and which was the line for purchasing wine, people found seats at the many tables filling the Plaza and then began the delightful process of visiting one booth after another collecting samples of the many different foods being offered.
When I first arrived at the Plaza I met Norma, one of the organizers of this big event and a partner with her husband in “1697”, a popular restaurant in town (and just recently they have opened a small lunchtime bar and restaurant in Loreto Bay, but more about that in a future Blog), but at first I didn’t recognize her.  In a creative move, considering the anniversary theme of the event, all of the people from the various restaurants working at this event were wearing Monk and Nun’s robes – perhaps they won’t have to look too far for a Halloween costume this year!
From Norma I learned that from the 350 peso tickets (less than $30 US) each of the participating restaurants received a “token” payment that was intended to cover most of their costs for the food being served and a substantial donation was being made on their behalf to the Disabled Children’s Shelter in Loreto. 
While I was lined up for my wristband I was fascinated by some preparations underway nearby – a bare-chested man wearing a sort of wrap skirt was spreading fine gravel in large round shallow pan that stood on a low tripod.  When I passed by again later he was carefully arranging dozens and dozens of “Chocolata” clams (a local delicacy) on top of the gravel.  He then covered this mass of clam shells with more gravel.  After darkness fell, the pan, now filled with layers of gravel and clams, was heaped with a big pile of tinder dry brush which was then ignited, creating a pretty impressive version of a towering inferno! 
As it turns out, this is a unique local traditional method to cook the clams in their shells and this demonstration added a colorful and dramatic (and tasty) highlight (sorry about that) to this evening celebrating an historic anniversary and the variety and quality of local dining options that we are lucky enough to enjoy here.
Several musicians provided some great musical entertainment through the evening from a small stage at one end of the Plaza, which made an impressive sight, with hundreds of people at dozens of tables stretching almost a block in front of the beautiful Mission.  The building is the centerpiece of this historic town and it was the first Jesuit Mission in the Baja and, for almost a century and a half, was the “headquarters” for a string of Missions the stretched all the way from here to what is now Northern California.
As I made my way back to Loreto Bay that evening, I reflected on the two very different events I had enjoyed this week.  Our “family” party here in Loreto Bay, kicking off a new season with a promise of it being the best one in our short history here and all of the enthusiasm of people reconnecting within our community.  And then “La Noche” where again many Loreto Bay residents joined with the larger community in town to enjoy great food and entertainment, while celebrating over three centuries of history in this magical place.  But both of these occasions share something in common – they are both part of “Living Loreto”!