first ventured to Baja, indeed to Mexico, in 1977, on a cautious
and curious drive south from Tijuana into the peninsula’s then unknown
depths. After reading C. M. Mayo’s book, Miraculous Air, I ventured there
again, seeing it afresh through her eyes.
Catherine M. Mayo, otherwise known as C.M. Mayo, has fallen
head over heals in love with Baja. Drawn numerous times to its mountainous
interior, broad beaches and crystal blue waters, in a search to learn its
secrets, she presents what she learned in Miraculous Air, a book that’s
sometimes travel narrative, sometimes historical account, and sometimes Mayo’s
personal memoir. Together, her book is a portrait of a mysterious land
separated from mainland Mexico by the Sea of Cortez.
Mayo’s book is wonderfully written, captivating her
readers sense of curiosity as she satisfies her own through her travels. She
fills her pages with unique details that help peel back the shroud from this
A part-time resident of Mexico, Mayo divides her time
between her home in Mexico City and the United States. Her intimate knowledge
of Mexican culture has given her the ability to present the contrasts that are
Mexico–in a compassionate way. But Baja, just like the rest of Mexico,
presents a study in contrasts. The landscape, once barren desert, now blossoms
in places with luxurious oases for the rich. And that part of it that has been
cultivated now produces rich crops and fine wines.
Even since the Jesuits arrived in the 16th
Century, this peninsula has attracted expatriates and opportunists. Both
sought to take advantage of Baja’s excellent weather and cheap land.
But Baja has been discovered than by more than Mayo. After
reading about its ancient petroglyphs, its long-abandoned missions, and its
art colonies, scores of adventure seekers and those seeking the hedonistic
pleasures of its luxurious spas will swarm over its shores.
Americans flock to Los Cabos to fish and play golf. Few have
seen the interior traversed by the Transpeninsular Highway. Mayo has. Through
various trips, she has explored the villages, old missions and towns of Baja.
Baja is another world. It’s a place where nothing is as it
seems, a place full of beauty and touched by evil, a mystery to all those who
have occupied it. John Steinbeck once wrote, "The air here is miraculous,
and outlines of reality change with the moment."
In her book , as in her life, Mayo, experiences Baja to the
fullest, devouring its essence, conjuring up images of unexplored places. Mayo
offers her readers a glimpse of this spellbinding place, introducing them to a
myriad of characters–pearl fishers, Jesuit missionaries, tomato pickers, sea
turtle researchers, and, yes, even a donkey painted to look like a zebra.
Mexicophiles will relish Mayo’s in-depth portraits and
insights while those with little knowledge of Mexico will learn about some of