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by C.M. Mayo
University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City ISBN: 0-87480-740-9

I 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 peninsula.

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 Baja’s mysteries.

Buy this book...


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