"Within the Valley of Guadalupe - A garden paradise" Francisco Zarco by malecon

Francisco Zarco Travel Guide: 5 reviews and 21 photos

Drawn by its history

Francisco Zarco is a tough little Mexican town at the ground-zero of an extraordinarily fertile region of Baja Norte called the Valley of Guadalupe. This valley produces 90% of Mexico's wines which has resulted in a thriving tourist trade as wine connoisseurs come here from around the world. But while thousands pass through Francisco Zarco on their way to the Vides de Guadalupe, Domecq or Monte Xanic Vineyard, very few catch the name of that little town at the center of it all.

I had no interest in a wine tasting tour but found myself wandering many miles of graded dirt roads looking for an elusive Kumeyaay Indian village. All I found were vineyards and the gorgeous Adobe Guadalupe, a massive bed & breakfast with a mere six suites.

The Kumeyaay have been here for centuries and still remain, at least I'm told. Some of their jewelry is sold at a table in front of the Valley of Guadalupe Museum on the main road in town. I now sport a handmade Kumeyaay necklace with an emblem made of reed and leather tightly woven into a circular pattern. The museum was my first stop in town. Located in a two room home the memorabilia includes Kumeyaay and Cochimi Indian items such as a rope made of horsehair, arrowheads and pottery.

There is no cost to tour the museum and donations are welcomed. On the grounds was a pyramid shaped Kumeyaay house and a wine cask hand made with vines. Back at the table of Indian gifts a young man told me about another museum and bread bakery across the street. This is what I was after - the story of the Molokans.

The Samarin's of Francisco Zarco

Norma Samarin is a mestizo with a mix of Russian and Mexican blood and zeal to keep her heritage alive. She runs the only Russian panderia in Francisco Zarco whose founding fathers were Russian immigrants. A century earlier the Mexican government bestowed the tight group of Russians 13,000 acres of land.

The Russians were Molokans, a pacifist religious sect that found the rest of the world unaccommodating to their way of life and point of view. They lived an agrarian lifestyle while embracing their adopted country.

Adjacent to her panderia, is the home Norma grew up in which is now converted into a museum. Two Samarin cousins named Prescilla and Erica serve as hostesses. There isn't an abundance of objects to view and the self-guided tour is very brief.

Later I visited the Russian cemetery a half block off main street. There I find the tombstones of a number of Russians including the name Samarin.

The last built Spanish Mission

The day is still young and you have one more place to visit. Of the dozens of Spanish missions built, the last and perhaps the most prosperous was erected right here. There's nothing left but a replica of the main building with a small museum inside.

The grounds have tell-tale signs of foundations and part of a wall that looks about two hundred years old. Otherwise, there isn't a whole lot left. A woman caretaker came over from her home next door and gave me a tour and answered my questions. I asked about the styrofoam bell blowing in the wind and got a laugh and a shrug.

Pros and Cons
  • In a nutshell:You may forget the name but you can't forget your stay.
  • Last visit to Francisco Zarco: Apr 2006
  • Intro Updated Jun 20, 2006
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