El Triunfo is Having a Moment

El Triunfo is Having a Moment

Call it a reawakening, or a renaissance. 

El Triunfo, a former mining town south of La Paz, continues to draw day-trippers from Los Cabos to its restored colonial buildings, authentic eateries, and unrivalled 19th-century ambience. Considered an important site for archaeological research, El Triunfo is one of the best preserved 19th-century mining communities in North America.  

While the town dates to the late 1700’s, it was only when silver and gold was discovered in the region’s mountains in 1862 that miners from Mexico, the U.S. and abroad arrived en masse to set up camp. (Many of these prospectors had participated in California’s 1849 “Gold Rush”).

Set at an elevation of nearly 500 meters above sea level, El Triunfo was once the largest city in Baja California Sur (and its former state capital). Because of its wealth, it was the first town in the region to install electricity and telephones. It was also a cultural center. Pianos and other musical instruments were brought to El Triunfo from all over the world. It was a town known for its singing and dancing and musical events. 

Another remnant of the past is La Ramona, a 47-meter-high smokestack built in 1890 for the British El Progreso Mining Company. According to local legend, it was designed by Gustav Eiffel, the man behind the Eiffel Tower in Paris, although his involvement has never been confirmed. Badly cracked and damaged from years of neglect, it was recently restored at a cost of $200,000 USD. 

When the mines of El Triunfo shut down in 1926, nearly all of the thousands of miners who lived there left to find work elsewhere. A recent census reported a population of fewer than 400 inhabitants. And while the town has returned to its previous identity as a sleepy mountain hamlet, the restoration of the original brick and mortar buildings, several of them converted to shops, museums and restaurants, has sparked visitor interest. 

A visit to El Triunfo is like entering a colonial time warp, with the city’s humble present contrasted by its once glorious past. A regional cultural center, the Silver Route Museum (Museo Ruta de Plata), features interactive exhibits and an orientation film that tells the story of the town’s unique geology, rich cultural history, and of course mining adventures. There’s also a simulated mine designed to educate visitors of all ages. The museum is open daily (except Tuesday) from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. 

The Music Museum, also worth a visit, exhibits pianos and other musical instruments brought to the town during the height of its prosperity.

Delving into history can work up an appetite. Among the dining options is El Minero Bar, known for its handmade sausages, artisanal cheeses, traditional paella, and craft beers on draft. Housed in a restored 125-year-old building, El Minero’s dining area has hand-crafted wooden tables, fire pits and views of the impressive smokestack. 

Another good dining choice is Café el Triunfo. The cafés wood-burning oven turns out fresh bread and delicious pizzas which can be enjoyed on an outdoor patio. For early arrivals, Café el Triunfo is also open for breakfast. 

A short drive north of town is the Santuario de los Cactus, a 50-hectare cactus sanctuary that’s home to endemic cacti and plants found only in this part of the world. There are a few informational signs along the path that point out some of the unique flora and fauna found in the region. The sanctuary is a natural bookend to the lost-in-time relic of El Triunfo.