Archive for February, 2010
On this occasion I would like to talk about the experience that Enrique and I had whilst visiting the ruins of what once used to be the First Commercial Pearl Farm in the World. My friends Enrique and Manuel always mention that this farm was more of a “Mother-of-Pearl Shell farm” than a true “Pearl Farm”…but I have always considered this to be the World’s first Pearl Farm and -perhaps- you may concur with me after you read the entire thread, which I will separate into sections, with this one as an Introduction. Let us begin with this new story.
On July 24th, 2009, we had the opportunity to travel to La Paz, Lower California, in order to be at the most important gathering of Mexican pearl farmers and researchers. This meeting being one of many to follow and promoted by the Federal Fisheries Administration (Instituto Nacional de la Pesca). The reason for the meeting? To establish a new regulatory scheme in order to protect our native pearl oysters -on the coasts of the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico/Caribbean Sea- from unethical human intervention: no more fisheries, avoid the introduction of exotic pearl oysters and displacement of genetic populations, and -very importantly- find a way to maintain our Quality standards and avoid the hazards that have plagued other pearl-producing regions like Tahiti or the Cook Islands. We will write about this subject in a future post…right now I am detouring.
So, once more on the path, we visited La Paz…and it was necessary to take the time for our pilgrimage to the ruins of the greatest Mexican pearling emporium.
Using the services of a local tour operator –”Espíritu & Baja Tours“- we enjoyed a most pleasant trip to the Island of Espíritu Santo, just outside the Bay of La Paz.We arrived at the “Ensenada de San Gabriel” and you could immediately notice that the calm & clear waters are a perfect place for raising Black-Lipped Pearl Oysters (Pinctada mazatlanica): the beautiful white sand contrasting with what seemed to be large emerald green rocks, but are in reality a normal Gulf of California inhabitant: the Porites coral. Our local black-lip has commonly been associated with these corals.
It is more than likely that the man that selected this site as propitious for a sustainable pearl farming venture was none other than the famous Dr. Joseph Gastón Vivés Gouyorieux, a Mexican citizen of French ancestry and the main promoter of the once famous “Compañía Criadora de Concha y Perla”. I will not spend time on a biography of this very notable individual, because this has already been done and because I simply do not have the time for this…our intentions are to describe our findings at this often forgotten historical site. The first “man-made” features we might recognize from the photos are the zig-zag pattern of the “aquaculture-channels” (I would call them “raceways”), that are being reclaimed by the mangrove forest (that we found in excellent health!). Another area is almost barren and with just mounds of sea-shells, rusted metal remains, and dried wood remains. We will talk about each area -and our findings- individually and in different posts.
BUT, before we proceed with the details I would like to jot down my general impression of the site. SILENCE…blessed silence that seems to permeate into every detail, silence that seems to drown the sound of your footsteps…similar as to when you enter an ancient temple and you feel that it demands respect from you: leave it all as it is, do not disturb our slumber…similar to what I once felt when visiting the old graveyard in Álamos, Sonora, but without the aggressive sensation. Yes, it felt very much like a cross-less graveyard, with only porous mounds of shells, rusted metal and decaying wood to serve as gravestones. Everything at Peace, and, there we were…disturbers of this peace, like treasure hunters, but instead of searching for pearls and treasure we were looking for questions and answers…the kind of “treasure” that would not elicit much response from a text-book historian, but that to Us represents wisdom, cunning and a part of our almost forgotten regional lore.
Until the next post…
I believe that throughout the years we have been able to rely on the helping hands of many people in order to continue our journey trough uncharted waters. Yes, we have been fortunate enough to have found more friendly faces on our path than sour and dour ones, but this is not the Time -although it is indeed a good place- to Thank everyone that has made it possible for us to survive in this exceedingly difficult task of “reviving” the Legend of the Sea of Cortez Pearl, but rest be assured: we will give proper thanks to everyone. Now, since this is a very recent event we do owe a BIG THANK YOU to Monsieur Hubert Bari (French Gemologist and Curator of the Pearl Exhibit at Doha, Qatar), for his invitation to join him at Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art for his “Pearls” exhibit. Our “Sea of Cortez Pearls” are now part of a very exclusive group of pearls (including many fantastic pieces of pearl jewelry and rare natural pearls), amongst which the visitor may admire the following:
- 5 “AA” grade Cortez Mabe Pearls
- 5 Natural Pearls (measuring 4-7 mm)
- 10 “Gem Quality” Cortez Cultured Pearls (9-11 mm)
- 1 blue colored Cortez Pearl Ring, set in an 18K Gold & Fair Trade Diamonds design by TriGem Designs.
Enrique Arizmendi, our General Director, traveled to Doha to be at the inauguration of the Museum Exhibit and also for another grand event: the presentation of Monsieur Bari’s and David Lam’s new “Pearls” book (to be sold at stores this summer). The book is surely to become the most sought-after reference book in all Pearldom: its information is both detailed and scientifically precise, but written in layman’s language. It also has some of the most beautiful photos of pearls, paintings and pearling I have ever seen in one single book, the diagrams are crisp and detailed. A masterpiece with over 330 pages and 3 kilos in weight. A most serious contender for Elisabeth’s Strack’s “Perlen” book.
This superb book includes a special chapter called “Gentlemen Farmers” that includes a more detailed explanation on the operation of several important pearling ventures such as: Japan’s “Mikimoto Pearls”, Indonesia’s “Atlas South Sea Pearls”, the Philippines’ “Jewelmer” and Mexico’s “Perlas del Mar de Cortez”. The book points out how our operation is the only one in the world that has been able to utilize a Pteria genus pearl oyster (as opposed to the Pinctada species employed by all other salt-water pearl farmers).
Also, I wanted to also thank our photographer friends Paco de la Rosa of Cancún and Alberto Tirado of Guaymas for the excellent photos they took and that now embellish this incredible book. Kudos!!!