Saturday, May 19, 2012

Answering a Question about Baja California

A respondent to a previous post wrote: "I like your theory, but I am not yet wiling to accept it wholeheartedly and discard the Baja theory. It is true most of Baja is desert now. But what would happen if Nephi's curse was reinstated after the destruction of the Nephites? This seems easier to believe than that the whole South American continent rose up out of the sea sometime after Moroni last wrote in AD 421. Almost everything else that you propose makes a lot of sense, but that one point really does strain my credulity. If you could only convince me of that, I would be happy to accept SA as the promised land. Until then, I am keep Baja as a possible alternative" (MyQRic).

There are two points here: 1) Was the Baja Peninsula more livable anciently, and 2) the believability of South America once being mostly underwater east of the current day Andes ranges.

First, let's take the Baja Peninsula. Today it is part of the Sonora Desert, a 120,000 square mile area covering portions of two U.S. states, and spread through two countries. It is one of the largest and hottest deserts in North America. Precipitation in the desert is probably less than any other North American area, but it is still a lot for a desert--the desert receives ten or less inches a year; however, the desert in Baja California receives 10-12 inches because Baja is by the ocean.

Desert may be caused by deforestation, high altitudes, or rain shadows. Obviously, a lack of water, rainfall and moisture leads to desertification. In the case of the Sonora Desert, deforestation and altitude has little to do with the problem, particularly in Baja California; however, along the peninsula, rain shadows from mountain ranges have presented clouds from reaching inland. Obviously, as air from the ocean moves over the mountains, it cools down and moisture condenses causing precipitation on the windward side. However, by the time the air reaches the lee of the mountains, it is dry because it has lost most of its moisture, meaning no precipitation to encourage plant growht--hence, a desert. Quite simply, mountains can block cloud paths and where they are no clouds there is no rain, which in turn leads to a desert.

Yet, the entire Peninsula, for the mot part, is only about 50 miles wide and about 900 miles long, with four mountain ranges running this length. Consequently, the distances of rain shadow is not sufficiently wide enough to cause the desertification that exists throughout most of the Peninsula, except along the eastern portion.

Middle image--Red: Cool, moist weather in winter, summers not as hot, with some rainfall; Yellow: The driest and hottest region; Brown: Has a longer, wetter summer rainy season and drier winter; Orange: Has a balanced distribution of winter vs. summer rainfall, with winter frosts

In fact, the known history of the Peninsula for the first century and a half, starting in the sixteenth century, is the story of repeated failures in the various attempts to penetrate and settle it. The explanation of why numerous projects failed,one after another, is not the natural resistance that the indigenous groups might have offered. The real obstacle was the environment that, according to the explorers and navigators, presented a hostility that seemed insurmountable to any attempt to found settlements and begin the cultivation of the land without water.

This extraordinary activity displayed by the Conquistador, in what can be called his frustrated South Sea (Baja Peninsula) undertakings, is a subject worthy of study. It is paradoxical that the conqueror of Mexico should have achieved nothing along this entire Peninsula. But just as Cortes was to come to grief there, so did the Viceroy Mendoza who, toward 1540, ordered the departure of the expedition headed by Hernando de Clarcon. The list of failures is rather long of the equally vain attempt at colonization, which occurred up to the end of the eighteeenth century. In these efforts, the names of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, Sebastian Vizcaino, Nocolas de Cardona, Francisco de Ortega, Pedro Porter y Casanate, and much later that of Isidro de Atondo, among others, are linked to the history of the Peninsula's failures. Paradoxical, it was too that the distant Philippines were already colonized while the much nearer Baja Peninsula, in spite of its celebrated pearls, should continue to be an unconquerable land.

Although some archaeological explorations have been carried out in the Peninsula during the last decades, it is not yet possible to determine the antiquity of its first settlers nor to describe in detail the sequence of their cultural evolution. What can be stated is that the indigenous population of Baja California from the moment of first contact with people from New Spain in the sixteenth century, and likewise when the missions began to be established in the eighteenth, typified extremely primitive forms of life and culture. No where on the Peninsula are found any type of ancient accomplishments, cities, buildings, pyramids, roads, or any other indication that a civilization like the Nephite Nation existed for a thousand years there. There have also not been found any indication of different flora or fauna every have existed on the Peninsula to suggest the area was ever different than it is today.

Stated differently, nothing about the history and archaeology of the Peninsula suggests that it was ever much different than it is today--a basic desert with little water and, except for a very few places, not really people friendly for millions of people to have settled and lived some 2500 years ago.

As for the "curse of Nephi," the only curse in the record is that of Nephi's brothers and sons of Ishmael who were cursed--or cut off from the Lord--and marked with a dark skin to separate them from the Nephites. There is no curse mentioned with the land itself that I can find.

(See the next post, "Answering a Question about Baja California," for the second part of this question regarding the emergence of the South American continent east of the present day Andes)

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