EARLY INDIGENOUS TRIBES
As early as 11000 BC, Baja was inhabited by nomadic tribes whose artifacts have been found scattered throughout Baja California. When the Spaniards first arrived in the Baja region in the 1530s, they found four major ethnic groups inhabiting the region. The Pericú ranged throughout the south, between Cabo San Lucas and La Paz, as well as on some of the gulf islands. North of the Pericú were the Guaycura who lived in the area between La Paz to southern Loreto—an area also occupied by the Monquil. Lastly, the Cochimí were spread throughout the middle of the Baja peninsula.
While the Pericú and the Guaycura were hunters and gatherers unskilled in agriculture or metallurgy, the Cochimí population on Cedros Island had a developed agricultural system. However, all the tribes were skilled fishermen, especially the Pericú with their wooden rafts, and produced fine pottery.
The tribes’ primitive paintings, some that can be traced back to 1700 BC, can be found in San Gregorio, Sierra de San Francisco, Cueva de Palma, and Sierra de Guadalupe. Early Spanish missionaries were the first to record descriptions of the rock paintings, and the stunning images have continued to draw interest ever since. For the most part, the paintings reflect the tribes’ hunter-gatherer culture. The various paintings depict an array of animals, usually with a protruding arrow drawn on their bodies, intermixed with humanoid figures drawn to a larger scale that suggests dominance. For paint, the tribes used mineral materials largely found in the region of the Las Virgenes volcano. The paintings have survived the weathers of time remarkably well and with extraordinarily little vandalism. The paintings are still steeped in mystery and continue to draw visitors away from the shores and to the caves.