1. Strolling the Narrow Streets
The town is situated in a narrow valley (arroyo) between two mesas, which defines its elongated grid structure, leading either towards or away from the coast. Wooden buildings reminiscent of the Caribbean predominate, and house everything from bars and restaurants to the Casa de la Cultura .
2. The French Bakery
Although the town is unable to boast a bona fide French restaurant the El Boleo Bakery does provide an excellent consolation prize, with all kinds of pan dulce on offer. Well over a century old, the bakery still uses some of its original imported machinery.
3. Santa Barbara Church
Perhaps the most famous, and certainly the most striking remnant of the French presence is La Iglesia de Santa Barbara (main image above), a sheet metal construction imported in kit form all the way from France in the 1890s. Legend has it that it was designed by Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame, and intended for export to Africa after being displayed at a Paris expo. It was certainly purchased by the boss of the El Boleo Mining Company a few years later and brought over for the benefit of the company’s French workers, though it doesn’t resemble the style of any of the French churches this writer has ever visited!
4. The El Boleo Mining Museum
Machinery and rolling stock from the mining era lie seemingly abandoned around the town. To make sense of all this a visit to the Mining Museum is essential, and just a short, if steep (!) walk from Santa Barbara Church. The company’s former headquarters building houses a large number of well curated relics from the El Boleo era on the ground floor and the company archives on the floor above. The interior of the building is extremely well preserved, with original furniture, working telephone lines from the 1920s and the original electric ceiling fans from this period. El Boleo may be long gone, but the local mining tradition continues on nearby Isla San Marcos, where a gypsum mine of global importance can be found.