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A Bittersweet Visit to El Pardito Island

by Linn Harter

It was 10 years ago in May that we spent a week filming our documentary Here Lies My Heart on this tiny idyllic island in the heart of the Sea of Cortez where John Steinbeck wrote in 1949, “One who was born by the ocean or has associated with it cannot ever be quite content away from it for very long.” These words sum up my feelings about El Pardito Island and Baja in general. The film we shot ten years ago predicts the idea of a disappearing lifestyle and unfortunately I’m afraid that is what’s happening.

In the past, when you arrived on the shores of the tiny island you were pleasantly greeted by Pepe who lived in the first two story blue and white cement house with his children Beto and Celia, both of whom were featured in our film. That house is now boarded up and in need of repairs. Beto and Celia spend more time in La Paz, and I’m not sure how often they visit El Pardito.

On this recent visit, we were still pleasantly greeted by Guerro and Silvestre who have both lost their wives. The usual scene of preparing fish, either fresh or salted, was not visible. Apparently, Felipe had just left that morning to bring fish to La Paz. We had a group of eighteen friends who visited Clara’s store of lovely jewelry made of shells. I was happy to see her and Pablo and glad that our friends bought lots of her jewelry from her store. I wondered how the sale of jewelry compares to the fishing these days. I was also happy to see a new house being built with a lovely palapa roof.  We were told it’s being built by Simone, but we did not see him.

Everyone on the island is getting older, the children have moved away, and I wonder what will become of this place when the last ones are gone? The once lovely chapel at the top of the rock is falling apart and the cross at the top of the island is also gone. This made me sad. But I’m also grateful that I made the film as a testament to the history and lifestyle of the people who lived there and the few remaining ones that are still living there. Guerro and Silvestre asked me for DVD copies of the film, so this made me feel good. They are part of the legacy of El Pardito Island which has touched so many hearts that have been lucky enough to visit and experience a part of this unique and beautiful place in the heart of the Sea Of Cortez.

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