‘Acequias’ are open ditches carrying water everywhere in San Ignacio – through palms, down streets, to holding ponds, and to the farms further away. The source is a series of springs in Arroyo San Ignacio. People used to drink the water, carrying it from the acequia to their homes in ‘palancas’ – a contraption made of a pole, chains and cans. Think milkmaid and you get the idea.
The ditches were built by the Jesuit missionaries and the indigenous population to irrigate the first cultivated crops grown here. The missions down the Baja peninsular were built by Jesuits and Dominicans intent on bringing salvation, but instead bringing European diseases that decimated the indigenous peoples. In San Ignacio the Jesuits founded the mission but the Dominicans supervised the church’s construction – finished in 1786. With lava-block walls nearly 1.2 metres thick, this is an imposing building that is (impressively) still functioning.
Apart from the mission, the river dominates San Ignacio. The sight of so much water is especially shocking after the Desierto de Vizcaino. It shapes life here, and you get the impression that the Ignacianos are proud of their geography, and heritage.