Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Ajo, AZ (2/3/2017)

Ajo is a small town, less than 4000 people, situated in the middle of millions of acres of Sonoran desert.  Its history goes back to the first mining operation in 1847, but one of the largest pit mines in the world was started around 1916, a major boost to the town.  Since the New Cornelia mine ceased operation in 1985, the town has struggled to find an identity, but a combination of themes has kept it alive and apparently successful.

Mild winter weather, along with proximity to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Sanctuary and gateway to a major tourist destination in Puerto Penasco, Mexico all contribute to attracting residents and visitors to Ajo.  Now the town is trying to become an artist colony, a strategy that seems to be paying dividends.  The Chamber of Commerce is quite active and describes the local culture as "relaxed charm".
Ajo's architecture has several striking examples of Spanish Colonial Revival, from its central plaza, two beautiful churches and the historic Greenway House.
The mining history is obvious long before anything else, since enormous piles of tailings are visible along the highway before the town itself.  And the pit mine is close to town, an open wound more than a mile in diameter.

The town's museum is housed in a former Indian Mission, and the historic Curley School has been renovated and converted into low-cost housing for artists.  Signs of the Artist's Guild can be easily found all over town.

With only nine inches of rain per year, the humidity in this desert stays quite low.  However, for some reason clouds seem to develop late each afternoon, creating some of the most spectacular sunsets and sunrises I have seen.


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