Ann Zwinger

A Desert Country Near the Sea: A Natural History of the Cape Region of Baja California

Ann Zwinger’s time in the southern region of Baja marks Los Cabos’ increase in popularity as a tourist destination. Nevertheless, Zwinger finds the natural beauty of the region in excursions to the mountains and the beaches of the cape, and along the dirt roads to small towns. She provides the history for readers to better understand how history, culture, and nature converge to create present-day Baja. The book serves as an example for a style of writing which won her the John Burroughs Medal.

Zwinger names Joseph Wood KrutchThe Forgotten Peninsula as her first glimpse into Baja and wonders at her ability to climb the same beach dunes as Krutch. She concedes the cities of the cape experienced a lot of change since Krutch’s journey, but she discovers the hidden wonders beyond the city lines. She gives credit for the title of her book to the description of the jubilant Bohemia in Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale, saying the cape region “expresses the never-never land beguilement that still hovers behind a Cape mountain and clings to a cardon and whispers in the waves drawing down the sandy beach” (Zwinger xi). She mixes scientific and historic details with personal experiences in lyrical prose, breathing vivid color into an area known for its shades of brown.

Zwinger’s detailed descriptions establish mountain heights, the ranges of animals, and expectations of the region’s flora.  She includes drawings and personal photographs, taken by her husband, Herman. The drawings add an air of elegance while celebrating the genre, natural history. Detailed lists of the flora and fauna and an appendix that includes the Cape region‘s history allow for quick reference for anyone using the book as a guide.

Literary points of interest: Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo, Cabo Pulmo, Todos Santos