Joseph Wood Krutch

The Forgotten Peninsula: A Naturalist in Baja California

The forgotten peninsulaPublished in 1961, The Forgotten Peninsula: A Naturalist in Baja California is the work of American author, editor, drama critic, and professor Joseph Wood Krutch. As a drama critic, he wrote for The Nation for nearly three decades while also teaching at Columbia University. In 1952, he moved to Tucson, Arizona and switched his focus to ecology and natural history.

In The Forgotten Peninsula, Krutch explores different parts of Baja during a three-year period in the 1950s. Taking a total of ten trips, his aim: to see plants he could find nowhere else on Earth. He visits different areas and returns to the same areas during different times of the year to understand the flora as much as possible. Although Baja has changed in many ways since Krutch’s trips, many of his descriptions of the region give the modern reader a sense of invariability.

Krutch divides his guide into topics such as queer plants, Jesuit history, Scammon’s Lagoon, and the cape region. Natural history mixes with human history as Krutch guides the reader to tiny towns like El Marmol, a near-ghost town, that once boasted the most productive onyx quarry in the world. Krutch finds no more than twenty-five inhabitants during his visit. Today, nobody lives in El Marmol.

Krutch’s love for the natural world shines as he explores the native flora. He goes on a quest to find the boojum tree, and declares “boojum or bust” as he and his companions face the reality that they must drive to the center of the peninsula from La Paz (68). Krutch takes on Baja by land, sea, and by air. He gains a perspective during a time when travel by land was only possible by dirt road.

Literary Places of Interest: El Marmol, Isla Espíritu Santo, Bahía de los Angeles, Scammon’s Lagoon, San Ignacio