Bruce Berger Papers, 1968-2015 (MSS 783)

Restrictions: Original sound recordings are restricted. Listening copies may be available for researchers.

Extent: 2 Linear feet (4 archives boxes, 1 card file box), + .108 GB of digital files

Papers of Bruce Berger, a nonfiction writer and poet, which document his travel and research in Baja, California from the late 1960s through 2015.

Bruce Nicolas Berger was born in 1938 in Evanston, Illinois. He earned his bachelor's degree in English from Yale in 1961. Berger pursued graduate work at the University of California, Berkeley, but did not receive a degree. Instead, he settled in Francoist Spain from 1965 to 1967, learning Spanish and playing the piano to earn an income. In 1968, he made his first journey to Baja California. Over the next fifty years, he would reside alternatively between Baja and his home in Aspen, Colorado.

Berger has published over a dozen books, many of which consider themes of "the intersections of nature and culture, usually in desert settings" ( His essays and poetry have appeared in publications such as New Letters and Orion Magazine. He was the recipient of the 1990 Western States Book Award for Creative Nonfiction, the 2006 Colorado Authors' League Award for Specialty Writing, and the 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award's Silver Medal for the Most Outstanding Nonfiction Book of the Year (for The End of the Sherry).

Papers of Bruce Berger, a nonfiction writer and poet, which document his travel and research in Baja, California from the late 1960s through 2015. The collection consists primarily of short works such as typewritten journal entries and essays, supplemental research materials (clippings, reports and pamphlets), and a selection of manuscripts from Berger's books Almost an Island (1998), Sierra, Sea and Desert: El Vizcaíno (1998), and La Giganta y Guadalupe (2010). The collection contains audiocassettes that record interviews conducted by Berger. Some of the material, particularly the supplemental materials, are in Spanish.


Container List


Scope and Content of Series

Series 1) SHORT WORKS AND SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIAL: Excerpted journal entries, short articles and/or essays, writing fragments, correspondence, and secondary materials relating to events, people, and places in Baja. Topics include: La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur; natural phenomena specific to Baja; prominent locals like Salvador Garcia Pineda ("El Jeque"); and environmental conservation. The titles of most folders are Berger's own.

Box 1 Folder 1
Baja California - Environmental concerns, ca. 1992-2009

Includes pamphlets, reports, and writings.

Box 1 Folder 2
Baja California - Islands, 1988-2004

Includes Berger essay, "The Science of Desert Islands."

Box 1 Folder 3
Baja California - Presentations and talks, 1997-2012

In Spanish.

Box 1 Folder 4
Baja California missions, undated, 2002
Digital file 1
Vertebrados de las islas del Pacífico de Baja California, 2007

Report by Grupo de Ecología y Conservación de Islas, A. C.

Baja California Sur

Box 1 Folder 5
Copper industry report, Santa Rosalía, 2008, 2011
Box 1 Folder 6
Desmadre, 2001

Includes newspaper clippings and information on the environmental debate of Escalera Nautica (Nautical Steps).

Box 1 Folder 7
Development, culture and roads, ca. 1994-2015

Includes journals, Loreto development pitches.

Box 1 Folder 8
Flora and fauna, 1979-2002

Includes clippings, reports, and Berger writings

Box 1 Folder 9
Presentations and talks, 1997-2012

Includes Berger essay, "On Translating Estela Davis."

Box 1 Folder 10
Problems and criticism, 2000-2008

Original title included following terms: Exploration, dispossession/despojo, privatization salt project in Laguna San Ignacio Aerocalifornia, charcoal/carbon, officials eating Caguama.

Box 1 Folder 11
Violence, 2014-2015
Box 1 Folder 12
Water, undated
Box 1 Folder 13
Balandra, 2005-2008

Includes clippings, writings, correspondence.

Box 1 Folder 14
Carbon Ironwood/Palo Fierro, ca. 1993-2011
Box 1 Folder 15
El Vizcaino - Peninsular pronghorn and osprey, 1984-1995

Includes Berger essays, "Ex Portadora de Sal" and "Guerrero Negro."

Box 1 Folder 16
Estela Davis translation, ca. 2000
Box 1 Folder 17
Evaporation (salt) plant and gray whales, San Ignacio Lagoon, 1995-1999
Box 1 Folder 18
"La Virgen de El Coyote" and "Burning Eye" - Unpublished short essays, undated

La Paz

Box 2 Folder 1
The Sheik of La Paz, ca. 1995

Unpublished essay.

Box 2 Folder 8
Castorena Davis, Lorella - Presentación del Avance de Investigación de "Palabras e Imagenes de la Ciudad de La Paz, 1900-1959", undated

In Spanish.

Box 2 Folder 7
Writings, 1990-2015

Includes journal entries.

Box 2 Folder 6
Piano concert - "La Paz Intermezzo", 1973
Box 2 Folder 5
Drug violence, 2014-2015

Includes translation of letter from Fernando Aceves Garcia.

Box 2 Folder 4
Journal entries - Bahia Magdalena travel, 1987 January-February
Box 2 Folder 3
Journal entries - Art and music, 1992-1997
Box 2 Folder 2
Short clippings and writings, 1976-2004
Box 2 Folder 9
Means, Tim and Nora White - Conversation, 1991-1993

Operators of Baja Expeditions. Includes descriptive writings and correspondence.

Box 2 Folder 10
Niparajá, 2003-2010
Box 2 Folder 11
Niparajá - Socieda de Historia Natural Niparajá AC financial report, 2003 March
Digital file 2
Niparajá, 2003-2007

Assorted files in a variety of format (PDF, Word, Excel, JPEG), primarily documenting environmental and conservation activities. Includes 2003 San Diego Natural History Museum Binational Multidisciplinary Expedition conservation report, and other reports on the Corredor San Cosme-Punta Mechudo, in Spanish.

Box 2 Folder 12
Pineda, Salvador Garcia - "El Jeque, Distiller of Damiana", 1992

A well-known La Paz distiller and winemaker. Includes photos. Related audiocassettes in Box 5.

Box 2 Folder 13
Planeta Peninsula - Miguel Angel de la Cueva, 2003
Box 2 Folder 14
Problems of carbon in flora and fauna, ca. 2004
Box 2 Folder 15-16
San Cosme-Punta Mechudo corridor, 1993-2003

Various environmental studies and reports; correspondence with Tim Means.

Box 2 Folder 17
San Ignacio, 1975-2005

Includes journal entries, writings, clippings, and a reproduction photograph.

Box 2 Folder 18
San Ignacio - "Night of the Gueras", 1988

Includes journal entries.

Box 3 Folder 1
Santa Rosalía church, 1992-1997

Includes clippings and notes.

Box 3 Folder 2
Whales and whale watching, ca. 1983-1995
Box 1 Folder 19
Winemaking in the Comondus / The winemaking tradition in Los Comondú - Profile by Francisco López Gutiérrez on the Murrillo Pérpuli family and mission-style wines


Scope and Content of Series

Series 2) BOOKS AND ESSAYS: Drafts of a selection of Berger's major published works, including the books Almost an Island (1998), La Giganta y Guadalupe (2010), and Sierra, Sea and Desert: El Vizcaíno (1998).

Almost an Island

Box 3 Folder 3
"Islomania" - Alternative introduction, undated
Box 3 Folder 4
Chapter 2 - Annotated draft, undated
Box 3 Folder 5
Chapter 4 - Annotated draft, 1977
Box 3 Folder 6
The Curse of the Chingadero, undated

Unpublished manuscript. Material within informs Chapter 4, pages 58-67.

Box 3 Folder 7-8
Son of the River Journal Meets Baja, 1968

Two versions of a chronicle of the first trip to Baja. Evolved into first chapter of Almost an Island.

Box 3 Folder 9-10
Baja California Precludes, undated
Box 3 Folder 11
First Trip to Baja California with Katie Lee, 1968

La Giganta y Guadalupe

Box 4 Folder 1
Drafts, undated
Box 4 Folder 3
Interviews and background material, 2008-2009
Box 4 Folder 4
Original and final texts with bios and captions, 2008-2009
Box 4 Folder 5
Lico (Federico Savín Talamantes)/Sierra Le Gigante, 2001-2012

Uncompleted manuscript and journals: "Rancho San Juan, Santa Martha/San Carlos."

Box 4 Folder 7
Sierra, Sea and Desert: El Vizcaíno - Typescript, 1998
Box 4 Folder 8
Sierra, Sea and Desert: El Vizcaíno - Interviews and background material, 1995-1998
Box 4 Folder 9
Miscellaneous unpublished manuscripts, undated


Scope and Content of Series

Series 3) NOTEBOOKS: Berger's notebooks, which include observations on topics ranging from the total solar eclipse of 1991, to cave paintings in Baja. Titles are Berger's own.

Box 4 Folder 10
Cueva Pentada, 1977 October
Box 4 Folder 11
Total solar eclipse, 1991-1992

Includes background materials and research.

Box 4 Folder 12
Cave paintings, Sierra San Francisco, Santa Rosalía and San Ignacio, 1995
Box 4 Folder 13
El Vizcaíno, Guadalajara, Puerto Chale, misc., ca. 1990-1999
Box 4 Folder 14
Isla Cedros, la Reforma, notes on habitat, 2003
Box 4 Folder 15
Miscellaneous Baja notebooks, undated, 1991


Scope and Content of Series

Series 4) AUDIOCASSETTES: Sound recordings of Berger's interviews with Bajan locals, including personalities featured in Berger's writings, such as El Jeque. Identifying notes from the original cassettes were transcribed for the finding aid description.

Box 5 Folder 1
DR at Eclipse, Robert Fadal, 1992 April 2
Box 5 Folder 2-3
El Jeque, 1992 May 15
Box 5 Folder 4
Ruben, 1993 March 23
Box 5 Folder 5
Alev and Rina, 1993 May 5
Box 5 Folder 6
Mary and Mac - El Meson, 1993 May 15
Box 5 Folder 7
Bertine, 1993 May
Box 5 Folder 8
Victor Sanchez Sotomayor, undated
Box 5 Folder 9
Consuelo (entrevista y trando Puerto de Ilusion), 1994 April
Box 5 Folder 10
Consuelo (Hymno de las Mujeres Profesionistas), undated
Box 5 Folder 11
Paul Lorem (7/10) Walter (7/11) Abrams family, undated
Box 5 Folder 12
Jose Luis Leon, 2009 March 30
Box 5 Folder 13
Fermin, 2009 April 3

Possibly defective tape.

Box 5 Folder 14
Fermin, 2009 April 3
Box 5 Folder 15
Organico Alevanra Nieto - Gari Bay, undated
Box 5 Folder 16
Carmen Vazquez, 2009 May 1
Box 5 Folder 17
Fco DLMOS, 2009 May 6
Box 5 Folder 18
Aaron, 2009 May 7
Box 5 Folder 19
Paty Galino/Sergio Alvarez, 2009 May 8