Mexican Love Story
By JOHN M. DERBY
Times Founding Publisher
February 21, 2019
Don Johnson came to the Baja peninsula in Mexico as a young
man, and he fell in love with the country.
He decided to build a hotel and airfield in a town called
Mulege to attract American pilots who loved to fish in the
best fishing grounds in the world.
His hotel, called Serenidad, provided a landing field for
pilots who would come for his weekly Saturday night pig
roast. They would spend a night or two, and fly back across
He not only got the pilots, but also famous people like
John Wayne and Jane Mansfield would show up with their admirers
from Hollywood and San Francisco.
There was just a dirt road, 600 miles from the border,
and the only logical way to get in and out of Mulege was
Don was single and had all the urges of a single young
man, but he was serious about such things as romance. The
only thing that found his fancy was a beautiful Mexican
young lady who was the mayor’s daughter. And she was
He pursued her with all his admiration, and finally won
her over, but there was a lot of resentment around town
about Americans and their pursuit of young Mexican women.
There were too many stories about the Americans and how
they treated their women.
This young lady named Nancy was of a very high class Catholic
family who would have none of the American.
However, as time went by, Don Johnson wore down her resistance
and finally won the consent of Nancy’s father and
mother to allow him to propose marriage.
The local priest; however, would have none of it and refused
to marry the young couple even after Don agreed to study
and become a member of the church. No amount of persuasion
would change the mind of this priest who was convinced that
the American was only after the young lady’s virtue.
Don Johnson decided if the mountain would not come to him
than he had to move the mountain. So he flew to La Paz where
the Bishop of all of Baja, Mexico resided. He went to the
Bishop and pleaded his case saying that he was deeply in
love with the young woman and would do anything to marry
Not only that, but he personally offered to fly the Bishop
to and from Mulege if only the Bishop would sanction his
marriage to Nancy.
The Bishop agreed to the trip, and there may have been
a substantial donation to the church involved. One day before
the wedding, the Bishop was flown to Mulege, and the next
day, the wedding was held with all the pomp and ceremony
of such an important young couple.
Then next day with everyone rested, Johnson had planned
to fly the Bishop back; however, the Bishop refused the
flight and said he would rather be driven on the terrible
road back home than put his life in the hands of Johnson
as the pilot.
Don Johnson and his wife Nancy lived in happy matrimony
for almost 70 years, and when she died, he was as in love
with her as the day he proposed.
They ran the hotel at Serenidad for all that time except
when a group of indigenous Mexicans tried to say the land
had been given to them in a land grant.
He took his case to the highest court in Mexico City, and
finally won out when several dozen American pilots pleaded
his case and said they would never fly to Mexico again if
Don Johnson was robbed of his hotel.
He is 93 today, and the loss of his wife — the great
love of his life — is still a part of the history
of Mulege, Baja where we live.
Pilots still fly to his hotel and restaurant on weekends
to enjoy what he has built.
His story is a true love story of Mexico.