Todos Los Santos
A Gentrified Haven for Artisans, Artists and Chefs
By Karin Leperi | Photo by Francisco Estrada
Todos Los Santos, a thriving colonial town located near the Pacific coast and nestled at the base of the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains in Baja California Sur, lies less than an hour’s drive north of Cabo San Lucas on Highway 19 and about an hour south of the capital city of La Paz.
Today, this desert oasis is known for its quaint colonial ambiance and laid-back lifestyle with nearby access to sand beaches, desert terrain, and rugged mountains. Because of its incredible scenic beauty, Todos Santos serves as a magnet for artisans and their handicrafts, artists and their galleries, sculptors and their 3-dimensional works, chefs and their gourmet cuisine, as well as a variety of charming boutique hotels, restored colonial buildings, and real estate development projects. So enchanting is this town, that it was named a “Pueblo Mágico” in 2006. (Also known as the “Magical Villages Program” in English, it is a Mexican government initiative designed to promote a series of towns around the country that offer visitors a “magical” experience based on their natural beauty, cultural riches, or historical relevance.)
Historically, the town played a prominent role in Baja Californian life as well. Todos Santos was first established and then became a fixture on the map when father Jaime Bravo founded the mission Nuestra Señora del Pilar de La Paz in 1723. Though the population of the existing La Paz mission was transferred here, it was later abandoned in 1749. That is when it became known as Nuesta Señora del Pilar de Todos Santos. Today, the mission harbors the statue of the Virgin of Pilar and continues to be the focus of the main festival in October. It is located across the street, southwest of the town plaza and is worth a visit for its historical significance and simple beauty.
Many years after the mission was built, sugarcane was brought to the area because of the rich, fertile soils and abundance of water. First introduced to Todos Santos during the 19th century, sugarcane proved to be a cash crop that ushered in prosperity and gainful employment to the thriving town for almost 100 years. By 1850, there were 8 sugar mills in the area. With their new-found wealth due to sugarcane crops, entrepreneurs and land-owners soon began building beautiful colonial-style buildings in which to live and entertain. However, when the market bottomed-out for sugar due to low prices after WWII, the draining of the springs, and prolonged periods of drought, the local economy essentially collapsed. Artifacts from this period can be seen with the number of sugar mill ruins that remain in the countryside as well as the variety of colonial buildings that have been lovingly restored from the last century.
Nowadays, Todos Santos is once again a thriving, rich agricultural area producing a potpourri of vegetables such as avocado and chilies. Papaya and mango orchards dot the countryside while many locals earn their living from fishing and ranching. The arts and tourism also thrive.