Todos Santos Pages
History / Culture

Contemporary Todos Santos | Todos Santos Book's History | Art Galleries

todos santos pueblo magico


"Todos Santos History" by Joe Cummings
(from Cabo:La Paz to Cabo San Lucas, 3rd edition, Moon Handbooks, copyright ©2000, reprinted with persmission)

casa wong
Casa Wong - 1930's
photo from collection of Prof. Nestor Agundez
The earliest traces of human habitation in the Todos Santos area date back 3,000 years to "Matancita Man," the defleshed and painted remains (thus indicating a second burial) of a tall male who lived to at least 75 years on a vegetable and animal-protein diet. The first Spaniard to sight the oasis, Jesuit Padre Jaime Bravo, found nomadic Guaicura availing themselves of the inland water source and collecting shellfish along the coast.
refining sugar
Refining Sugar - Early 1930's
photo from collection of Prof. Nestor Agundez
  Padre Bravo established a farm community and a misión de visita ("visiting mission") called Todos Santos here in 1724, to supply the water-poor mission community at La Paz with fruits, vegetables, wine, and sugarcane. By 1731, Todos Santos was producing 200 burro-loads of panocha - raw brown sugar - annually, along with figs, pomegranates, citrus, and grapes. Two years later, deeming the local Guaicura amenable to missionization, Padre Sigismundo Taraval founded Misión Santa Rosa de las Palmas at the upper end of the arroyo about two kilometers inland from the Pacific. Taraval fled to Isla Espíritu Santo near La Paz following a 1734 native rebellion, and the mission returned to visiting-chapel status the following year.
The local Guaicura population was soon wiped out by smallpox, and Pericú were brought in to work the fields. Reinstated as a misión de visita in 1735, Todos Santos outgrew La Paz by the mid-1700s; from 1737 until 1748, Padre Bernardo Zumziel actually spent more time in Todos Santos than at the mission in La Paz. Renamed Nuestra Seńora del Pilar de Todos Santos in 1749, the town served as Spanish military headquarters for La Escuadra del Sur, the southern detachment of the Loreto presidio. This enabled the community to weather the Pericú rebellions to the southwest in Santiago and San Jose del Cabo, although 49 Todos Santos inhabitants were killed defending the town in one related skirmish. Polish Jesuit Padre Carlos Neumayer presided over the mission from 1752 until his death in Todos Santos in 1764. Todos Santos remained an important mission settlement until secularization in 1840.  
zocalo from church tower
Zocalo from Church Tower 1940's
photo from collection of Prof. Nestor Agundez

When Governor Luis del Castillo Negrete ordered the distribution of church lands to the local community in 1841, he was contested by Padre Gabriel González, a local priest and former president of the mission who had used mission property for his own farming and ranching, becoming a powerful local trader in the process. González's armed rebellion was put down in 1842; the priest and his followers fled to Mazatlán.

sugar mill
Sugar Mill
photo from collection of Prof. Nestor Agundez

Anglo whalers visiting Todos Santos in 1849 praised the town as "an oasis" with "friendly and intelligent people." In the post-mission era, Todos Santos thrived as Baja's sugarcane capital, supporting eight sugar mills by the late 1800s. While carrying out a survey of Cape Region flora for the California Academy of Sciences in 1890, botanist T.S. Brandegee commented on the area's beauty and bounty. During this period handsome hotels, theaters, municipal offices, and homes for painters and sculptors were built.

Sugar prices dropped precipitously following WW II, and all but one mill closed when the most abundant freshwater spring dried up in 1950. The remaining mill closed in 1965, though smaller household operations continued into the early 70s. The town faded into near obscurity.

Around 1981 the spring came back to life, and the arroyo once again began producing a large variety and quantity of fruits and vegetables. Three years later, Mexico 19 was paved between San Pedro and Cabo San Lucas, opening Todos Santos to tourists and expatriates for the first time.

Joe Cummings: Cabo Handbook
Moon Handbooks: Cabo 3 Ed: La Paz to Cabo San Lucas by Joe Cummings
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Webmaster note: All of the old black and white photos of Todos Santos used on this page and the Todos Santos Book History page are courtesy of Prof. Néstor Agúndez and are used with his kind permission. You can view his collection at the Todos Santos Centro Cultural "Prof. Néstor Agúndez Martínez", across from the bank on Calle Juárez.  
cultural center todos santos
Part of Photo Collection of Prof. Néstor Agúndez at Todos Santos Centro Cultural "Prof. Néstor Agúndez Martínez"

Todos Santos is located on the Tropic of Cancer in the southern portion of the Baja Peninsula in Mexico just one hour
north of Cabo San Lucas and one hour south of La Paz. Long known as a cultural, artistic and agricultural center, the
town is a desert oasis, 1 kilometer from the Pacific Ocean at the foothills of the Sierra de La Laguna mountains. Since
the mid 1980's, the area has become a tourist / retirement destination and home to numerous art galleries, artists,
fine restaurants, elegant hotels, unique vacation rentals and local festivals.

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Reproduction is strictly prohibited without written permission.
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last update: April 28, 2007