Los Cabos Shaped by Jesuit Missionaries

Situated 900 miles south of San Diego, Los Cabos is comprised of two popular travel destinations:  Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo.  In the 1950’s, the area’s pristine waters, unparalleled deep sea fishing and breathtaking scenery lured Hollywood celebrities like Bing Crosby and Desi Arnez, who flew down on chartered jets for epic fishing vacations. As word spread and infrastructure developed, Los Cabos slowly evolved into the Baja Peninsula’s biggest tourism hotspot, now attracting more than 2 million visitors each year.

Everyone hears about the sublime beaches, Technicolor sunsets and luxury resorts of Los Cabos, but few may know about the region’s colonial history and how it influenced the naming of Cabo and surrounding towns. Before the Spanish conquistadors and Jesuit missionaries arrived in Baja, Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo were inhabited by the Añiñi and Yenecami – indigenous tribes whose population slowly dwindled after exposure to European diseases.

Spanish colonization of the Baja Peninsula

Owing to the region’s unforgiving conditions, Spanish colonization of the Baja Peninsula did not begin in earnest until 1730, when Father Nicolas Tamaral and Father Jose Echeverria founded a Jesuit mission in what is now called San Jose del Cabo. The Jesuits, who were backed by Spanish soldiers, were tasked with converting the indigenous communities, as they worked to establish churches, schools and hospitals in the region. Father Nicolas Tamaral founded the San Jose del Cabo mission on April 8 of 1730 in Pericu territory. It was named in honor of Joseph de la Puente y Peña, Marquess of Villapuente, who was the main sponsor of Jesuit missions in the Baja Peninsula. Later, “del Cabo” was added to differentiate the mission from San Jose de Comondu, which was erected several years earlier.

During the early to mid 18th century, the Spanish Jesuits formed a number of missions along the Baja Peninsula, including: Mision de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Concho, Nuestra Señora del Pilar de la Paz (1733) and Mision Estero de las Palmas de San José del Cabo Añuiti (1730). The mission Santa Rosa de las Palmas, founded by Jesuit Jaime Bravo in 1723, was renamed “Nuestra Señora del Pilar de La Paz” one year later, and is now called Todos Santos. The iconic statue of the Virgin of Pilar, which is the focus of Todos Santos’ annual November festival, can be found near the town’s central plaza.

Cabo’s rich history today

Fortunately, visitors to Los Cabos can still enjoy the region’s charming Spanish colonial architecture and character, evidenced by romantic courtyards and picturesque streets framing traditional plazas. Today’s Cabo vacationers are also welcomed with a slew of inviting leisure and adventure activities, including sunset sails in the Sea of Cortez, golfing, snorkeling and scuba diving, zip-line canopy tours and dolphin swims.

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