Todos Santos: Mexico’s Artists Haven

by Julie Blakley on October 24, 2008

by Julie Blakley | October 24th, 2008  

Colorful textiles in Todos Los Santos Do you ever long for the days when Mexico’s coasts weren’t lined with luxury resorts and the coastal towns and beaches were still home to sleepy fishing villages? Or, if you are like me, you long missed those days and would like to find a way to go back a couple of decades and visit Mexico before it was full of Condos and obnoxious, drunk teenage spring breakers.

Located about 50 miles north of Cabo San Lucas on the Pacific side of the Baja peninsula is a little oasis in the middle of the desert called Todos Santos. Although hot and arid like the rest of the Baja peninsula, Todos Santos’ location at the base of the Sierra de la Laguna mountain range means the city gets lots of water filtering down from the rains that fall on the mountains. This additional rainfall is what gives Todos Santos its reputation as an oasis and distinguishes the region with orchards of mangoes, papayas and plenty of freshly grown vegetables.

History

Like many neighboring Mexican villages, Todos Santos was first descended upon by Jesuits who came to convert the natives. An aquifer also provided enough moisture to the already rich soil to grow an abundance of sugar cane, which greatly shaped the city’s history and the importance of agriculture in this coastal town. Sugar cane mills were established here and rich plantation owners built beautiful haciendas and mansions. However, after about 30 years of heavy use, the aquifer dried up, taking the town’s revenue with it. The city descended into poverty and was not re-awakened until about 30 years later when the aquifer replenished and a large art community came to Todos in place of the sugar mills. Today the city is a lively mixture of galleries, shops, quaint inns and restaurants.

Not a Resort Town

While located only 50 miles from the popular beach resort town of Cabo San Lucas, Todos Santos is not a whole lot like its neighbor to the south. While La Paz and Cabo have plenty of nightclubs and touristy strips, Todos Santos is a sleepy little town that is usually closed up by 10 pm and sees far fewer tourists, although there is a large expatriate community who lives here. The tourists that do frequent this town tend to hang out in cafes with the locals, rather than quarantining themselves in massive all inclusive resorts. However, the town is known for its many prominent artists and galleries, so if you are an avid art fan, you’ll be happy scoping out the many galleries in Todos. Plus, because Todos Santos is still an authentic Mexican beach town (there is not a single condo between Cabo San Lucas and Todos Santos), this beach resort is the perfect place to unwind, take an afternoon siesta and work on your tan. There are also a large number of grey whales that pass by this sleepy artists’ haven, making whale watching another popular activity.

Todos Santos Art Festival

If you are an art lover, a great time to visit Todos Santos (and escape winter) is during the annual Todos Santos Art Festival, which will take place this year between January 31 and February 7. Because of Todos Santos many galleries and large artist community, the town has sometimes been referred to as the “Carmel of Baja.” During this week in the winter, the town surges with tourists and visitors and it is often difficult to find a hotel.

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