When they discovered freshwater in an underground spring here at the base of the Sierra de la Laguna, the Jesuits developed this arroyo settlement, about two kilometers inland from the coast, as a farming supply station. When the silver mines were active on the east side of the sierra, wealthy families from El Triunfo began making Todos Santos their weekend getaway town.
After a period of booming sugar production in the early 20th century, the town became once again an agricultural center, supplying restaurants in Los Cabos and markets as far away as the United States with organic fruits and vegetables year-round. The spring keeps Todos Santos lush and green, especially around the huerta (orchard) on the north side of town.
In recent decades, Todos Santos has become a haven for artists, retirees, snowbirds, and yogis who either live here permanently or return year after year to soak up the sun and the bohemian vibe. It is also a popular weekend place for La Paz residents looking to escape the summer heat.
The downtown area consists of a grid of mostly paved though dusty streets, many lined with 100-year-old brick buildings. There is a town plaza with a historic church, but it doesn’t feel like the center of the action in modern-day Todos Santos. Most visitors congregate along the central blocks between Avenida Juárez and Calles Centenario, Obregón, and Márquez de León.
Beyond the immediate downtown area are sandy beaches with surf breaks and a freshwater lagoon called La Poza that supports a healthy population of birds.
As a newly designated Pueblo Mágico, Todos Santos has received access to government funding for improving infrastructure and developing cultural tourism. To date, the money has been used to remodel the park and repair the auditorium. Next on the project list: burying wires and cables in the town center, repairing the theater, and protecting the oasis and lagoon.
The feverish pace of real estate development stalled due to the dismal economy, but new homes have popped up at the other end of town, along Playa Las Tunas, as power and water infrastructure creep northward. Locals remain optimistic that Todos Santos will retain its small-town feel, even in the wake of increased development—with Carmel and Santa Fe as models, rather than Los Cabos or Cancún.
Volunteering in Todos Santos
Todos Santos has a few well-organized nonprofit organizations working toward the betterment of the community that accept temporary volunteers—as well as a wide variety of donations, from sheets and pillows to toys and books for children. Those traveling with some extra time and/or the desire to integrate themselves into the community might like to hook up with some of those organizations and leave the place a little better than they found it.
The Palapa Society of Todos Santos, A.C. (Obregón 15, tel. 612/145-0299, www.palapasociety.org), founded in 2003, is a multicultural nonprofit Mexican Civil Association that provides programs, events, and activities for children in the area—as well as medical services, educational scholarships, English-language instruction, and environmental education. Visitors can get involved by mentoring a child in English for a day, assisting local artists in mural-painting workshops, or visiting the Todos Santos bilingual library. Proceeds from some of the town’s events, such as the February Historic Home Tour, benefit this organization and its programs.
For the environmentally inclined, Tortugueros Las Playitas A.C. (www.todostorutgueros.org) seeks volunteers for its sea turtle conservation work November through April. This is a great way for kids and adults to get involved in an initiative that affects visitors and residents alike.
For an organized trip that includes some volunteering, check the VolunTourism page on the Todos Santos Eco Adventures site (www.tosea.net/AV04.htm). For more ideas, stop by the Centro Cultural (no tel.) on Calle Juárez at Topete.
© Nikki Goth Itoi from Moon Baja, 9th Edition