Timeline of Los Cabos History, 13,000 BCE to 1900
13,000 BCE – Estimated arrival date for the Pericúes in present day Baja California Sur. It is believed that Cape Region’s first inhabitants came by raft from Melanesia.
1492 – Cristóbal Colón “discovers” the Americas, coming ashore at San Salvador in the Bahamas on October 12.
1510 – The first known edition of Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo’s chivalric romance Las Sergas de Esplandián is published in Seville. This novel is the source of the word California, imagined in the book as a fictional island solely inhabited by women, and ruled by a queen named Calafia.
1519 – An expeditionary force of 11 ships and 500 men under the command of Hernán Cortés makes landfall at Cozumel, an island off the eastern coast of the Yucatán peninsula.
1521 – Tenochtitlán, island capital of the Aztecs, falls after a long siege. Cortés and his conquistadores claim México for Spain (calling it Nueva España), thus beginning three centuries of colonial rule.
1533 – Mutineers led by navigator Fortún Ximénez become the first Europeans to set foot on the Baja California peninsula.
1535 – Hernan Cortés arrives in present day La Paz on May 3, naming it Santa Cruz.
1539 – Cortes dispatches Francisco de Ulloa on a voyage to seek the “Seven Cities of Cibola.” Ulloa’s ships explore the entire east coast of the Baja California peninsula, and the west coast as far north as Isla Cedros. He is credited as the first European to sight Cabo San Lucas.
1541– Cabo San Lucas is named by Francisco de Bolaños on October 18, according to the Catholic calendar. Another version, recounted by Gustavo de la Peña Avilés in his book Las Memorias del Vigía, is that “while anchored in the bay, the crew were surprised by a waterspout. They implored protection from a statue of that saint kept in the captain’s cabin, and then a wind dragged the boat safely to the beach. In gratitude the crew christened the place with the name of their protector. In almost all maps prior to this date San Lucas appeared under the name Ballenas (Whales).”
1542 – Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo leads a maritime expedition along the Pacific Coast, venturing as far north as the Russian River in what is now the state of California.
1565 – Spanish navigators Alonso de Arellano and Andrés de Urdaneta find the necessary westerly winds for a trade route from Manila at the 38th parallel, thus clearing the way for the lucrative Manila–Acapulco Galleon Trade.
1587 – Ships commanded by English privateer Thomas Cavendish sink the Spanish galleon Santa Ana off the coast of Cabo San Lucas, taking a fortune in treasure in the process.
1596 – Sebastián Vizcaíno is granted a concession to the pearl beds of La Paz, the first to receive such permission since Cortés. Like Cortés, however, Vizcaíno’s attempted settlement is abandoned in less than a year due to inhospitable conditions, inadequate supplies and continual attacks from belligerent natives.
1602 – Vizcaíno undertakes a voyage on behalf of King Felipe III of Spain, seeking a safe harbor for the Manila–Acapulco Galleon Trade. Vizcaíno visits many of the same places as Cabrillo in 1542, but gives them new names. Thus, he is credited with naming San Diego, Santa Barbara and Monterey, among other locales. In fact, it was Vizcaíno who gave San José del Cabo the name by which it and its bay were known for well over 100 years: San Bernabé. His ship anchored off the coast on June 11, and he named it according to Catholic custom.
1683 – One of the most notable early attempts at a permanent settlement on the peninsula is the expedition led by Admiral Isidro de Atondo y Antillón. This expedition is responsible for several California firsts–the first mission at San Bruno, the first serious attempt at agriculture, and the first coast to coast exploration of the interior–but was ultimately abandoned at enormous cost in 1685.
1697 – Juan María Salvatierra and nine others land at Loreto, which will be the beachhead for over 70 years of Jesuit mission building.
1709 – English privateer Woodes Rogers captures the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación y Desengaño off the coast of Cabo San Lucas. Rogers is accompanied by Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish sailor whom he rescued from an otherwise uninhabited island off the coast of Chile. Selkirk’s four years as a castaway were reputedly the inspiration for Daniel Dafoe’s classic novel Robinson Crusoe.
1730 – Misión San José del Cabo Añuití is established by Nicolás Tamaral. Over 1,000 Pericúes are baptized during the first year.
1734 –Tamaral is beheaded and the mission at San José del Cabo destroyed when the Pericúes revolt, incensed by a ban on polygamy.
1735 – Pericúes attack a shore party from the annual Manila galleon, killing 13 Spaniards. The captain of the ship San Cristóbal, little knowing what was happening ashore, was obliged by adverse winds to move its anchorage to Cabo San Lucas. The next day 600 Pericúes led by Gerónimo attacked, but were repulsed with minimal casualties on both sides. Gerónimo was one of four rebels clapped into irons after being induced to board the ship.
1748 – Manuel de Ocio, former soldier and pearl fishing entrepreneur, founds the first peninsular mine, Real de Santa Ana. In addition to mining for silver, Ocio also founds a successful cattle ranching operation, and with his partner, Guadalajaran merchant Antonio Ignacio de Mena, opens a general store that sells goods from the mainland. Santa Ana is the first secular community in the Californias, and Ocio the first settler to amass considerable wealth.
1756 – A former Ocio assistant, Gaspar Pisón y Guzmán, opens a new mine called Santa Gertrudis 10 miles north of Santa Ana. Ocio’s brother-in-law, Simón Rodríguez, founds a community for the mine workers at a nearby spring called San Antonio, which becomes the second non-mission town on the peninsula. Since Santa Ana was later abandoned, San Antonio stands as the longest continually occupied community in the Californias.
1767 – The suppression of the Jesuits begins in Spain, when secret orders stripping them of their goods and expelling them from all Spanish domains are issued by the authority of King Carlos III.
The first governor of California, Don Gaspar de Portolá, arrives at San José del Cabo, after his Loreto bound ship is blown south by adverse winds. Portolá’s mandate is to oversee the expulsion of the Jesuits, inventory their missions, and establish a new secular order on the peninsula.
1768 – The final Jesuit missionaries depart from Loreto on February 3.
Junípero Serra and 16 other Franciscan missionaries land in Loreto on April 1.
Visitador general Don José de Gálvez arrives on the peninsula in July, establishing his headquarters at Real de Santa Ana. Gálvez in his one year in residence issues a series of sweeping reforms, promotes civil settlements through land grants and concessions, and organizes land and sea expeditions to explore and settle what would soon be called Nueva California, later Alta California, and ultimately the U.S. state of California.
1769 – A group of scientists led by Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Chappé d’Auteroche journey to San José del Cabo and then Real de Santa Ana to make observations during a rare Transit of Venus.
1772 – The first 10 Dominican missionaries arrive at Loreto, following a geographic agreement that grants them authority over the peninsular missions. The Franciscans, meanwhile, retain religious responsibility for Alta California.
1777 – Monterey becomes the capital of Las Californias, replacing Loreto.
1793 – The mission at San José del Cabo is severely damaged by flooding, necessitating relocation and rebuilding. The new mission is completed in 1799.
1799 – The population of San José del Cabo stands at 389 inhabitants, up 107 people from the previous year.
1804 – Alta and Baja California are officially separated, and each is given its own government.
1807 – Thomas Smith, a sailor aboard the American merchant ship Maryland deserts at San José del Cabo, becoming the first expatriate in Los Cabos.
1810 – Priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla issues his famed grito, a call for revolution proclaimed in the small town of Dolores in Guanajuato, México. This was the precipitating act for the Mexican War of Independence., and its date, September 16, is now celebrated at Mexican Independence Day.
1815 – The Manila–Acapulco Galleon Trade ends after 250 years.
Future general and peninsular hero Manuel Márquez de León is born on March 5 in San Antonio.1822 – Two ships of the Chilean navy commanded by Vice Admiral Thomas Cochrane–Independencia under Captain William Wilkinson and Araucano under Captain Robert Simpson–sack San José del Cabo, ostensibly for refusing to recognize Mexican independence.
1829 – The mining town of San Antonio is briefly named capital of the Baja California peninsula after a hurricane devastates Loreto. The next year La Paz becomes the capital, which it remains for present day Baja California Sur.
1830 – Ildefonso Cipriano Green Ceseña is born in Cabo San Lucas on January 23 to parents Stephen Green, a deserter from a whaling ship, and María de Jesús Ceseña. There is some dispute over the year of Green’s birth. Historian Pablo L. Martinez’s records it in his Guía Familiar de Baja California as 1836, although the chronology of Green’s remarkable life suggests the earlier date is correct.
1835 – English surgeon and naturalist Frederick Debell Bennett visits the small community of Cabo San Lucas, which has eight dwellings and approximately 30 inhabitants.
1840 – The mission at San José del Cabo is abandoned.
1842 – Nine Japanese sailors blown out to sea are picked up after months of drifting and put ashore in Cabo San Lucas.
1846 – The Mexican–American War begins in May with several battles along the Rio Grande. The U.S. Congress passed an official declaration of war on May 13; its Mexican counterpart on July 7.
1847 – In February, at a territorial deputation in Santa Anita, Mauricio Castro Cota is named provisional jefe politico.
On March 29, the U.S. sloop Portsmouth visits San José del Cabo, with Commodore Montgomery demanding surrender, and obliging local authorities to agree to remain neutral during the war.
In September, forces under U.S. General Winfield Scott capture Mexico City.
On October 23, after hearing of Mexican resistance at Mulegé, residents of San José del Cabo tear down the American flag and expel foreign visitors. In response, Commodore William Shubrick issues a proclamation that the U.S. has no intention of returning Baja California to México; he also installs a detachment of 24 men plus artillery under the command of Lt. Charles Heywood.
Lt. José Antonio Mijares is fatally wounded during the Battle of San José del Cabo on November 20, and dies the following day. A monument is now located on the spot where he fell.
1848 – On February 2, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is signed in Mexico City.
On February 15, 100 men from the sloop Cyane come to the assistance of beleaguered U.S. forces, ending the three-week long Siege of San José del Cabo.
On March 6, a truce is signed between the U.S. and México.
On March 30, remaining peninsular forces under Mauricio Castro are defeated at the Skirmish of Todos Santos.
1849 – By presidential decree, the Baja California peninsula is divided into Northern and Southern territories.
1850 – The ports of Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, Loreto, Mulegé and San José del Cabo are opened to foreign trade.
1851 – In the aftermath of the Mexican–American War, the population of the Baja California peninsula is estimated to be only 7,000 people.
1852 – Impoverished French aristocrat Count Gaston Raoulx de Raousset-Boulbon leads a filibustering expedition to the Mexican state of Sonora. Despite a notable victory at Hermosillo, the expedition ends in failure. He makes another attempt in May 1854, sailing from San Francisco aboard the schooner Belle. After being repulsed when trying to land at San José del Cabo, Raousset-Boulbon and his men return to Sonora, where they are again defeated. The Count is executed by firing squad in Guaymas on August 12, 1854.
1853 – American filibustero William Walker departs San Francisco with 45 armed men aboard the Caroline, intent on establishing a new “Republic of Sonora” as a slave state. After a brief stop at Cabo San Lucas, Walker lands at La Paz on November 3, seizes both the current and future jefe políticos, and proclaims his republic under the Code of Louisiana. Under duress from local patriots led by General Manuel Márquez de León, Walker and his men flee to Ensenada. There, bolstered by the arrival of 150 reinforcements aboard the brig Anita, Walker holds power for several months, establishing his headquarters at a ranch belonging to the Gastelum family. Resistance, desertion and supply shortages sap the strength of the would-be conquerors, and Walker and his “army” of 33 bedraggled soldiers of fortune are forced to cross the border at Tijuana on May 8, 1854. Walker later attempts another filibuster in Nicaragua, where he serves as president for nearly a year. He is shot by a firing squad in Honduras on September 12, 1860.
1855 – On March 23, Monsignor Juan Francisco Escalante y Moreno is named first apostolic vicar of Baja California by Pope Pius IX.
On November 13, a fleet of three ships under the command of self-styled Admiral Juan Napoleón Zerman sails into La Paz flying Mexican colors. Zerman’s uniform consists of mismatched English and Mexican military articles, topped off with a sombrero bedizened with two chicken feathers. Although he insists he is not a filibuster, the Frenchman is arrested by General Manuel Márquez de León when he comes ashore, and turned over to jefe político José María Blancarte. Zerman and his men are ultimately released without harm.
1857 – A former California State Senator named Henry Crabbe leads approximately 100 men on a filibustering expedition to Sonora. After an eight-day battle at Caborca, the surviving Americans, including Crabbe himself, are executed by firing squad. Crabbe’s head is subsequently severed and exhibited for a time in a jar of vinegar.
The liberal Constitution of 1857 is ratified in México on February 5, granting among other rights, the right to free speech and the right to bear arms. It also grants freedom of religion, abolishes slavery, and, most importantly, curtails the power of the Catholic Church, thus setting the stage for the country’s War of Reform. The three year civil war ends when conservatives surrender in December 1860.
1858 – Peninsular patriots led by General Manuel Márquez de León, Ildefonso Green and former wartime jefe político Mauricio Castro march on La Paz. There, they defeat troops under Colonel Diego Castilla, who were refusing to recognize the Constitution of 1857, in adherence to the recently formulated Plan of Tacubaya. A legislative assembly convenes and affirms that the Constitution of 1857 is the only law of the land, and that although Baja California is part of México, it will govern itself independently until such time as the Reform War is ended and legal order reestablished. Márquez continues to fight, fitting out four ships for liberal forces, and later leading a successful attack on the mainland port of San Blas.
1860 – Hungarian naturalist János Xántus is stationed for two years at Land’s End in Cabo San Lucas taking tidal observations and collecting specimens for the Smithsonian Institution. Nearly 40 species are now named for him, including Basilinna xantusii, a rare hummingbird endemic to Baja California Sur.
1861 – President Benito Juárez appoints Teodoro Riveroll as jefe político of El Territorio Sur in Baja California.
France intervenes militarily in México, on the order of Emperor Napoleon III. Although Mexican forces famously win the Battle of Publa on May 5, 1862 (origin of the holiday Cinco de Mayo), the French forces persist and are able to install puppet monarch Maximilian and his wife Carlota on April 10, 1864. Two years of fierce fighting later, on May 31, 1866, Napoleon III aggress to withdraw troops. Emperor Maximilian is captured and executed on June 19, 1867, and Benito Juárez resumes his presidency.
1862 – New gold and silver deposits are discovered in the mining communities of San Antonio and El Triunfo, setting off a peninsular “gold rush.” Almost overnight, the population of El Triunfo swells from a few hundred to 10,000.
1864 – On March 30, Mexican president Benito Juárez grants the Leese Concession to San Francisco businessman Jacob P. Leese. This grant comprises an enormous amount of land equivalent to almost two-thirds of the peninsula: 46,800 square miles between latitudes of 24.20 and 31 (basically Bahía Magdalena to San Felipe). Juárez was much criticized for “giving away” much of Baja California, but the cash considerations were very helpful to the largely insolvent government, and the president’s insistence on 18 strict provisions in the contract ultimately let to the forfeiture of the lands by the Lower California Company (who bought the concession from Leese), when they were unable to provide 200 colonizing families within the stipulated five year period.
1865 – Antonio Pedrín takes office as jefe político on November 27. His role usurped by Pedro Navarette, Pedrín is briefly exiled, but is able to return the following year with the assistance of Ildefonso Green and Pablo Gastelum, and governs until 1868.
1866 – Port officials seize the American merchant ship John L. Stephens in Cabo San Lucas. Bound for Mazatlán, the ship is carrying arms and ammunition to French forces under Emperor Maximilian. The impounded vessel is taken to La Paz, and its cargo rerouted to Mexican partisans.
A scientific commission consisting of journalist J. Ross Browne, geologist William Gaab and mining engineer F. Von Lohr, among others, arrives in Cabo San Lucas. The commission’s ostensible purpose is to make recommendations to the Lower California Company regarding the Leese Concession, but it is thought that Browne, a former treasury agent, was also asked to make recommendations to the U.S. government on the potential annexation of the peninsula. Browne thought Baja California’s only value lay in its strategic position, but his travelogue of the group’s journey from Cabo San Lucas to Bahía Magdalena, published in three consecutive installments in Harper’s New Monthly magazine in 1868, provides one of the most evocative portraits of life in Baja California Sur during the latter part of the 19th century.
1868 – Dominican missionary and Mexican–American War hero Gabriel González dies in Todos Santos.
1871 – After an inspection reveals only 21 American families, the Mexican government officially rescinds the Leese Concession held by the Lower California Company. Legal claims from this action persist for decades.
1872 – President of México Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada subdivides the peninsula into three territories: Norte, Bahía Magdalena and La Paz.
Early Cabo San Lucas citizen Thomas Ritchie dies on November 29, at the age of 61.
1874 – El Triunfo mining companies like El Progreso are shipping approximately $50,000 a month in silver to La Paz, equivalent to over a million dollars a month in modern dollars.
Ildefonso Green triumphs in a duel to the death in Cabo San Lucas on October 6 with a politically connected bandit, Ramón Valdés, who has been terrorizing and extorting citizenry in the area.
1879 – General Manuel Márquez de León leads an uprising against the dictatorial reign of Porfirio Díaz, disillusioned by the Plan of Tuxtepec and a recent massacre in Veracruz (the occasion of Díaz’s famous order: ¡Mátalos en caliente!). Márquez and his rebels seize La Paz, he appoints his nephew Clodomiro Cota as jefe político, and on November 22 he issues his revolutionary Plan of El Triunfo to the nation. After the rebellion is quelled in 1880, Márquez is exiled to San Francisco, California.
1882 – The peninsula’s first library, named in honor of Melchor Ocampo, opens its doors in La Paz.
1885 – The Rothschild funded copper mining company El Boleo is founded in Santa Rosalía.
1890 – Gastón S. Vives Gorieux and his brother Edmund found the pearling company Perlifera del Mar de Cortés in La Paz.
The last Baja California filibuster plot of the century is exposed by the San Diego Union, naming several well-known conspirators, including a certain Mr. McQuilter, treasurer of the English owned Mexican Land and Colonization Company; Walter Gifford Smith, editor of the San Diego Sun; B.A. Stephens, editor of the San Diego Informant; and Captain John F. Janes, who publishes the San Pedro Shipping Gazette and lives in a house made from shipwrecks. The conspirators’ erstwhile plan is for men aboard the steamers Manuel Dublan and Carlos Pacheco to capture the Mexican warship Democrata, come ashore during a fandango at the Hotel Iturbide in Ensenada, and overpower the presumably drunken officials. The attempt is doomed by disparaging national news coverage.
General Manuel Márquez de León dies on July 27. He is remembered today by the international airport in La Paz, and the historic theater in Todos Santos, both of which are named in his honor.
1894 – Salvatierra Hospital opens in La Paz.
1900 – The peninsular population reaches 47,624.