Five years ago, the road to Todos Santos was a dirt and dusty two-lane thoroughfare that connected the now nationally recognized pueblo mágico to La Paz and Cabo San Lucas. A newly minted four-lane blacktop highway with majestic views of the Pacific Ocean and desert mountain landscape now brings visitors from the Baja California Sur capital of La Paz and Los Cabos to Todos Santos, whose most famous attraction is the Hotel California.
Located on the northeastern corner, next to the famous Hotel California, is the city’s lone Catholic church, which dates back to 1733. Our Lady of Pilar Church, or Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Pilar, is the most recognized place of worship in the small populated city of Todos Santos. The church was originally one of the first four missions of the 28 that were constructed by the Spaniards as they ventured farther and farther north along the Baja Peninsula, founding missions and settlements along the way.
The church was virtually untouched by Hurricane Odile and remains completely intact with all its historic beauty and charm. At the entrance to the church is a plaque that honors Father Jaime Bravo, who in 1723 began the construction of the town he envisioned as a support village that would link and assist the Nuestra Señora del Pilar mission in La Paz.
The soft-yellow-painted Catholic church structure with white trim, is a post card style Colonial building that was reconstructed in 1747. The church needed to be rebuilt following the revolt of the Pericu and Guaycura Indians, who battled against their forced subjugation. Reestablished in 1735, the mission survived the shocking period of a dwindling population which recovered during 1748 when Todos Santos absorbed the remaining Spanish newbies to the area from La Paz. The small Todos Santos colony was then given the designation of regional leadership and remained as such until 1840 when it was formally and officially shut down as a mission.
Father Bravo explored the southern lands of the region during that era of discovery and settled on Todos Santos as a resting point for Spanish missionaries and soldiers because of the vast number of labor they enslaved from local native Pericu Indians. The Jesuit priest Bravo was also excited about the climate in the area and the rich, fertile soil which were excellent conditions for agriculture and farming. The most valuable crops that arose from Bravo’s venture were corn and sugar cane.
It was in 1733, that the small agricultural and mission site, officially became the Santa Rosa Church of Todos Santos. Father Segismundo Taraval was appointed the resident missionary and leader of the area in 1747, who oversaw the church’s name changed to Nuestra Señora del Pilar years when the mission of La Paz that bore the original name was closed. Father Tavari then adopted the Señora del Pilar name which has remained ever since.
The Todos Santos Catholic Church is open 9 a.m.–5 p.m., Monday through Sunday.