Reminiscent of the colonial era, many people of Baja California Sur celebrate the dates when their communities were founded by Jesuit priests who, over the course of 70 years, established 17 missions throughout the peninsula. The first, Loreto, was founded in 1697 and the last, Santa María de los Angeles, in 1767. Over time, the missions became towns and some of them cities such as La Paz and San José del Cabo.
Using the churches built by the Jesuits as symbols, the population of these communities organize different festivities each year in honor of the local saint or, as the case may be, to remember the date of its founding.
Some people, traditionalists by choice, organize festivities for several days in which religious and pagan rituals are combined. In Castilian, that means music and dance shows, cultural events, culinary fairs and agricultural and forestry products are presented, along with children’s games. At many of the festivities, there is a group of vendors selling various items such as handicrafts, kitchen utensils, warm clothes, pastries, sweets and food. And, of course, beer.
As a result of changes to social mores, few towns give preference to religious rituals. That said, San Javier celebrates its patron saint on the 3rd of December as San Francisco Javier Day. The mission was founded by Father Juan de Ugarte in 1701. The church itself was built by Father Miguel del Barco between the years 1744 to 1759 and is preserved in good condition.
At the end of the year, pilgrims from all over the country come to this village located at the top of the Sierra de la Giganta and spend three days worshiping the saint surrounded by prayers, flowers and religious songs. Some 25 miles from the town of Loreto, San Javier has one of the best-preserved churches on the Baja California peninsula.
On the 300-year anniversary of the Loreto mission, a national civil association, with the help of the National Institute of Anthropology and History, restored the building and the interior altarpieces. The State government and the municipality of Loreto contributed to the improvement of most of the town, including streets, building facades, lighting and open spaces.
Other towns with colonial churches in good condition include Mulege, San Ignacio and San Luis Gonzaga. In others, the passage of time combined with hurricanes have destroyed the buildings. Even so, the residents either celebrate the founding dates of their recently constructed churches, or they honor their patron saint. Like La Purisima, Todos Santos, La Paz, Santiago and San Jose del Cabo.
In San Jose del Cabo traditional festivals have acquired a singular importance. The city council has taken steps to give the event the resources it deserves. Especially due to the fact this is an area where there is a foreign influence in one way or another on the social mores of the residents. Fortunately, the protection of the traditions is deeply rooted. Residents show it by attending all the events organized in honor of San Jose, the patron saint.
Other more recently established towns in Baja California Sur organize celebrations to remember their birth. Such is the case of the towns in the Santo Domingo Valley, including Ciudad Constitucion, Ciudad Insurgentes, Ignacio Zaragoza and San Carlos. Outside the municipality of La Paz, there are El Triunfo, San Antonio, El Pescador and Los Planes. Inside La Paz, the capital of our State, festivities are organized to commemorate the day of its founding on May 3rd, 1535.