Los Cabos History

Los Cabos history goes back several centuries. In fact it was only forty years after Columbus’ voyage of discovery, in 1535, that Hernan Cortez sailed into the Los Cabos bay and named it “Santa Cruz” while on a mission of discovery of his own for the Spanish crow. The name did not stick, but Spanish influence and interest did, and as mainland Mexico evolved as a colony of Spain over the next hundred years, a fleet of galeons plied the waters off the west coast, and trade sea-routes began to develop between Mexico and Asia, carrying Mexican gold and silver westward to Luzon in the Philippines and returning to Acapulco with loads of spices and silks for shipment on across Mexico and ultimately to Spain. In 1596 Sebastian Vizcaino established a pearl fishing colony, but it failed financially – too few pearls and too many hostile natives — leaving in its wake the names of Cabo San Lucas and La Paz for the two best anchorages.

Cabo San Lucas was also a haven for pirates, both English and Dutch, during the late 1500s and early 1600s, some of the crewmembers jumping ship and remaining there (as well as in Loreto and La Paz) so that several old-line families in each location have English names. At the same time the Crown opened up the peninsula to the Jesuits to convert and “civilize,” and they began creation of the now famous chain of missions (the first was in Loreto in 1697, and San Jose’s own mission followed not long after, with the final ones established all the way north to what is now southern California by another missionary order. The local Indians, Pericues and others, fought back but were ultimately subdued, converted (often by force) and compelled to help construct the magnificent mission churches in the chain.

The more modern history begins with the rise of the United States to the north, and the war between Mexico and the US that ended with treaties in which much of northern Mexico was ceded to the United States, to eventually become Texas, California, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada, and parts of surrounding states. No one in the US thought much of the Baja Peninsula, a finger of uninhabited desert, and so it remained part of Mexico.

During World War II, American pilots saw the peninsula from the air, and after the war began flying down to a number of dirt airstrips (including one in what is now downtown Cabo San Lucas), to fish and enjoy the weather – bringing with them John Wayne, Desi Arnaz, and Bing Crosby, and eventually a stream of other luminaries. It grew over time in the post-war years, with establishment of a hotel on the East Cape, then one the Corridor and one in Cabo San Lucas, in the post-war decades. Highway One was finished and paved from Tijuana south to Land’s End in 1974, the international airport was upgraded in 1986, and abundant sun, sport fishing, golf, luxury hotels, tourist amenities and more sun did the job, making Los Cabos the tourist destination it now is.