Loreto, Baja California Sur, Mexico was born between “La Sierra de la Giganta” and the “Aquarium of the World” on the sea of Cortez or the Gulf of California, according to the oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Loreto has a population of approximately 11,000 inhabitants and is located north of the city of La Paz approximately 380 km. Loreto is now a beautiful and magical tourist destination, with sport fishing, kayaking, hiking, and much more. Tourism has detonated in Loreto, with the growing economy of the region causing it to go from a small town in Baja California Sur to now a city with important real estate developments.
The history of Loreto goes back to the 1680’s when Spanish missionaries arrived at the peninsula of Baja California in Mexico on an expedition where they would encounter a variety of communities differentiated by their language, customs, and consanguinity, from Cabo San Lucas to La Paz, the Pericú of La Paz to Loreto, the Guaycura and further north the Cochimi.
In Loreto, the Guaycuras were described as being of medium height, well-proportioned and robust, with skin a little darker than the Pericús. One of the men who interacted with them for the first time in 1683, was the missionary Father Eusebio Francisco Kino who described them as “enthusiastic and friendly, of good stature, strong and healthy, happy, smiling and jovial.” They engaged in hunting and gathering in an area no larger than 30 miles from their community of Loreto.
One of the most renowned missionaries was Father Juan María de Salvatierra, who founded the first Mission in Loreto in October of 1697, the mother and head of the missions of the “alta” and “Baja” California called “Our Lady of Loreto Concho” and it is the first within the mission route called “Camino Real” along the peninsula of Baja California. Toda in Loreto is the Museum of Jesuit missions next to “Our Lady of Loreto Concho”.
San Javier Mission
Loreto, Baja California Sur, Mexico has one of the best preserved jewels of the Jesuit missionaries. Only 34 km northeast of Loreto, is the mission of San Francisco Javier, founded in the year 1699 by Father Francisco Maria Piccolo in a farming village, in the middle of an oasis hidden between the imposing “Sierra de la Giganta”.
Natives of Loreto, called the site “Vigge Biaundo” which means “high land dominated by a valley” where the natives of the Cochimi ethnic group sheltered the Jesuits who a few days later returned to perform the construction of a chapel, which was completed in the year of 1757 by Father Miguel del Barco.
Loreto has a great history in this place. In the Mission of San Francisco Javier the Jesuit missionaries built dams and canals for irrigation; they planted cereals, planted fruit trees and vines, made one of the first wines of the peninsula of California; they also introduced livestock, communal farm operation, and their trades and built their houses, a hospital and schools.