San Jose del Cabo, The Quiet Sister

Article by Lauren Glenn published in Los Cabos Magazine Issue 18, Fall 2008

San José del Cabo and Cabos San Lucas are both part of what is referred to as Los Cabos. Separated by the length of the Tourist Corridor (about 35 km or 20 mi) each is distinctive in its history and lifestyle. Cabo San Lucas is packed with high fashion stores, high-end resorts, and the wildest party scene on the Baja Peninsula. On the contrary, San José, with its peaceful demeanor, is known as the “Quiet Sister.” This charming city is rich with Mexican culture, artwork, and historic buildings. It’s more about strolling the town square, shopping in local stores, dining under the stars at one of the many fine restaurants, exploring the wonderful galleries, and relaxing on the un-crowded beaches. In the center of town, as with virtually every Mexican village, the Cathedral on the plaza is a focal point of the people who live in and visit San José del Cabo.

San José has a rich and colorful history. In 1730, Jesuit Padre Nicholas Tamaral founded Misión San José del Cabo and attempted to convert the native Pericú Indians. When the Indians revolted, the church was destroyed and Tamaral was killed. Notice the scene painted above the entrance to today’s Cathedral as it recounts this gruesome event. The pirates aboard Spanish galleons came to San José in the mid-19th century after reports of the gold and silver to be found here. In the early 20th century when the mining areas began to diminish, so did the region’s population. In the 1940s, the town’s recovery began.

The population held steady for many years until Cabo began attracting sport-fishing enthusiasts. In the 1970’s, FONATUR (National Foundation for Tourism Development) began promoting tourism and development along San José’s shoreline. San José’s population started to expand at a more rapid rate once the Transpeninsular Highway, connecting Los Cabos and the U.S. border, was finished, and the international airport completed construction. Throughout all the changes, San José has preserved much of its original 18th century architecture, as well as its amiable atmosphere.

San José del Cabo boasts an authentically Mexican “Old Town” area, the very essence of Mexican culture and history. Popular dining spots such as Don Emiliano, Voila!, El Comal, and the new El Vaquero Steak House restaurant, draw a refined crowd to San José. Restaurants such as Voila! and El Comal have even preserved part of the town’s earliest makeup and original architecture. In fact, El Comal sits in the courtyard of the eleventh home built in downtown and still shares the old property line walls with Don Emiliano Restaurant and Tequila Restaurant. Voila! sits on the site of what is believed to have been a house of ill repute, and retains one of the original walls in the dining room. Ah, if that one could talk! El Vaquero is on the plaza, opposite the Cathedral, housed in one of San Jose’s historic monument buildings. In addition to its wonderful restaurants, Boulevard Antonio Mijares, a tree-lined main street on which you can enter San José’s Old Town district (Centro Historico de San Jose), has quaint stores where shoppers will find contemporary and traditional paintings and sculpture, silver and jewelry stores, wooden carvings, hand painted pottery and glass, pure Mexican vanilla, and much more.

Behind the Cathedral, you’ll find the quaint narrow streets of the San José Art District. The old adobe buildings teeming with art create a bohemian atmosphere, and an ideal place to find fine original artwork by local and international artists. These artists have captured the incredible beauty of the Mexican scenery, and the warmth of the Mexican people and their culture. On Tuesday mornings and Thursday evenings, enjoy a San José Art Walk with 16 participating art galleries welcoming patrons to stop by and meet with artists and owners, who will gladly invite you to enjoy their works. On Tuesdays, start early with complimentary coffee, graciously provided by the San José Café. On Thursday evenings, the galleries may offer you a libation as you visit. And plan a stop at one of the great restaurants in the district, such as La Bodega Steak & Wine Houseor Jazmin’s.

New homes and condos, shopping centers, and hotels seem to be popping up all over San José. Las Mañanitas, Club Campestre San José, and Puerto Los Cabos are some of the most visible. Puerto Los Cabos is a skillfully planned development, complete with villas, condos, and custom homes; a marina complex; ecological and cultural park; mission and museum; championship golf courses; restaurants; shopping; and hotels. Although the expansion and modernization of San José del Cabo is happening at a rapid rate, local developers have committed to creating communities that respect San José’s quiet nature, historic origins, earliest architecture, and, perhaps most of all, charm.

Article by Lauren Glenn published in Los Cabos Magazine Issue 18, Fall 2008