The first piece of art to catch the eye on the main square is
the mural of a hapless missionary being dragged by irate Indians
who were displeased at his preaching monogamy to their polygamous
tribe, as the story goes. The padres were eventually driven out by
the Indians and the church with the wall painting was built on the
site of the ill-fated mission as a memorial to that first martyr.
And as violent as the church art may seem, it defies the fact that
San Jose del Cabo is the quieter and more peaceful of the other
beach town of Cabo San Lucas, which, together, anchor the tip of
the Baja Peninsula.
Gone are the days when that religious mural was the only example
of fine arts in town. San Jose, instead, is quietly carving out a
niche for itself as the Los Cabos Art District. Colorful studios
and galleries have taken over the colonial adobe buildings
surrounding the square, boosting San Jose’s cultural image and
providing space for budding talent. All this comes together
Thursday evenings when the art community sponsors an Art Walk where
visitors can lose themselves in a kaleidoscope of paintings and
sculptures in charming locales while sampling wine, nibbling
canapes and conversing with local artists.
To be sure, many of the artists on the scene are from other towns
on the peninsula, and not all exhibits are by Baja’s best. Some
galleries, like Corsica, for example, emphasize works by countrymen
from Mexico City who have established a name for themselves outside
Mexico. There are sculptures by the late Juan Soriano, whose giant
“Dove of Peace” stands tall in the Zocalo in Mexico City. Corsica
carries smaller, manageable pieces by the artist along with vivid
paintings by Leonardo Nierman and sculptures by Jose Luis Cuevas,
Mexico’s enfant terrible, who set tongues wagging with his
flamboyant nude sculptures. (I didn’t see any of them here,
The Arenas features Juan Quezada, master potter of Mata Ortiz
fame, whose pieces are sought by international collectors. The
unusual pottery, named after the dusty hamlet in the northern state
of Chihuahua where it originates, is decorated with centuries-old
symbols of the Casas Grandes Indians and designs shared by the
Native American culture in the Southwest.
Before any of these collections came to San Jose, art buffs would
have to travel to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico City or Guadalajara to
find quality work.
In between galleries, I slipped into handicraft shops to browse
the exquisite beadwork of the Huichol Indians and wares from other
parts of Mexico.
Spying an amber shop, I ducked in to check out one of my favorite
gems. The rich, golden-hued stones were from Chiapas, one of two
places on the globe where it is mined. Amber perfume bottles and
small figurines stood out amid jewelry and prized pieces with
insects trapped inside, which command high prices. I bought a small
bottle of amber dust mixed with oil that was supposed to be good
for healing, which I later put in my travel kit, and also looked
over the striking hand-woven wall-hangings from Chiapas.
The stimulating Art Walk followed by a good meal at a restaurant
on the plaza erased the image of the suffering priest from my
Or maybe it was the amber oil.