Art Walk

Los Cabos exposes its artistic side

By: Patricia Alisau

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, though.)

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 mind.

Or maybe it was the amber oil.