Baja California Sur’s glorious colonial past has made it a center for historical architecture and traditional art forms, and it’s also a great place for deep sea fishing and surfing. But the history of Mexico is a long, and complex tale, and Loreto in particular, has a fascinating story to tell.
The city was founded in 1697 at the Monqui settlement of Conchó, established by the Jesuit missionary Juan María de Salvatierra. After Hernán Cortés’ initial failed 1535 attempt to establish a colony in the Bay of Santa Cruz, the next 150 years were followed with many unsuccessful efforts to colonize Baja California.
But once it was colonised, Loreto served as the base for further expansion of the Jesuit mission system, first in south-central Baja California and then to more remote portions of the peninsula both to the north and to the south. The mission’s stone church, which still stands, was built in 1740.
While Loreto continued to be the headquarters even after the Jesuits were expelled from Baja California and replaced, first by the Franciscans in 1768 and then by the Dominicans in 1773.
The mission came to an end in 1829, by which time the native Indian population throughout Baja California Sur had literally disappeared.
Today, Loreto is a pretty small town with an excellent choice of hotels and some of the best restaurants around, and it’s a water-sports paradise, ripe for scuba diving. It’s also home to the magnificent Parque Nacional Bahía de Loreto, where the shoreline, ocean and offshore islands are protected from pollution and uncontrolled fishing.