History and Highlights
Founded in 1724 as a visita and promoted to a full-fledged mission just nine years later, the story of Misión Santa Rosa de las Palmas begins about one mile (1.6 km) north of Todos Santos’ town center. Destroyed by revolting Pericú Indians and subsequently abandoned just a year after gaining mission status, the original site was reestablished as a mission the following year. During the period from 1735 to 1825, the mission’s population fluctuated as decreases resulting from Pericú attack casualties, escapes and a series of epidemics were offset by the forcible relocations of neophytes from other Baja Sur missions as they were closed. Finally, in 1840, an acceleration in the population’s decline led to the closure of the mission itself, less than 15 years after it was relocated to the central plaza in Todos Santos.
Thus a truly complete visit to the Misión Santa Rosa de las Palmas requires two stops at two wildly contrasting sites: the old mission ruins north of town, and the “modern” church on the plaza in the center of town.
The modern church – Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Todos Santos – gets the lion’s share of mission visitors thanks to its central location. Serving as Todos Santos’ principal parish since the closure of the mission in 1840, the church opens its doors to visitors most days. The original footprint of the church covers only the current vestibule and bell tower, so visitors entering through the main doors beneath the bell tower are passing through what were originally side doors. In 1967, the bright and simple modern-day nave was added, substantially boosting the church’s capacity, and reorienting the church to run perpendicular to the plaza instead of parallel to it. Although the original altar and choir loft remain in tact in the vestibule, the church’s star attraction is the Virgen del Pilar, a relic so important locally she merits an annual six-day festival, usually beginning on the first Friday of October.
A chapel, dating to 1970, marks the original site of the mission, tucked just off the highway in a residential neighborhood in Todos’ Santos northern fringes. In the immediate vicinity of the church, remnants of the original mission walls can be found as they form part of the infrastructure of some more modern buildings. By contrast to the relative bustle of the main church and town plaza, the few visitors who head to this site find a comparatively quiet and unspectacular experience – a treat in itself.
Who founded it?
The Jesuits, led by Father Sigismundo Taraval.
What should I expect to see?
The original church at the second site has been absorbed into the larger parish church of Todos Santos and is now the vestibule between the nave of the church and its main doors. Only remnants of the original site remain although a chapel, built in 1970, marks the site.
When should I go?
Any day is a fine day to visit. Mass is said Sunday at noon and 6pm. Festivities to honor the Virgen del Pilar begin on the first Friday of October and continue until the following Wednesday, making it an especially great time to visit.
Where is it and how do I get there?
Set your GPS coordinates to N 23° 27.62’ W 110° 13.12’. Coming from La Paz, turn left from Highway 19 a half-mile (800 m) past the Pemex as you enter Todos Santos to visit the original site. From central Todos Santos, it’s a right turn five-eighths of a mile (1 km) after the truck bypass (Ocampo). The second site and main church are found on the opposite side of Highway 19 one mile (1.6 km) to the south, on Todos’ Santos central plaza.
Why should I go?
Todos Santos is an eminently enjoyable town to visit and as one of the town’s most prominent buildings, the mission church is a must-see attraction for travelers perusing the downtown area.
Sidebar directions: The second site is just off Highway 19 in the middle of Todos Santos, facing the town’s main plaza. Head a mile (1.6 km) north and turn right to access the chapel at the original site.