The Festivals of Todos Santos: 2014

By Todos Santos Eco Adventures

2013 was an incredibly exciting year for festivals in Todos Santos, with truly great bands playing at the Music Festival, thrilling films and directors showing at the Film Festival, fabulous vintners and restaurants delighting at the GastroVino Festival, incredibly talented riders dazzling at the Horse Festival, and terrific artisans, artists and musicians entertaining at the Arts Festival. 2014 is shaping up to be an equally exciting year of celebration in Todos Santos, and following is a list of festivals currently planned for 2014. For more in-depth coverage of these events, their organizers and other Todos Santos happenings, be sure to check out Wendy Rains’ weekly radio program Todos Santos Tonight, as well as Janice Kinne’s magazine, Journal del Pacifico. Please be sure to confirm dates for festivals before you book your tickets as organizers sometimes must change dates.


Todos Santos Music Festival 

  • Date: January 16-18; January 22-25, 2014
  • Organizer:  Hotel California and friends
  • Details: Confirmed bands include the Twin Tones, Dream Syndicate, Minus 5, Torreblanca, Kev’n Kenney’s Drivin’ N’ Cryin’, El Gallo Negro. All shows will be in the Hotel California with the exception of the show on the 25th, which will be in the town plaza.
  • Why It’s Fun: Peter Buck of REM conceived of and curates this event. Not only does he play with the Minus 5, he invites his musician buddies from the US and Mexico to come play to raise money for the Palapa Society and other Todos Santos charities. It’s a lot of great music flowing through the streets for nights on end – nothing but fun!
  • Inception: 2012


Todos Santos Art Festival /
Festival del Arte de Todos Santos
  • Date: February 1-8, 2014
  • Organizer: Jorge Barajas
  • Why it’s fun: It’s a week-long celebration of Mexican culture that typically features live music, dance and theatre performances, painting and drawing exhibitions, lectures on local environmental and social issues, piano and poetry recitals and lots more. Artisans from different parts of Mexico also set up shop next to the church to sell their crafts. Diverse, fun and engaging.
  • Inception: 1997
  • Special Note: The Todos Santos Open Artist Studio Tour will be held on February 9, just after the art festival. 35 studios participated in 2013 and mediums included oils, pastels, watercolors, mixed media, encaustic, ceramics, sculpture and photography. Proceeds go to the Children’s Art project of the Palapa Society.


Todos Santos Film Festival / El Festival de Cine de Todos Santos 

  • Dates: February 20-26, 2014
  • Organizer: Sylvia Perel, director of the San Francisco Latino Film Festival and the Latino Festival of Redwood City, California.
  • Benefits: Youth in Video program, teaching the children of the Todos Santos area about film making.
  • Why it’s fun: This fantastic festival brings together a terrific selection of feature films, documentaries and shorts from across Mexico and Latin America that many folks would otherwise never have the opportunity to see. Many well-known film directors attend to present their films and lead audience discussions. Great event!
  • Inception: 2004


Todos Santos Hummingbird Festival

  • Date: May 11, 2014
  • Organizers: ProFaunaBaja and Todos Santos Eco Adventures, supported by a grant from Western Hummingbird Partnership / Klamath Bird Observatory
  • Benefits: Environmental education for the children of Todos Santos
  • Why it’s fun: We’ll be celebrating both the endemic and migratory birds of Baja California Sur! There will be workshops by non-profit environmental organizations and local artisans and craftsmen, as well as a photo contest, children’s art contest, lots of great food and plenty of good music. We will be presenting the results of our citizen scientist hummingbird study, and Dr. Esmé F. Hennessy M.Sc., Ph.D., F.L.S. a published botanist from University of Natal, South Africa,will be the keynote speaker at the festival.  Other speakers will include local ornithologists from CIBNOR, UABCS, and CICESE.
  • Inception: 2014


GastroVino Festival de Todos Santos

  • Date: May 24-25, 2014
  • Organizers: Perla Garnica and Mac Sutton of La Bodega de Todos Santos
  • Benefits: Silent auctions of previous years have benefitted the local orphanage and the Todos Santos fire department.
  • Why it’s fun: It’s a wonderful celebration of the food and wines of Baja California – and you get to indulge in plenty of both! It’s a great opportunity to get to know local chefs from Todos Santos (and their food) and wine makers from both Todos Santos (yeah, we got that!) and Baja’s Valle de Guadalupe wine-growing region (and their wines). Terrific live music performances throughout the day. It’s fabulous!
  • Inception: 2012


Mango Festival y Fiestas de San Ignacio en Todos Santos 

  • Date: July 31-August 3, 2014
  • Organizers: Todos Santos Pueblo Magico
  • Why it’s fun: Ripe, juice mangoes everywhere! There’s also dancing in the town square, polka bands, a parade of horsemen (cabalgata), folkloric ballet, artisan products, coronation of the Mango Festival Queen and much more. Lots of fun for the family.
  • Inception: 2007


Festival del Dia de Nuestra Señora del Pilar / Todos Santos Foundation Festival

  • Date: Our saint’s day is October 12, and there are usually 5 days of celebration around then. Details when available.
  • Why It’s Fun: It’s a celebration of the founding of Todos Santos and our patron saint, Pilar. Lots of music, dancing, regional foods, arts and more. There is typically a parade of horsemen and a wonderful horse show October 13 and 14. Great time for the whole family.


Festival L’amour á la française / “An Eternal Theme to Live and Make Known French Love!”

  • Date: November 5-9, 2014
  • Organizers: Delphine Depardieu, Alain Depardieu, Alain Rocca
  • Why it’s fun:  The organizers are promising “movies, champagne, food, fashion and luxury”, and what’s not fun about that?! Movies by great film makers such as Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Lelouch, Christian Vincent, and Jane Campion will be featured, with stars such as Brigitte Bardot, Anouk Aimee, Fanny Ardant and Sophie Marceau gracing the big screen at Teatro Manuel Márquez de León. Champagne tastings, French food explorations, and fashions shows are all part of the 4 days of festivities.
  • Inception: 2014


EcoExpo 2014

  • Date: Sunday, November 16, 2014
  • Organizer: WildCoast / Costasalvaje Todos Santos Chapter
  • Why It’s Fun: It’s a celebration of the natural patrimony of Todos Santos and Baja California Sur, and environmental organizations from across the state will be hosting fun and interactive programs for local kids on conserving Baja’s ecosystems.
  • Inception: 2014


Other Festivals

There is also an annual Chili and Strawberry Festival in late March/early April in Pescadero, an annual Baja Reggae Festival at Los Cerritos Beach in April (or so), and there’s even a Shark Festival in November. And that’s just the festivals! Please feel free to contact us to learn more about the many interesting/exciting/engaging events organized in town each year – and to plan your adventures to accompany them. Todos Santos Eco Adventures.

© Copyright Sergio and Bryan Jauregui, Casa Payaso S de RL de CV, 2014

The Saints of Todos Santos: Equestrienne Kaia

by Todos Santos Eco Adventures

This article on Hollywood horse champion Kaia Thomson is the third in our series, The Saints of Todos Santos, which profiles some of the people who help put that spark of magic into our pueblo magico.

Queens may come and go, but queen-makers are a special force to be reckoned with, and Kaia Thomson has made 14 queens…so far. In 2005 Kaia was running a 55-acre ranch with 60 horses where she had trained 12 Gymkhana champions and 14 rodeo queens, including Brandy De Jongh, Miss Rodeo America 2000.  She was at the top of her game in the horse world with students, horses in training and competing. Then she decided to move to Todos Santos. “It was my 50th birthday and I decided that I just had to move to Mexico with my horses. All my friends thought I was crazy, but I wanted to do something radical. I just had to do it.” So she did. She finished out the year on her ranch and arrived in Todos Santos in December 2005 with 3 horses and the remains of her worldly possessions. It’s now hard to imagine what the town would be like without Kaia and her incredible skills as a teacher, rider, trainer, naturalist and photographer.

Kaia Demonstrating Her Skill at a Reined Cow Horse Competition

Kaia is one of the most down-to-earth people you’re likely to meet in this life. A characteristic that is not explained by the fact that Kaia is a true Hollywood gal who grew up under the Hollywood sign, spent a lot of time on Hollywood Boulevard and had her first horseback riding lesson at the age of 4 at Sunset Ranch Hollywood Stables. She went to Hollywood High School with many (now famous) stars and worked at a tack shop where she regularly rubbed shoulders with the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Sam Shephard, Richard Farnsworth, and Juice Newton. She worked for Glen Randall who trained Roy Rogers’ horse Trigger (“he said Trigger was the smartest horse he ever met – he could recognize over 100 words and cues”)  as well as with Glen’s protégés Rex Peterson and Bobby Lovegren who trained horses for movies such as Black Beauty, Hidalgo, Zorro, and The Horse Whisperer. She ponied horses for Laz Barrera, renowned trainer of Affirmed (the last horse to win the Triple Crown) and worked alongside many champions on race days at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Del Mar racetracks. She rode a horse named Madrid, a grandson of Bold Ruler – Secretariat’s sire – and trained, competed and won in dressage, jumping and showmanship. She traded a saddle for a mule in the Sierra Nevada’s and competed on mules for over 16 years. She saw a Reined Cowhorse Show in Las Vegas in 1989, and soon became a regular on the National Reined Cow Horse Association circuit. She trained with Teddy Robinson, the world’s greatest Reined Cow Horse champion, and acquired the exceptional horse skills required to rein, cut and work cattle in competition. Kaia thrived on the perfect complement of sportsmanship, connection and discipline that horse competition in all its variety demanded. Then she fell in love.

Silver Drift, a dorsal-striped dun charmer affectionately known as Fourteen, was Kaia’s equine soul mate, the greatest horse she ever owned. She got him in 1996, and loved to gather cattle and team rope with him. “Roping on 14 was like riding on mashed potatoes with extra butter…everyone wanted me to head for them!”  They had a great partnership and he helped her train some of those rodeo queens on her ranch. “Then on a Friday the 13th in 1999, he was just playing in his paddock and broke his leg. We had to put him down. I was devastated. It almost made me quit horses altogether. To distract me, some friends took me to Catalina Island to go scuba diving, and I was completely hooked. I went all the way through instructor and about 20 specialty courses, mainly because I loved being able to engage in one of my great passions – photography – under water. This is what led me to Baja because in 2000 I came to La Paz for my birthday to go scuba diving in the Sea of Cortez – which I even did once in my birthday suit! I absolutely loved it and started coming back 2 to 3 times every year to dive. On one of these trips it was too windy to dive so a friend suggested that we check out this little town called Todos Santos. When I got here I realized that I’d seen all this lush greenness in the desert several times from the air. I loved it.”

Kaia Jumping

While it seemed like a wild decision to walk away from the incredible life that she’d built in the horse world in the U.S., Mexico was a natural fit. “Mexico is founded on ranchero culture – horses, mules, burros – all used for transport and working the ranch. Mexicans are very proud of their horse heritage. The Criollos, the local horses, can all trace their lineage back to the horses that Hernán Cortés brought to Mexico over 500 years ago and turned loose before heading back to Spain. Mexico now even has its own official breed of horse, the Española, a cross between Andalusians and quarter horses. This mixture is meant to create the ultimate caballo de charro or rodeo horses, and they’ve been pretty successful with this.”

“The horse community here has been so welcoming to me. My horse buddies and I are always invited to ride in the cabalgatas (horse parades or trail rides) and these are an enormous amount of fun. These are often 2 days and 1 night, and will have over 200 riders on horses, burros and mules. There are around 30 cabalgatas a year in the little towns around southern Baja, and the one we participate in the most ends in an extravaganza at the stadium in Todos Santos where the Escaramuza ladies put on a great show. These are young women who ride in a drill team style formation at a full gallop to emulate the women of the revolution who would put on their colorful adelitas – pretty dresses with full flowing skirts – and head out on horseback to attract the men of the enemy. When the men got into firing range the escaramuzas would sling the hidden rifles off their shoulders and aid the rest of the army with the task at hand. Lots of the local cowboys also do horse dancing and trick riding. We also get invited to a lot of the horse races on straight tracks that are held in all the different towns. After the “fancy” horses run, sometimes my students will ride one of my horses in the races – we’ve actually won 6 out of 7!”

Heri and Javier at an Internado Competition

One of the reasons the local horse community is so fond of Kaia is because of her work with the Internado, the boarding house for ranch kids who come to Todos Santos to go to school. Each year the Internado has an Annual Open House to raise funds, and Kaia trains the Internado students for 2 months to prepare them for the competition that they put on as part of the fundraiser. Past events have included simulating ranch tasks like catching a chicken, roping a cow, and “killing” a bandito with a machete, all from the back of a galloping horse (chicken/cow/bandito dummies used), as well as barrel racing and cavalry-style carousels. Throughout the rest of the year Kaia sponsors the Internado kids to come to her place once a week to go riding and work the horses with her.

The Internado students are not the only ones who benefit from Kaia’s generosity with her talents. For each edition of the town’s local magazine, El Calendario, Kaia – a “self-appointed naturalist” – donates two pages of her amazing photographs which document the wild beauty of the flora and fauna of Baja. She also usually contributes an article or two on local businesses, people of note, or natural history. “I always completely embrace wherever I am. I’ve been fewer places than some people, but I know a great deal about many aspects of those few places and I love sharing that knowledge.”

Luckily for the people of Todos Santos, residents and visitors alike, Todos Santos is one of those few places where Kaia has chosen to shine her light and share her knowledge. She has a really fun place where you can train in dressage, jumping and gymkhana. Or you can just go on a Todos Santos Eco Adventures sunset ride with Kaia, and ask her about endemic bird species…or the life spans of local cactus… or Mexican charro rodeo regulations…or whale shark feeding habits in the Sea of Cortez….or the beauty secrets of rodeo queens…or what it really feels like to be an American cowgirl living in a magic Mexican village.

Kaia with Friends in Todos Santos

© Copyright Sergio and Bryan Jauregui, Casa Payaso S de RL de CV, 2011