Cave Paintings: The best-kept secret of Baja's Desert

Mireille Pasos


Baja California Sur (South Baja) is a fascinating region consisting of endless landscapes among which are found spectacular deserts with deep canyons and large plateaus that have remained intact, priceless evidence of a long history of colonization and survival.

This is "Arid America", a jealous guardian that still protects within its caves monumental and colorful rock paintings. These gorgeous archeological remains tell amazing stories about ancient societies composed of semi-nomadic warriors, hunters, fishermen and harvesters whose abundant populations dominated the bow, the arrow and the boomerang.

Cave PaintingsOver 200 archaeological sites have been found along the California Peninsula territory. These sites are keepers of precious cave paintings, most of them representing human figures (anthropomorphic), while others represent sea-animal figures such as various fish, manta rays, sea lions and whales. Among these paintings there have been also found other animals like deer, rams, snakes, hares and mountain lions. Generally these figures have a fairly simple outline and they are colored mainly with red, black and yellow tones.

Sierra de San FranciscoWhen looking carefully at these impressive works of art thousands of years old, it becomes obvious that their creators reproduced in them the environment in which they lived, recognizing the importance of nature for their survival and well-being as a civilization, a concept often forgotten, unfortunately, by our modern societies.

Nowadays, faraway territories located in the environs of towns like Mulege, Santa Rosalia, Loreto, La Paz and Todos Santos, are silent witnesses to a story that began to be written more than 8,000 years ago, which tells us this was probably one of the most ancient civilizations on the continent, and the origin of the following tribes: the Pericues, Cochimies and Guaycuras. These gorgeous cave paintings are of the utmost importance as a cultural heritage since they confirm there was human presence in Baja much earlier than was previously believed.

Arid AmericaUnfortunately very little is known about these fascinating paintings, since it was barely 20 years ago that they started to be systematically studied. However, we do know they are spread along 7.5 square miles in the central region of the California Peninsula, and the epicenter is located at the Sierra de San Francisco. This place has extensive canyons that protect one of the largest and most enigmatic complexes of cave paintings in the world. This is why it was declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is also worth mentioning that only in Australia have cave paintings with similar characteristics to those in Baja been found.

By recommendation of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), those archaeological sites open to the public may be visited only if accompanied by an authorized tour guide. One of the most suggested places to visit is definitely the Sierra de San Francisco where one can tour along three impressive caves: La Cueva del Raton (Cave of the Mouse), La Cueva Pintada (Painted Cave), and La Cueva de las Flechas (Cave of the Arrows).

BajaVisiting these enigmatic caves is to get in touch with a world and a civilization that will never die, since they have left us an indestructible legacy of culture and history, painted on rock. When visiting Los Cabos, do not let the chance of discovering the best-kept secret of the California Peninsula pass you by.