Jim Pickell, 42, is an Internet tourism entrepreneur who runs baja.com., a comprehensive online source for firsthand travel information for Baja California. The Southern Californian moved to Todos Santos, Mexico – about an hour from Cabo San Lucas, in Baja California – a year ago, after spending five years in that area.
Q: The sound of wind is blowing into your telephone. Where are you right now?
At a little fruit smoothie place in Todos that opened a month or so ago. I’m exploring the patio where they’re putting in some sort of microbrewery. This is exactly the type of business my company ends up having relationships with – helping expose it as an interesting destination for tourists.
Todos is a small town with 50 or 60 restaurants; probably five are new each year. It’s a charming, artistic town, and art brings food. Going from being a corporate attorney or doctor doesn’t always translate to a lifestyle or owning a restaurant, but those making it through their first few seasons are often amazing.
Q: Your website fields questions about visiting Baja. What are people asking about? Safety?
By the time people get to us, they’ve already done a lot of research. Safety is an issue of visitor education and perception – the result of politics and the media. In reality, Venice Beach, Calif., is far more dangerous than Todos.
Many don’t understand that the Baja Peninsula is a huge place – an area as big as the state of California, and with an equal amount of things to see, touch, taste and feel. And nobody knows where to go.
Q: What brought you to Todos?
Todos is a special place – a “pueblo magico.” There are a little more than 50 of these “magic villages” in all of Mexico, and Todos is the only one in Baja now, though Loreto is being considered.
Q: Pueblo magico?
That’s a town with a certain level of preservation and which gets funding for that from the Mexican government. It has to have historical significance, some unique arts or architecture … there are a bunch of requirements. Tulum is one. Chichen Itza is another.
Back in ’83 or ’85, a well-known artist from Santa Fe, N.M., Charles Stewart, felt Santa Fe was getting too commercial, so he migrated to Todos. Many very well-known artists followed him, and the arts are flourishing here – from photography to painting. There’s a studio tour, a music festival – Peter Buck of REM played it on a volunteer basis.
So you have a very artistic community surrounded by a beautiful ocean. There are organic farms everywhere, with strawberries, herbs, mangos and more. Add yogis and surfers to the mix and it gets very diverse.