Tubac and Tumacacori


©JAL 1999

Jesuit Eusebio Kino and his party approached the Pima settlement of Tumacacori in January 1691 and founded the mission on the east bank of the Santa Cruz river. The Spanish were using Indians for forced labor in mines and on ranches, therefore Pimas southwest of Tumacacori rebelled in 1751. As a result, a 50-man presidio was founded at Tubac, and the mission was resettled on the west bank of the river. The remains of Tubac are now mostly subsurface. There is a historical museum there, at Arizona's first state park which was established 1959.

Kino was clever to mix practical help of introducing wheat, livestock and fruit trees, along with the church ritual, pagentry and dogma. The Pima, being agricultural, were more readily 'tamed'. However the Apache were not at all receptive to having Spanish ways of structuring behavior forced on them. They constantly attacked and raided the outpost until late in the 19th century.

But the Pimas quickly learned new farming techniques. Converted Pimans were assigned the responsible positions of dispensing foods for daily use, farming tools and seeds for planting.

Work on the mission you see above was begun in 1800, under direction of a master mason and a crew of Indian and Spanish laborers. 1828 saw the final phase of construction. Vast quanties of white limestone plaster was needed to cover the church, outbuildings and walls. The quarrying, transporting, and burning of the limestone was a major undertaking involving many workers.

Financial aid from Spain ceased with Mexican Independence in 1821, and when all native Spainards were expelled from Mexico in 1828, Tumacacori's last resident priest was forced to leave. Over the next twenty years, Apache raids increased and the nearby garrison provided little protection. The few Mexican priests tried to maintain it, yet, in 1848 war with Mexico cut the flow of supplies to the area. Apache attacks were stepped up, and the winter was one of the coldest on record. In December 1848, soldiers abandoned Tubac and the last residents left Tumacacori. Finally in 1853, Tubac and Tumacacori became part of the United States, after the Gadsden Purchase.


©JAL 1999

But for many years, this bell rang, calling the people to come. What awaited them, upon entrance into the mission?


©JAL 1999

The interior was designed to impress the native minds. The Franciscans, who took over, after the Jesuits were expelled, aimed to match the frontier baroque glory of San Xavier del Bac, not far to the north. It had an embellished and painted facade and plaster walls imbedded with crushed red brick. The interior was even more colorful, especially the sanctuary and altar. As one entered the 75-foot nave, the choir loft was directly overhead. The baptistry was in a domed room beneath the bell tower. On the walls, the rich imagery of Catholicism - Mexican baroque statuary, paintings of the apostles, carvings depicting the Stations of the Cross, symbols of the Virgin Mary - was designed to capture the imagination of converts to the faith. Every attempt was made to impress them. When the adults turned a deaf ear, the children were sought out for teaching. The recruited students were rewarded for the expected answers.


©JAL 1999

We noticed this perch midway from the ground to the ceiling. The priest no doubt spoke from here, in an attempt to make him seem closer to the heavens.


exiting the mission
©JAL 1999

"Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense and understanding" --MARTIN LUTHER -
( from a book of quotes compiled by Leo Rosten)

Shocking statement, that, and to what extent did the zealous work to achieve those ends? The annals of history are filled with horrendous tales of their efforts. No doubt other Native Americans fared far worse than the Pimas, such as those that received tainted blankets.

How badly we need reason, sense and understanding! May learning and wisdom both increase.

More Adventures in Arizona?
Photo Index
Home