The High Plains Drifters and our friends set out on a day trip south of Tucson last week to look at the artsy crafty treasures to be found in the town of Tubac, “Where History and Art Meet”, located about half way between Tucson and the Mexican/U.S. border town Nogales.
The real treasure we found – where art and history really do meet -- was in the Mission San Xavier Del Bac on the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation, not far from Tucson. The Tohono O’odham, meaning ‘desert people’ is the name of the Native Americans who populate the Sonoran Desert in southeast Arizona and northwest Mexico.
The present structure was built between 1783 and 1797, long before the area was to come under U.S. control as a result of the Gadsden Purchase in 1853.
The Mission was founded by Jesuit Father Eusebio Francisco Kino nearly a century before this structure was started. Kino, born in what is now Italy, joined the Spanish order and was assigned to Spain’s Colony in Mexico. History considers him both priest and explorer, as he made some 40 expeditions into the area now known as Arizona and others up the Baja before his death in 1711 in Sonora.
The missionaries were forced to leave San Xavier in 1828 but returned in 1911- a year before Arizona attained its statehood.
This Kino Mission is the only one in the nation still active in preaching to the Tohono O’odham.
The mission’s Spanish mission architecture – the domes, carvings, flying buttresses distinguish it from other Spanish missions. It is called “The White Dove of the Desert”.
If You Go:
The Mission is 9 miles south of Tucson, off Interstate 19, exit 92 on San Xavier Road. Hours: Daily 7 – 5 Mission (no photos allowed during services) Museum daily 8 – 4:30 p.m. No admission fee for either; donations welcomed.
And Down the Road. . .
Just south of Tubac (exit 29 off Interstate 19) is Tumacacori National Historical Park where you’ll find the abandoned Mission San Jose de Tumacacori – visited by Kino in 1691. It was after the King of Spain expelled the Jesuits, replacing them with Franciscans that the work was started on the massive adobe church that was never completed and ultimately abandoned in 1848. It is also worth a visit.
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