Sacred Places

Tumacácori

I am not a fan of missionaries who come into a functioning community and tell the people that their religion is wrong. However,  Father Kino is one of my  heroes. In addition to a new religion, this Jesuit priest brought new seeds, fruits, grains and cattle, a new language and architecture to the native people. (Did they need them? No comment.) He did not believe in enslaving people and with their help, he established 24 missions in Mexico and southern Arizona in 24 years.  He died in 1711. Tumacacori Mission, just south of Tucson, Az., was established in 1691. Did he do  good? I can’t judge.  But I think he did less damage than some of the other missionaries.  Also, the Indians did benefit from the new foods.

The Jesuit order didn’t last in Arizona and the mission at Tumacacori was overshadowed by the  successful mission at San Xavier del Bac outside Tucson.  However,  when the Jesuits left,  the Franciscans took over Tumacacori and the construction of the current  church was begun in 1799. There was not enough money to complete the church as originally planned but  a Spanish and Indian crew were able to start the 5′ thick walls  which they brought up to 7′. The two planned bell towers were reduced to one and a flat roof covered the nave. The sanctuary dome was completed.  The walls were raised to 14′ high after 1821.

Life didn’t get better for the mission. There were revolts, epidemics, expulsions and an influx of outsiders.   The last priest left in 1828; local parishioners kept the mission going until Apache attacks forced them to evacuate.

In 1848, the Mexican-American war added more stress: interrupted supply routes, Apache raids,  then, a severe winter. The adobe church fell into ruin. An earthquake in 1887 didn’t help.

Luckily,   60 years later  Tumacacori  was saved when President Theodore Roosevelt declared the site National Monument and preservation began.

But some preservation is almost worse than no preservation. Early efforts had to be redone later as the science of renovation advanced.

In 1990 Tumacacori became a National Historic Park and now covers 360 acres. It includes a riparian area and mesquite bosque along the Santa Cruz River.  Interested in birds. . .you can find 200 plus species there plus a good assortment of mammals and plants.