Happy Tuesday guys! It’s a lovely day here in the desert – chilly by our standards, but a veritable oasis compared to the rest of the country. Times like these make me super grateful I live here; exploring local treasures just makes me grateful to be alive and able (smile).
So if you haven’t noticed, I have a thing for places of worship, particularly churches. It doesn’t matter if it’s a soaring cathedral or a humble church, I find them all fascinating. The only exception to this being the new pre-fab buildings and/or strip mall “churches” that are so popular these days – no originality there. Anyway, suffice it to say that if there’s one in the vicinity, I want to check it out! (One day I’ll even make my photography book…) Needless to say, when I happened across Tumacácori National Historic Park a couple of weeks ago, I immediately planned a trip down to check out this 17th century Mission.
Jesuit Eusebio Francisco Kino founded Mission San Cayetano de Tumacácori on the east bank of the Santa Cruz river in 1691. Established one day before the nearby Mission Los Santos Angeles de Guevavi, Tumacácori is the oldest Jesuit mission site in southern Arizona.
After the Pima Revolt in 1751, where Indians killed two priests and more than 100 settlers as well as several mission buildings, the site was temporarily abandoned. In 1753, Tumacácori was moved to the west bank of the river and renamed San Jose de Tumacácori.
The church you can see now was begun in the 1800s by Fray Narciso Gutierrez, but the mission’s poverty and the Mexican wars for independence slowed construction. Sadly, by 1848, the mission was abandoned and began falling into disrepair. Restoration efforts began in 1908 when the site was declared a national monument by Theodore Roosevelt. It became a part of the Tumacácori National Historic Park in 1990.
This site exceeded my expectations. I’ve become so accustomed to barriers and “do not touch” signs that it was a very pleasant surprise to have (relatively) free reign to roam around and explore at Tumacácori. The staff at the visitor’s center was so very nice and offered me a “loaner” copy of the self-guided tour book. Located in a somewhat remote location, there were more visitors than I expected, but not so many that I couldn’t enjoy the peace and quiet. The grounds are well kept and the day I visited there were a couple local artisans demonstrating their skills on site (including homemade tortillas – yum!). I felt that the self-guided book was fairly sufficient for my purposes, but I think if I ever go back I’ll be on board for the guided version. Apparently, there are also other portions of the park as a larger whole that are available only through scheduled tours – adding that to the “well I wouldn’t mind…” list! (smile)
Tumacácori is located off of Exit 29 of I-19, 45 miles south of Tucson and 18 miles north of Nogales, Arizona. The park is open from 9am – 5pm every day, except Thanksgiving and Christmas Days. Admission is $3 per person.