I love visiting historical churches and Mission San Jose de Tumacacori is a beautiful example of a Southwest mission. It is located about 45 minutes south of Tucson and is operated by the National Park Service. In 1691 Jesuit Priest Eusebio Kino founded a mission nearby at an O’odham Indian village, the oldest mission site in Southern Arizona. In 1756 the first church was built here and in 1800 the present church. This site was on the route of the 1775-1776 Juan Bautista de Anza expedition, the first Spanish overland expedition from New Spain or Mexico to Alta California. Anza led a party of about 240 people to establish a settlement in San Francisco.
The Mission was abandoned by 1848 after the Mexican-American War. In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt declared it a National Monument and efforts began to restore the church and outer buildings. It was redesignated a National Historical Park when two other nearby mission ruins were added. The complex includes an historical adobe building housing a museum with exhibits and gift shop. We started our visit in the small museum – I liked this sign board explaining history of the tortilla.
After stepping outside onto the grounds near the church, we actually got to eat a homemade tortilla with beans prepared by a local woman. She rolled out flour tortillas by hand and baked them on a mesquite fueled grill. I got the photo below of Mark mid bite with his tortilla.
On the grounds is the heritage orchard with trees planted in the same area as the original orchard. A project was formed to find and propogate the oldest living fruit trees from historic orchards in the region. Communities were identified where fruit trees descended from mission orchards might still exist. Seeds, cuttings and grafts were collected from yards and orchards in Southern Arizona and Northern Sonora, Mexico with eleven fruit varieties collected. The trees planted here include apple, apricot, fig, olive, peach, pear, plum, pomegranate, quince, lime and orange. The photo below is from a blooming peach tree.
A pathway leads for a short walk to the Santa Cruz River, a lovely spot lined with huge cottonwood trees. Close to the river is the historic Anza trail where a four mile portion can still be walked from Tumacacori to the nearby town of Tubac. I would love to walk this trail if we return in the future. Rangers also conduct walks here during certain times of the year visiting the ruins of two other missions along the way.
Below is a side view of the church. An adobe wall surrounds the back and includes a small chapel and cemetery.
The inside is open to the public and is very atmospheric with its crumbling adobe brick walls.
Tumacacori is a very small town with only a few businesses including the Santa Cruz Chili & Spice Company, a small family owned shop. This is a favorite stop as they have an interesting assortment of spices, sauces, jams and honeys.
Although they feature a number of chile spice mixtures, they also have other spices and herb mixtures for cooking and baking. I was most interested in their cinnamon, as they have several kinds from different parts of the world. The great thing is one can sample most of the spices or herbs for sale, so I could pick out the best cinnamon and chile to buy. Mark and I really liked the prickly pear cactus candy.
After this “fragrant” stop, we headed to Tubac, a small town with a number of shops and galleries. Mark was not too enthralled with the shops, but I like these artsy kind of places and enjoy seeing things people have created. I was happy they had an RC Gorman studio as he is one of my favorite southwest artists.
As a Navajo painter, his works often included brightly colored images of Native American women. We visited his original gallery in Taos, New Mexico some years ago. The gallery owner here told us that one of his paintings hung in the White House dining room. With some birthday money I got a decorative tile from the gallery, pictured below.
We wandered around checking out the Tubac Art Center and several shops. Some of them had yards filled with decorative metal art, pottery and statues for sale. The owner at the Gorman gallery told us that there is no crime in Tubac and shop owners leave their wares outside and unsecured when the buildings are closed. He said some pieces like a sculpture outside the Gorman gallery are worth quite a bit of money but there are never any thefts. How encouraging in our modern age that a town can leave things as they are with no worries!
I hope you enjoyed a look at our day of exploring in Tumacacori and Tubac.
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