Sunday, March 14, 2021

Two Arizona Missions - San Xavier del Bac and San Jose de Tumacacori

In 1692 Father Eusebio Francisco Kino established a series of Spanish Missions in the Sonoran Desert. Apache raids destroyed the original church here in 1770. The present church was built between 1783 and 1797 with the labor of the O'odham people in the area. During the ever-present wars, the last Franciscan left in 1837. The O'odham people managed to maintain the building until the annexation into the US in 1853 and it resumed services in 1859. In 1872 the Sister of St. Joseph opened a school there for local children and the Franciscans returned in 1913. Extensive restoration in the late 20th C has restored the church to its formal glory and it is beautiful. It is also known as The White Dove of the Desert. The San Xavier Festival is held the evening of the Friday after Easter and features a torch-light parade of tribal members.
San Xavier del Bac, The White Dove of the Desert

San Jose de Tumacacori is a different place altogether, but in a way, just as beautiful. It was established by the Jesuits in 1691 and destroyed during the O'odham rebellion in 1751. In 1757 this church was built but in 1841 it was abandoned. The Jesuits had been recalled to Spain in 1768. The roof fell and it was used as a shelter and campsite. In 1908 the process of restoration began but it is still only a shell of its former self. But very evocative and has been a canvas for many famous photographers. It is now part of the Tumacacori National Historical Park. Festivals are held here with its most famous the first full weekend in December with torchlight parades of the Todoma O'odham and Yachai tribal members, dances, and music.
San Jose de Tumacacori

The first of these we visited with Donna and Dick Swartz. Donna is a librarian and a student of history and the environment. She had an extensive understanding of this area and we were sorry not to stay longer and see more with her. More of our visit with her and Dick later. The second we saw with Bob and Lesa DeFeyter, our old friends of 50+ years who are now living full time in Green Valley. They come to this site often and spoke about the famous Marichi Mass in October with an elaborate procession of tribal members who welcome re-enactors wearing colonial-era costumes. 
We walked around both sites, not only the churches but the outbuildings, cemeteries, and of course museums and gift shops! At the latter church, we selected a picnic table in the sun and set up camp. Bob and Lesa had made guacamole and chips and Margaritas! After enjoying that we ordered dinners to take out from the Wisdom Cafe nearby. Scott and Bob picked them up and we all dove in. Delicious and a lovely setting for dinner (although I have to admit, quite cold). 
1897 Photo of San Xavier

Close-up of a section of the facade

The interior

A view up at the ceiling.
Sorry about the quality here. The
light was so bright. This is the snake
and mouse handle on the inside of
the door
The garden and chapel at San Xavier
Saint Kateri was the first Native American to be
declared a Saint, in 2012 - quite a story behind

The interior of San Jose de Tumacacori

You can see the thickness of the adobe walls and
the wood frames

Out buildings with late afternoon shadows

The patina of the walls was so beautiful, hard to convey in a photo.

This was supposedly a recreation of a typical O'odham home - not sure what period.

Lesa and Bob DeFeyter and Scott having our picnic at Tumacacori National Historic Site


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