The Production of Space in the Upper Santa Cruz Valley
The book you hold in your hands is a "history" in the sense that it chronicles and interprets social change through time, in this case the creation and destruction of human communities in the Upper Santa Cruz River Valley of southern Arizona from Mission Tumacácori to Rio Rico. Time, after all, has long been the primary analytical axis of our relentlessly teleological Western civilization. Whether we talk about Christian theology, evolutionary psychology, dialectical materialism, or modernization theory, our storylines demand change, evolution, progress through time. We are advancing toward something, a goal, an end, a culmination. The cultural webs we spin are linear, not cyclical. Even critical theorists who challenge deterministic ideologies embrace history. "It is precisely the critical and potentially emancipatory value of the historical imagination, of people 'making history' rather than taking it for granted, that has made it so compulsively appealing," geographer Edward Soja writes. "The development of critical social theory has revolved around the assertion of a mutable history against perspectives and practices that mystify the changeability of the world" (Soja 1989:14).
As Soja points out, however, our scholarly obsession with time "submerges and peripheralizes the geographical or spatial imagination" (Soja 1989:15). The spatiality of social life is often overlooked by our linear focus upon sequence and cause and effect. "Space was treated as the dead, the fixed, the undialectical, the immobile," Michel Foucault, talking about Western intellectual traditions, noted in an interview. "Time, on the contrary, was richness, fecundity, life, dialectic" (Foucault 1980:70).
To restore balance, critical geographers shift attention from time to the other defining axis of human social life: space. "The constitution of society is spatial and temporal, social existence is made concrete in geography and history," Soja (1989:127) notes. Such a statement seems straightforward and intuitively appealing. But when Soja and others talk about the "production of space," a major theme in critical geography since the publication of Henri Lefebvre's seminal work of the same name in 1974, they confound our commonsensical assumptions. Space, after all, is a void to be filled or a gap to be bridged. We can study things in space, but how can space itself be produced? It sounds like a question for physicists, not social scientists.
Let us begin to answer that question by taking a drive from Tucson to Nogales, Arizona, through the Upper Santa Cruz Valley, the geographical and intellectual terrain of this study. First of all, we are traveling by car, a manufactured space that surrounds and separates us from the natural environment. Whether we are aware of them or not, our automobile enmeshes us in a complex web of global interrelationships ranging from holes in the ozone layer to wars in the Middle East. No other technological invention since the railroad has transformed space in the American West more profoundly. Automobiles dictate the shape and density of our cities, the quality of our air, the spatial patterns of our neighborhoods, and the location of our workplaces. Originally, the floodplain of the Santa Cruz River bisected the Santa Cruz Valley in a roughly south-to-north direction. The floodplain still exists, even though flow in the river is largely artificial, fed by wastewater from Nogales. But the most important bisection now is Interstate 19, which, speeds us back and forth between Tucson and Ambos Nogales (Nogales Arizona and much larger Nogales, Sonora),  usually in air-conditioned isolation with the sounds of norteña, hip-hop, or country-western immersing us in worlds far-removed from the desert landscape receding away from us.
Once we reach Nogales, the freeway intersects with another social construction of space, the international border between Mexico and the United States. That border surges with unimaginable energy, the pent-up frustrations and aspirations of Latin America slamming against the barriers of surveillance that try to contain them. The natural unity of the Upper Santa Cruz watershed has been drawn and quartered, first by an imaginary line signifying conquest and national sovereignty, second by an artery of transportation designed to link the two nations together. These two perpendicular constructions, both projections of state power, overwhelm any natural feature of the valley itself.
The border and the freeway also express and enable the relentless power of capital to fragment and reconnect, create and destroy. If you were to compare aerial panoramas of the Santa Cruz Valley in 1950 and 2000, the contrasts would astound you. The differences would be particularly dramatic between Sahuarita and Canoa Ranch, a stretch of the valley striking in its spatial schizophrenia. On the west, partially obliterating the Sierrita Mountains, great slagheaps rise like Aztec pyramids. Behind them, hidden from view, huge machines searching for tiny traces of copper spiral deeper into the earth, disgorging the subterranean. The slag heaps did not begin to pile up on the western horizon until the 1950s, a decade when Arizona barreled from its extractive past into its urban future with accelerating speed. Nonetheless, the slag heaps stand as mute testimony to relations of production rooted in an era when extractive industries like copper mining, cattle ranching, and cotton farming dominated the state (Sheridan 1995).
To the east, on the other hand, islands of red-tiled roofs creep up the bajada of the Santa Rita Mountains. Green Valley is one of the most successful examples of an entirely new social spaceone not even envisioned until the late 1950s. The postwar economic expansion of the United States intersected with the aging of America's population to create a new class of consumers"active seniors" freed from the constraints of living out their old ages near their children. Responding to this latent demand, retirement communities like Green Valley sprouted fully formed, age-restricted, architecturally uniform. This peculiarly American phenomenonone symbiotically associated with the country club and golf course cultflourished in the Arizona sunshine precisely because the invention of air-conditioning kept the desert heat at bay in homes, businesses, and automobiles. The industrial spaces of the modern copper industry and the residential and recreational spaces of Green Valleynot to mention the cool green of Farmer Investment Company's (FICO) pecan groves, the largest pecan farm in the United Statesform a startlingly dissonant geographic ensemble that embodies many of the most dynamic trends of capitalist development in Arizona during the past century.
When we drive south from Green Valley, however, the natural landscape is less fragmented, the social spaces sloppier and more jumbled. The arts and retirement community of Tubac does not have the same architectural homogeneity of Green Valley, although it clearly aspires to Santa Fe status with a dash of Sonoran style. Just to the south but difficult to see from the freeway, Tumacácori National Historical Park appears as an anachronistic oasis amidst a floodplain cluttered with houses, trailers, and small stores. The small community of Carmen has a messy, lived-in feeling missing from Tubac or Green Valley. No dominant entities or enterprises tie this stretch of the Upper Santa Cruz Valley together. Even the real estate development of Rio Rico, with its network of eroding roads and scattered houses climbing the foothills of the San Cayetano Mountains, conveys little sense of grandiosity or hubris. The swampland swagger of Gulf American and GAC (formerly General Acceptance Corporation), its original developers, dried up and blew away decades ago.
Hidden by this hodgepodge are more than three centuries of speculative failure, of grand designs that never amounted to much but left dispossessed people in their wake. One of the major goals of this book is to excavate those failures, to examine the new social spaces they struggled to create and the existing social spaces they destroyed. Lefebvre argues that every society produces its own space containing both the social relations of reproduction and production. And when a society imposes itself on another, the spaces it produces interpenetrate, shove aside, or shatter the spaces of the people already living there. The production of space, then, is as much about the production, reproduction, and destruction of relations of power as it is about the physical manifestations of those relations between people, legal systems, and nations.
By way of illustration, let us briefly consider the first grand design explored in this book. Before it became a romantic icon of the past, Mission Tumacácori was a theocratic vision of communal order imposed upon the O'odham Indians living in the Upper Santa Cruz Valley. That vision of Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries was accompanied by the endeavors of Hispanic frontiersmen striving to create their own social spaces of ranchos and presidio within a hierarchical and bureaucratic colonial system. Apache hostilities prevented the Spanish frontier from expanding beyond the Santa Cruz Valley, making the colonial enterprise a tenuous affair, a series of advances and retreats, expansions and contractions (Officer 1987). Meanwhile, the Western and Chiricahua Apaches were aggressively pushing southward, generating their own spaces of refuges and raiding corridors in the surrounding mountains (Sheridan in press). Contesting geographies overlapped as Athabaskans from the north and Hispanics from the south collided in O'odham territory. Viewed from the perspective of the Spanish empire, you could say that the colonial production of space in Arizona was continually being shot full of holes.
Nonetheless, the creation of mission, ranches, and presidio fragmented O'odham society along axes of both space and time. In chapters two through five, I discuss how the O'odham world of autonomous communities moving across the landscape in seasonal rounds was reduced to a mission world of subordination and circumscription. O'odham hunting and gathering were discouraged. O'odham ritual space was suppressed. O'odham fields were divided into individual fields and mission fields, where the O'odham were supposed to labor three days a week to produce surpluses controlled by the missionaries, not them. The very concept of "week" itself was a foreign construction, a European partition of time that reflected missionary demands, not natural cycles. As Lefebvre notes, "The adoption of another people's gods always entails the adoption of their space and system of measurement" (Lefebvre 1991:111).
Lefebvre (1991) offers a "conceptual triad" consisting of spatial practice, representations of space, and representational spaces. Let us apply that triad to Mission Tumacácori, starting with the representations of space Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries brought with them to the Arizona frontier. The spatial practices they struggled to instill among the O'odham reflected a vertical ideology of sacred power based upon Roman Catholic theology and Western European absolutism. Fundamental was the concept of Ambos MajestadesBoth Majesties, God and king. Ritual and political authority flowed from the top down through a social hierarchy ordained by God. The O'odham, in contrast, believed that authority emanated from the community through consensus, not coercion.
I tell my students never to confuse missions with churches, because missions were all-encompassing programs of directed culture change designed to transform the ways Native peoples lived as well as how and where they worshipped. But the mission church of Tumacácoria representational space according to Lefebvre's triadembodied and enshrined the ideology of power permeating every daily practice of mission life. The master builders and their Franciscan overseers operated according to a representation of space that guided the planning and construction of the church itself. Based upon geometric principles that had been passed down as esoteric knowledge for six thousand years, their representation provided a template determining the proportions of the building, the relation of parts to whole. Those proportions, rooted in ancient astronomical observations, reflected the divine order of the universe. All details from the width of the nave to the arrangement of the façade in churches like San Xavier del Bac were charged with sacred meaning (Schuetz-Miller 2003).
A chronic shortage of funds and skilled artisans repeatedly comprised the building of San José de Tumacácori. As a result, the church fell short of the neo-Platonic ideals lodged in the minds of its builders. But the structure still draws your attention forward and upward, as it was designed to do. As the O'odham neophytes entered through the church's portal and walked into the nave, where they would have stood or kneeled, the sanctuary at the other end of the church would have captured their attention. The focal point of any Catholic church, the sanctuary with its statuary and candles is the most sacred of interior sacred spaces, the section of the church where the priest presides and the consecrated hosts reside in the tabernacle above the altar. The retablo, or carved wood altarpiece, long ago dismantled or destroyed,  would have swept the gaze of the O'odham heavenward into the celestial space created by the dome above the sanctuary. The original plan called for a cruciform church with vaulted transepts and a vaulted nave as well, but those plans had to be simplified as the missionaries ran out of money (Pickens 1993; Officer et al 1996). Nonetheless, no other colonial space in the Upper Santa Cruz Valley better symbolized the hierarchical cosmos the O'odham were being forced to embrace.
But the production of space at Mission Tumacácori extended far beyond the mission church and its immediate grounds. Another representation of space the missionaries carried with them was what anthropologists call the peasant corporate community. Throughout the world at various times and places, groups of farmers or agropastoralists have joined together to hold certain resources, usually pastures, woodlands, and flowing surface water, in common (Wolf 1955, 1957; Netting 1981; Sheridan 1988). These peasant resource-holding communities still survived on the Therian peninsula during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Vassberg 1974, 1980, 1984). They provided one of the most widespread and enduring models for the reorganization of Native American societies throughout the Americas after the Spanish conquest.
Most missions, including Guevavi and Tumacácori, patterned themselves after peasant corporate communities, with one important difference. The missionary, not the Indian community, was in charge of making all the important economic as well as religious decisions, including the distribution of surplus from mission fields and herds. Nevertheless, resources belonged to the community, not to individuals or to the Jesuit or Franciscan orders. Membership, usually through birth or marriage, entitled an hijo del pueblo ('child of the pueblo') to use community resources and to pass on that access to heirs. Households cultivated their own fields, irrigating them from mission acequias (canals). They also ran livestock, gathered firewood, and collected wild plants on mission uplands. But land and water could not be sold, mortgaged, or otherwise alienated because they were held in trust for future generations. The only way a community could legally lose its resources was by failing to use them. If the community moved or disintegrated, its land and water reverted back to the Spanish crown.
At Tumacácori National Historical Park, we can glimpse remnants of that corporate spatial identitythe lime kiln, the granary, a stretch of the acequia that diverted water from the Santa Cruz River onto mission fields. As the park expands, an orchard and fields will be planted with heirloom crop varieties introduced into the region by missionaries and Spanish settlers. But the park will never recapture the boundaries of the mission lands as they were surveyed and confirmed under the Tumacácori land grant of 1807. As this book makes clear, that social space was stolen from the O'odham by a Mexican caudillo (military strongman) in 1844. Then it was sold to an Anglo speculator, negated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1898, and swallowed up by a fraudulent land grant known as Baca Float No. 3, which the Supreme Court confirmed, despite opposition from the Department of the Interior, in 1914.
Throughout these legal maneuverings, these contestations of paper titles, missionaries, ranchers, and speculators carved the natural landscape of the Upper Santa Cruz Valley into smaller and smaller pieces. The penetration of the evolving capitalist world-system transformed this isolated frontier from a landscape of open access, as it had been for the O'odham before the Spaniards arrived, into increasingly subdivided social spaces of mission, presidio, and private ranches. During the colonial period, however, those divisions were visible only along the floodplain, where the fields of communities like Tubac, Tumacácori, Calabasas, and Guevavi had boundaries. The uplands, in contrast, were open range, even though boundary markers unobtrusively signified where private ranch land ended and mission lands began. Moreover, the primary purpose of land and water was to reproduce human communities rather than to generate profit. The Upper Santa Cruz Valley therefore remained a landscape of community throughout most of the colonial era.
Nonetheless, "land"a social construction as well as a physical entitywas slowly being converted into a commodity to be bought and sold regardless of social impact. This, of course, was a fundamental stage in the development of capitalism across the world: the severance of labor from the land. As Marx pointed out in Theories of Surplus Value, the emerging bourgeoisie had to ensure that "land should not be common property, that it should confront the working class as a condition of production not belonging to it" (Marx 1969 Part II:44). Private ranchers would not begin to fence off the open range until barbed wire made the project economically feasible in the late nineteenth century. Nonetheless, Spanish and Mexican ranchers laid the legal foundations much earlier when they established claims to both floodplain and upland surrounding Mission Tumacácori.
Those ranchers viewed land as a means of productiona space where "nature" produced the grasses and forbs that another means of production, livestock, converted into beef, hides, tallow, mutton, wool, milk, and cheese. At the same time, miners staked their claims to subterranean spaces where traces of gold, silver, and copper could be extracted. Their subdivisions of space were smaller but deeper, their investments of capital much greater per unit area of land. Mining was the first industry that attracted speculators to the southern Arizona frontier. As Chapter 7 demonstrates, Judge John Watts and William Wrightson conceived Baca Float No. 3 as a mining, not a ranching, venture.
None of these speculative grand designsthe Sonora Exploring & Mining Company, the Calabasas Land & Mining Company, or the amended location of Baca Float No. 3turned a profit, much less made a killing. Colonel C.P. Sykes' Calabasas was the most grandiose, portraying an intermittent stream as a navigable river deep enough for sailing ships. But as these schemes clawed their way to the U.S. Supreme Court, they obliterated two land-based communities: the O'odham at Mission Tumacácori in the 1840s, the homesteaders along the same stretch of the floodplain during World War I. The production of space was commodified. Landscapes of speculation devoured landscapes of community during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
There were interludes. Between the Depression and the postwar boom, Baca Float No. 3 became a plaything of oilmen, movie stars, and retired executives from General Motors. Gentlemen ranchers like Tol Pendleton may have raised blooded stock, but their money came from industrial, not agrarian, enterprises. In a sense, they kept the landscape of the float intact for future speculators by sinking surplus capital into their showcase ranches with little need for short-term profit in return.
From its inception, however, Baca Float No. 3 escaped any real moorings as a means of production. Instead, it functioned largely as a form of "fictitious capital"real estate bought and sold by speculators for its future value, not for what it could produce in the present. As Arizona became an overwhelmingly urban state, the showcase ranches of "Santa Booze Valley" disintegrated and reformed as subdivisions, especially the real estate development of Rio Rico. Those developments sank more surplus capital into the speculative landscape. Under such conditions, according to geographer David Harvey, "the land market functions simply as a particular branchalbeit with some special characteristicsof the circulation of interest-bearing capital" (Harvey 1982:347).
Thousands of unwary buyers across the world bought the dreams salesmen from Gulf American and GAC were peddling. When they tried to cash in or make the dreams materialize, however, many of them found that their lots at Rio Rico were little more than paper fictions. Some had not even been surveyed yet. Thousands of others had no basic utilities and would not have them for ten years or more. Gulf American and GAC were not as flimsy as dozens of other land companies that feasted on the unwary during the postwar Great Arizona Land Rush. Nonetheless, they made claims that were not true and promises that could not be kept to servicemen in Saigon, little old ladies in Las Vegas casinos, and planeloads of Midwesterners flown in to visit Rio Rico and get the hard sell. For nearly two decades after GAC went bankrupt in 1975, Rio Rico was a resort, a few scattered homes, and hundreds of miles of roads that led nowherea far cry from the four satellite cities of 250,000 people its promoters envisioned.
When I was searching for a way to phrase the major theme of this bookto capture the interplay of both time and spaceI found the following quote from David Harvey's seminal Limits of Capital. "Capitalism perpetually strives, therefore, to create a social and physical landscape in its own image and requisite to its own needs at a particular point in time, only just as certainly to undermine, disrupt and even destroy that landscape at a later point in time," Harvey argues. "The inner contradictions of capitalism are expressed through the restless formation and re-formation of geographical landscapes. This is the tune to which the historical geography of capitalism must dance without cease" (Harvey 1985:150).
That tune as it was played in the Upper Santa Cruz Valley cannot be heard through the approaches of conventional environmental history alone. I am more interested in capital flows and relations of power than I am in the impact of climatic variability or the ways in which the production of space transformed plant and animal communities across the landscape. Natural forces recede into the background as my focus upon the role of capital grows stronger.
Even water, the ultimate limiting factor on human society, especially in arid and semi-arid lands, never played much of a limiting role in the development of the Upper Santa Cruz Valley until the late twentieth century, after Rio Rico's bankruptcy. The Santa Cruz River begins in the San Rafael Valley of southeastern Arizona and flows south into Mexico. Then it forms a great loop and heads north across the international border. There were stretches of perennial flow from Guevavi to Tubac. North of Tubac, however, the mountains on either side drop away and the river empties into the Tucson Basin, a vast alluvial plain 20,000 feet deep in places. Flow ceased except during floods until bedrock once again constricted the river at Martinez Hill south of Bac.
This history draws its water from four subbasins upstream: (from south to north, the direction of the river) Nogales, Rio Rico, Tubac, and Amado (Gettings and Houser n.d.). Perched upon and pinched by the bedrock of surrounding mountain rangesthe Patagonia, San Cayetano, and Santa Rita Mountains to the east, the Pajarito, Atascosa, and Tumacacori Mountains to the east, these subbasins are narrow and relatively shallow (1,600 feet or less). They do not hold huge quantities of water, and their water tables drop quickly if overpumped. But they recharge rapidly as well from rainstorms and periodic floods. "This became evident most recently during the 1999 summer monsoon season," writes environmental historian Michael Logan. "The preceding winter had been very dry and the wells in the Santa Cruz River and tributary canyons started to diminish in output. Then the summer rains came in abundance, delivering eighteen inches of rain to the upper basin, and the aquifer quickly recovered to its full potential" (Logan 2002:238).
To narrow the focus even further, the aquifers that sustained human-communities from Mission Tumacácori to Rio Rico saturated the subbasins of Tubac and Rio Rico, which is separated from the Nogales subbasin by Eagan Narrows, a bedrock intrusion that constricts subsurface as well as surface flow. The Rio Rico subbasin is wider and deeper and holds more water than the Nogales subbasin upstream. It underlay the mission visita (visiting station) and estancia (stock ranch) of Calabasas, recharged not only by the flow of the Santa Cruz but by Sonoita Creek as well. It constitutes the aquifer from which modern Rio Rico drinks.
Moreover, groundwater downstream from Nogales and Guevavi are supplemented by the Nogales International Waste Water Treatment Facility (NIWWTF) at the confluence of Nogales Wash and the Santa Cruz River, which has the capacity to process more than 17 million gallons of effluent a day from Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Sonora (Ingram et al 1995.) This treated effluent waters the golf courses of the Rio Rico and Tubac country clubs, and has recreated the lush riparian oasis that greens the floodplain from Calabasas to Tubac. Water scarcity and water politics will play an increasing role as more people and industry pour into Rio Rico and Ambos Nogales. But from Spanish colonial times through Rio Rico's first incarnation, water use upstream did not significantly affect the water supply from Calabasas to Tubac, where most of this history takes place.
My focus on capital, not natural constraints, therefore reflects the accelerating importance of economic and political forces, particularly after the region became part of the United States with the ratification of the Gadsden Purchase in 1854. As landscapes of speculation consumed landscapes of community, the production of space became less and less grounded in the materiality of the upper Santa Cruz River Valley itself. The historical geography of the region danced more and more to a paper shuffle rather than an agrarian waltz.
Before I conclude, I need to clear up one common misconception: the conflation of space with nature. In the American West, we talk passionately about the "wide, open spaces," a powerfully ambiguous phrase that conjures up sweeping natural vistas free of human clutter. Yet this aesthetic vision of nature often obscures the dynamic interplay of human and non-human forces that shape so-called "natural" landscapes. As historian William Cronon notes, "the boundary between human and nonhuman, natural and unnatural is profoundly problematic" (Cronon 1991 :xix). Cronon goes on to say, "Just as our own lives continue to be embedded in a web of natural relationships, nothing in nature remains untouched by the web of human relationships that constitute our common history" (Cronon 1991:19).
But Lefebvre and other critical geographers are pursuing a concept more radical than the recognition that the human and natural are inextricably intertwined. When they talk about the production of space, they are talking about the social construction of nature as well as the social construction of human society. Lefebvre even anticipates the eventual destruction of nature as human labor extends its reach.  One can argue that as global warming and increasing water consumption suck aquifers dry, "Nature" may indeed "Bat Last!" as the old Earth First! bumper sticker proclaimed. But as far as Lefebvre is concerned, the point of departure for a history of space "is not to be found in geographical descriptions of natural space, but rather in the study of natural rhythms, and of the modification of those rhythms and their inscription in space by means of human actions, especially work. It begins, then, with the spatio-temporal rhythms of nature as transformed by a social practice" (Lefebvre 1991:117).
In the Upper Santa Cruz Valley, those natural rhythms were transformed and eventually ignored as land made a surreal odyssey from means of reproduction to means of production to fictitious capital. In the process, land was alienated not only from labor but production itself. "There is, it seems, something perverse in trying to create physical conditions favourable to accumulation," Harvey points out, "by giving free reign to the appropriation of surplus value by landlords, developers, financiers, and the like (none of whom, with the exception of builders, organize the real production of surplus value)" (Harvey 1982:397).
That perversitythe "logic" of speculative capitalism uprooting, devouring, and burying the communities that made a living off the land before the speculators triumphedis the greedy beating heart of this book.
Last Updated: 12-Mar-2007