• Sunlight illuminates the top of historic Mission San José de Tumacácori church.


    National Historical Park Arizona

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How do you pronounce the name of this place - Tumacácori?
A. Enunciate vowels as in Spanish with an emphasis on the second "a." (Too-muh-kä'-ko-ree)

Q. What is the meaning of Tumacácori?
Quick answer: We don't really know.

Slightly longer answer: It's the English version of a Spanish version of an O'odham word or words which were what the O'odham residents told Kino that they called this place when he arrived and attempted to record it, but we don't know what they actually were trying to say to him.

Some details:

In January 1691, Father Kino arrived at an O'odham village on the east side of the Santa Cruz River. As was his usual procedure, he asked the residents what they called their village, and recorded their response as best he could. The villagers, of course, were speaking O'odham, which was not a written language, while Kino was recording the name with Spanish phonetics so that it could be pronounced as accurately as possible by Spanish speakers. To this name he would then append the name of the new mission's patron saint. In this case, the village gained the official title of Mission San Cayetano de Tumacácori.

Unfortunately, in the case of Tumacácori, Kino apparently had a hard time converting the O'odham words into Spanish spellings. What exactly it was that the O'odham tried to tell Kino that day is unknown. When modern O'odham speakers and scholars are asked what they think the name "Tumacácori" might originally have meant, ideas vary widely. Here are a few translations that we have found.

  • Tjuma ka korit, "crooked rock" (Alfonse Pinart listing of O'odham place names).
  • " 'Tumacácori' is from a Native American name for "place where the wild chiles are gathered." (Wild Foods of the Sonoran Desert, Arizona - Sonora Museum publications, 1995, p.8.)
  • "Tumacácori in old Pima, two words: a 'rock' and 'flat,' or 'place of the flat rock.' Two words in modern Tohono O'odham: an 'arch,' a fold or bend, and the lighter colored material in that fold, descriptive of a geological formation on the east side of Tumacácori Peak near its base." (Bleser, Nicholas, Tumacacori From Rancheria to National Monument, Southwest Parks and Monuments, 1989, p.1.
  • ". . . translated from the O'odham variously as 'flat, rocky place,' 'caliche bend,' or even 'pepper bush.' " (Lamb, Susan, Tumacácori, Southwest Parks and Monuments, 1993, p. 6.)
  • "Papago 'Chu-uma Kakul.' Chuuma, meaning a white stone; kakuli 'bending over,' broadly tumacácori 'Caliche Bluffs.' " (Barnes, Will C., Arizona Place Names, University of Arizona Press, 1988, p. 437. Credited to "Father Oblasser.")
  • In 2010, the O'odham Cultural Center brought together a group of elders who proposed "Chumak ka:kork," meaning caliche hills. (Bernard Siquieros, O'odham Cultural Center education specialist, during training provided to Tumacácori staff, February 2012).
  • Chemag Gakolik. A name for Tumacácori Peak. Chemag = thick, bedded caliche, or weathered tuff that looks like thick, bedded caliche. Gakolik = mountain with a crooked, bent, or leaning shape. "One meaning of Chemag Gakolik is a mountain of the gakolik shape, in which outcrops of chemag are prominent. This describes the mountain called Tumacácori Peak." ('O'odham Place Names, 2012, Harry J. Winters, Jr.)
  • Spellings have not always been as carefully and consistently maintained as they are today, and the name of Tumacácori has been no exception. Kino first wrote the name in January 1691 as San Cayetano de Tumagacori. It was subsequently spelled as Tumacacor or Tumacacori by the priests who succeeded him.

The standardization of the use of accents in written Spanish also is a modern idea. For the name to be pronounced correctly in modern Spanish, an accent mark is required over the second "a", although historically it was not included.

Q. When were the walls and visitor center built?
The boundary walls were started in 1933 and completed in 1934. The visitor center dates to 1937.

Q. How are these old adobe structures maintained after so many years?
With great care, time and money!

Q. Why doesn't the National Park Service restore the church?
The National Park Service mandate is to preserve the mission ruins. Due to many difficulties with living here, the mission residents left in 1848. Even if there was the desire to restore the mission, there are no known detailed drawings of the appearance from that time, so no one knows the details of how it used to look. After the residents left, the mission deteriorated due to lack of ongoing maintenance. Its current appearance reflects the historical circumstances surrounding this site, from construction, through the departure of the residents, through the time when it became preserved by the federal government when it was established as Tumacacori National Monument in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt, up until the present time when it continues to be cared for by the National Park Service as part of Tumacácori National Historical Park.

Q. How much of the church is original?
Nearly everything with the exception of the roof and the floor is original. Of course, as part of the historic preservation of the structure, new lime plaster is put on the exterior walls as needed and the dome and sacristy roof are white washed to prevent moisture from deteriorating the adobe blocks.

Q. What are the square boxes in the ground in front of the church?
Cisterns for storage and distribution of water.

Q. How do you get to Calabazas and Guevavi?
Neither of these two missions is presently open to the public. Guided tours are by reservation on selected days, generally from January through March.

Q. Is Mass ever held at Tumacácori?
Mass is held yearly on the first Sunday of December during the Tumacácori Fiesta. It is held in front of the church due to the large number of people in attendance. An historic mass is held in the church once each year in October in conjunction with Anza Day at Tubac Presidio State Historic Park.

Q. Are weddings allowed in the old mission church at Tumacácori?
Yes, but only by special use permit and under very strict guidelines.

Q. Why was the Jesuit religious order of Catholic priests expelled?
The expulsion of the Jesuits is a complex subject, but the heart of the matter lies in politics and greed.

Quick answer: It had very little to do with their work here in New Spain. They were doing a very good job in their assigned missionary work here. It was due to politics back in Europe.

Some details:

It was a time of "reform." One goal of the monarchs was to ensure that the power of state was supreme. The monarchs became convinced that the Jesuits were too powerful and influential, with their primary allegiance being to the Pope, rather than to the monarchs, and were therefore dangerous. The Jesuits, who had performed distinguished services as educators and missionaries, achieved much success, which resulted in wealth (land and buildings) and power for their order. This aroused the enmity of other clergy and laymen. Also the Jesuit allegiance to the Pope was a concern and members of the ruling circle suspected the Jesuits of political intrigue in Madrid.

France and Portugal were the first countries to expel them. In Portugal, they were implicated in a plot to assassinate the King, and were banished in 1759. Next the French king banished them. When some of King Carlos III's advisors convinced him, too that the Jesuits were dangerous, in February 1767, when the kind had them arrested throughout his domain and confiscated their property.When Carlos III, King of Spain, became convinced in 1767 that they were in a conspiracy against him, he had those in his realm arrested and brought to Spain, where they were locked in prison and later sent into exile.

The movement against the Jesuits was carried to Rome where Pope Clement XIV suppressed the Order in 1773. It was not until 1814 that Pope Pius VII restored them to their former standing as an Order in the Catholic Church.

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