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

    Tumacácori

    National Historical Park Arizona

Francisco Sánchez Zúñiga

By

Ginny Sphar

Father Francisco was born in Hervás, Spain, bishopric of Plasencia. He entered the Franciscan Order in 1761 at the recollect convent of Santa María de Gracia.[1] He was of medium height, swarthy, with a mole over his left eyebrow.

A country boy from northern Extramadura, he had crossed the Atlantic with 37 other recruits in the Mission of 1769. After no more than a few months at the College of Querétaro, he and some of the others set out for Sonora to reinforce the overworked friars in the field.

Father President Buena sent Father Zúñiga to Tumacácori to take over for Father Gil de Bernabé who was taking the cure at Aconchi in the Sonora Valley. In the spring of 1771 he rode into Tumacácori ahead of the summer rains. Tumacácori opened the new friar’s eyes.[2]

At Tumacácori, the shaken young friar read two burial entries he had just written for five mission Indians killed by Apaches.[3] Later on he buried more mission Indians, another epidemic.[4]

By mid-September, Father Gil de Bernabé was back. He and Father Zúñiga recorded September 16 deaths.[5]

Sánchez Zúñiga left to relieve Father Diego Martín García at San Ignacio, where he supervised a major reconstruction of the church. He served there until 1780. Broken in health, he returned to the College and from there to Spain. Early in 1782 he petitioned the king to grant him the privileges of a predicador general. His bid was denied. He had not served the required 14 years in the missions.



[1] Born in Hervás, bishopric of Plasencia, Sánchez Zúñiga had entered the Franciscan Order at the recollect convent of Santa María de Gracia. Father Juan Domingo Arricivita, Lista de los cuarenta religiosos, Madrid, June 21, 1769, AGI, Guad., 369.

[2] Sánchez Zúñiga’s first burial entry recorded the death of Governor Juan of Calabazas at night on San Juan’s Day eve, June 23, 1771; the body was buried in the Guevavi church. He also wrote the earliest marriage entry surviving from the Franciscan period, for five Indian couples wed at Tumacácori, June 29, 1771. All the men were Pimas, three of the women Papagos. From his entries in the mission books it appears almost certain that Sánchez Zúñiga lived at Tumacácori. DCB.

[3] Noticia breve, Mexico, June 17, 1771, AGI, Guad., 416. Navarro García, Gálvez, pp. 187, 200-05. On July 1, 1771, Zúñiga buried two men from Tumacácori killed by Apaches in one assault and an ox herder and two women killed at Sonoita in another. DCB.

[4] Bucareli to Arriaga, Mexico, October 28, 1771, ibid., 511. Hugo O’Conor, Extracto de revista de inspectión, Tubac, August 1775, ibid., 515. DCB.

[5] Both Gil de Bernabé and Sánchez Zúñiga recorded September 16 deaths. DCB. For the next eight years, until the spring of 1780, Sánchez served at San Ignacio where he supervised a major reconstruction of the church, “the only one in those provinces of rough masonry with vault.” Broken in health, he returned to the College and from there to Spain. Early in 1782 he petitioned the king to grant him the privileges of a predicador general. His bid was denied; he had not served the required 14 years in the missions. Sánchez Zúñiga to the king, Madrid, January 4, 1782, et al., AGI, Guad., 372.


To learn more about Padre Zúñiga go to Mission 2000 by clicking (here) and following the blue ID numbers. To return to Franciscan Missionaries, click (here).

Did You Know?

Did You Know?

The Santa Cruz River begins in the Patagonia Mountains of southern Arizona, runs south into Mexico, makes a sweeping U-turn and continues north through Sonora, Mexico and Arizona to join the Gila River and eventually the Colorado River which empties into the Gulf of California.