[Graphic Text] Tumacácori National Historical Park

[Photo] San Cayetano de Calabazas, mission ruins, 1998, Tumacácori National Historical Park
Tumacácori National Historical Park in the upper Santa Cruz River Valley of southern Arizona is comprised of the abandoned ruins of three Spanish colonial missions. San José de Tumacácori and Los Santos Ángeles de Guevavi, established in 1691, are the two oldest missions in Arizona. The third mission, San Cayetano de Calabazas, was established in 1756. In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt issued an executive order establishing Tumacácori National Monument. It was the first national monument that was designated to protect a historic building or structure. Stabilization of the church ruins began in 1919. Tumacácori's enclosed wall visitor center, exhibits, and garden were added in the 1930s. Congress expanded the monument into a national historical park encompassing the ruins of Guevavi and Calabazas in 1990, which are primarily remnants of walls. After more than 200 years, the early Spanish colonial missions were reunited under the auspices of the National Park Service.

During the years Imperial Spain colonized part of the North American Continent, Catholic religious orders were enlisted to establish a mission system to make converts of the native people, thus creating a base of tax paying citizens to settle and stabilize new colonies. One of these mission settlements, San José de Tumacácori, established by Jesuit missionaries, inhabited the east bank of the Rio de la Santa Cruz in the land of the Pima Indians, later to become Arizona. The Jesuits were banished in 1767 and the Franciscans commenced construction of a major new mission complex around 1800. Today, the Franciscan mission complex, and what remains of the original Jesuit mission, comprise most of Tumacácori National Historical Park.

[Photo] San José de Tumacácori, the Franciscan missian church,
Tumacácori National Historical Park

The site of the Jesuit mission; the Franciscan mission church; the Campo Santo (the original mission cemetery); the mortuary chapel; the convento, or "priests' quarters;" the granary; the lime kiln; the remains of the rancheria, or Indian Village; and the site of the mission orchard and garden are all preserved as part of the Tumacácori Spanish mission complex. The most striking landmark is the Franciscan church built by a crew of Indian and Spanish laborers. The walls of the church are thick and massive adobe (sun-fired) brick. The long, rectangular nave shelters an altar at the north end featuring original painted decoration on its interior plaster. The south-end choir loft is gone, but the three-story adobe bell-tower remains. The façade on the south end of the church is decorated on both the first and second story levels with two pairs each of bas-relief doric columns, and above that an arched, raised parapet to accommodate a decorative broken pediment, which was restored in 1921.

Architecturally and physically, the mission at Tumacácori reached its apex in the 1820s. In 1821, Mexico won independence from Spain, and the frontier mission system began to weaken with little defense or funding from the new government. In 1843, the government secularized all missions and in 1844, sold the Tumacácori lands to a private owner. By 1848, the last resident mission Indians abandoned Tumacácori. The old Pimeria Alta, including Tumacácori, became part of the United States in 1854. Over the next 60 plus years, the area had various uses until 1908 when it became federally protected as a national monument and in 1916, it came under the management of the National Park Service.

[Photo] Front entrance to the Visitor's Center and Museum, Tumacácori National Historical Park

During the 1930s, under the National Park Service, another significant period for the park began. In an attempt to blend with the environment, the National Park Service, adopting a style of "rustic" architecture, constructed the first permanent national monument buildings to harmonize with the Spanish mission complex. The newly-built residence for the superintendent, visitors center, and comfort station (restrooms) reflect a mixture of Spanish and Indian styles, with arched doorways, tiles, and other features of Spanish colonial architecture, and massive adobe walls and vigas (roofbeams) reflecting the pueblo Indian construction. The visitors center, comfort station, and garden were designated National Historic Landmarks in 1987 for representing Mission Revival architecture and playing a vital role as interpretive devices, helping visitors understand the Tumacácori Mission complex.

Tumacácori NHP is part of the Juan Bautista De Anza National Historic Trail. The trail, authorized by Congress in 1990, starts in Nogales, Arizona, and travels to San Francisco, California, and east around the San Francisco Bay. In 1775, the Viceroy of New Spain authorized Juan Bautista de Anza, Captain of the Royal Presidio at Tubac near San José de Tumacácori, to command an expedition escorting soldiers and their families to occupy and settle the port of San Francisco. There were approximately 300 people, 340 horses, 165 pack mules, and 302 cattle that traveled over 80 days between Tubac, the final staging area, and San Francisco. The significance of this journey was far reaching. Anza successfully opened an overland route of emigration and supply from Sonora to the missions and settlements of Alta California. The expedition then led to the founding of the Presidio of San Francisco and missions San Francisco de Asís and Santa Clara de Asís. Finally, these settlers shaped and influenced the development of Arizona and California. The Tumacácori mission's role was in hosting five priests staying in the convento while waiting for the Anza Expedition to leave the nearby Tubac Presidio in 1775.

[Photo] The convento with roof covering for protection,
Tumacácori National Historical Park

Tumacácori National Historical Park tells a dramatic story with its earth colors and mission buildings. It represents Spanish mission frontier history, the impact of European colonization upon the Native American peoples, and the contributions of Spanish, Mexican, and Indian cultures to the heritage of the Southwest. The park also preserves impressive Spanish mission architecture, as well as the Park Service's later addition of "rustic" style buildings. For more information visit the official Tumacácori National Historical Park NPS website


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