Region III Quarterly

Volume 3 - No. 4

October, 1941


By Dr. Aubrey Neasham,
Regional Supervisor of Historic Sites.

The proposed Coronado International Memorial, whose establishment on the Arizona-Mexico border, near Bisbee, Arizona, has been authorized by the American Congress, is intended to symbolize the good will, friendship, and understanding of the Americas. The recently enacted legislation authorizes the President to establish the area by proclamation, after Mexico has established or provided for establishment of a similar contiguous area. The Mexican Government has indicated that these steps will be taken shortly.

The idea behind the memorial is to emphasize that an artificial boundary line is not a barrier to the friendly intercourse of nations, but that, instead, it may be a focal point upon which common interests can be illustrated. The area would be dedicated to the story of the Arizona-Sonora border region, and, it is hoped, may point the way for similar undertakings, either in the Western Hemisphere or elsewhere.

Down where the Huachuca Mountains of Arizona reach the international boundary and where they end abruptly just across the line in Mexico, between the headwaters and valleys of the San Pedro and Santa Cruz rivers, it is proposed that the United States and Mexico each sat aside 2,880 acres as the international memorial area. They are contiguous areas, and would be administered through the joint efforts of the National Park Services of the two nations.

The setting is superb. From Coronado Peak, which would be the site of an observation shelter on the United States side, a view into Mexico is had which classifies this area as one having superlative scenic qualities. To the south, east, and west great expanses of grasslands, trees, valleys, and mountains take on the form of a vast relief map. Distances are so great that cattle, river courses, and even roads and railroad are lost to view in the broad reaches of the valleys below. In all, some 150 miles of border country are to be seen from this vantage point. The international boundary fence can be followed with the naked eye for about 50 miles. The smoke from the distant copper smelters of Douglas, Arizona, and Cananea, Sonora; and the mountains of Sonora to the southward, those of the Animas range of New Mexico to the eastward, and Baboquiviri Peak, west of Nogales, serve as landmarks on the outer horizons. The faint gridiron lines of the San Pedro Valley towns of Naco in Sonora and Arizona serve to remind one that the area is really inhabited.

drawing for proposed visitor center
CORONADO NATIONAL MONUMENT. This drawing is merely a suggestion of what might be accomplished. It is intended for use as a working basis from which an approved plan can be agreed upon by the United States and Mexico.

The reaction upon individuals who partake of this scene is profound. After the first impacts of the view have been absorbed, the visitor begins to project himself into the picture. The typical United States citizen becomes aware that the border fence only a short distance away shuts him off from a foreign land. Thrilling at the mystery of that land, his thoughts may at first be: "This is the United States. That is Mexico. That fence symbolizes a barrier between us."

Gradually, however, a change comes over him. The more he looks the more he realizes that there is no difference in the physical aspects of the land on the United States side of the border and that of Mexico. The border fence is, after all, only an artificial barrier raised by man because of political expediency. As this idea of a common ground and the artificiality of the boundary line grows in the mind of the observer, he is brought to the realization that here is a natural meeting place of the two nations. Perhaps he says to himself: "This is where Mexico's history is ours and ours is hers. This is where economic, political, and social factors are intertwined."

Such an expanding attitude on the part of the individual, inspired by one long look into Mexico from Coronado Peak, if multiplied manyfold by the thousands who will have a similar experience, may, indeed, be worth more than millions spent in words or dollars to foster the friendship of the two nations.

Development in the vicinity of Coronado Peak will be kept to a minimum, to avoid distraction from the inspiration. A simple shelter, with range finders and maps to point out the areas of historical interest, may be the only necessities. The routes of Niza, Coronado, later explorers, mission-founding padres, marauding Indians, and immigrants, and scenes of cattle raising and mining, can be seen from Coronado Peak. Although the grand view is from the United States, Mexico would have just as important a role to play.

The exhibits building would be designed and constructed through the cooperation of both the United States and Mexico. A preliminary design which is entirely tentative suggests that it be Mexican style, in harmony with the country and the purpose of the memorial. The approach from the United States side, where there would be parking spaces, custodian quarters, and utility buildings, would be through a visitors' contact station. Crossing a patio, the visitor would approach first a memorial plaque, on the international line at the west end of the patio. This plaque, dedicated to the common story of the Arizona-Sonora border region, would be flanked by the flags of the United States and Mexico.

The entrance to the International Exhibits Building, according to these tentative plans, will lead into the lobby, where there will be an information desk. The floor of this room will be of tile, and will incorporate a terrazo or mosaic map of the Sonora-Arizona region. Murals depicting the historical highlights of the region may be painted on the walls. The exhibits section will be one of the leading attractions. It will illustrate what the peoples of Mexico and the United States have in common, and it will include dioramas, historical documents and objects.

A suggestion has been made that the themes of the exhibits section be divided into three main parts - aboriginal, historical, and present day. The aboriginal section, having as its purpose the telling of the archeological and ethnological story of the Arizona-Sonora border region, would include exhibits to emphasize basic similarities, cultural relationships, and prehistoric trade. The historical section would depict the economic, social, and political aspects of the three main historical periods involved - the Spanish Period, 1536-1821; the Mexican Period, 1821-1853; and the Arizona-Sonora Region, 1853 to date. The present day exhibits could cover such subjects as products and industries, education, travel, transportation, and recreation. To prevent a static condition in these exhibits, it is proposed that they be given periodic rotation, thus insuring continued interest and appeal.

There could be a combination library-lecture room, and other rooms for research, preparation of exhibits, workshop, storage, and an administrative office.

Some 400 years ago, a Spanish explorer passed this way in his search for the fabled seven cities of Cibola. Little did he, Francisco de Coronado, dream that he would be the inspiration for a memorial to the efforts of himself and those who came after him in this colorful land of the Southwest. Little did he realize that one day two great nations of the New World would foster friendship and peace in his name, or that both nations would claim him as theirs. Could he but speak across the centuries, these might be his words: "Clasp hands across the border, those of you who have followed me. Illustrate to the world what you have in common. By your cooperative endeavor, it will be known that my journey was not in vain."

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Date: 17-Nov-2005