Baltazar Carrillo


Ginny Sphar

Father Baltazar Carillo is the first Franciscan whose record is complete in the fragmentary Tumacácori books.

He was born in Fitero, in southern Spain, in 1734. In the broad plain of the Río Alhambra, the town resembled a giant irregular anthill. It was a labyrinth of narrow, crooked streets with several hundred two- to three-story houses. This was historic country, fought over by the kings of Aragón, Castile and Navarre.

Father Carillo took the Franciscan habit in 1752 (the same year the presidio came to Tubac) in the city of Logrono, Spain, 60 miles northwest of Fitero. After 17 years in the order, 8 of them as Master of Novices, he volunteered from Pamplona, Spain, for overseas missions. At 35 he was one of the oldest recruits for the College of Querétaro in Mexico. He was light skinned with a scar on his tonsure.

In 1771 he replaced Father Antonio de los Reyes at Cucurpe. After the Querétarans’ exit from Pimería Baja in 1776, Carillo took refuge at San Ignacio with Father Zúñiga. There he served as back-up Priest until early 1780, then he came to Tumacácori where he served until his death on October 10, 1795.[1]

In 1776 the garrison at Tubac moved north to Tucson and left Tumacácori unprotected. The reoccupation of the Tubac Presidio in 1787 by the Pimas of San Rafael made life safer for the 54-year-old Carillo. Instead of two small and vulnerable mission pueblos, Tumacácori and Calabazas (now nearly abandoned) ten miles apart on the Santa Cruz River, he now ministered to two large congregations, Tumacácori and Tubac. One was a mission and the other a presidio, both predominately Piman, on the same bank of the river and less than three miles apart. One by one Tumacácori’s visitas, Guevavi, Sonoita and Calabazas had fallen away.

Tumacácori Indians continued to enlist in the Tubac Company for the standard 10-year hitch.[2] Carillo never distinguished between Pimas and Papagos. With the exception of an occasional Yaqui or Yuman, he called his charges Papagos.[3]

Father Baltazar’s mission did not prosper, he simply got by. He built no church. He set aside no construction funds. He lost Calabazas. In his 15 years at Tumacácori, he apparently never learned Piman but neither, for that matter, did most of the other priests. A close inspection of the Tumacácori books would show that Father Carillo baptized 96 persons, buried 164 and married 60 couples during his 15-year tenure.

Barbastro had built a fine church at Tubutama. Velderrain had started the present church at San Xavier del Bac. Even at Sáric and Cocóspera new churches dominated the plazas. Yet at Tumacácori, the very cramped and flimsy little adobe structure, inherited from the Jesuits a quarter of a century before, continued to crumble. Plainly Carillo needed help.[4]

In April 1793, Father Carillo lay on his bed so ill that he could not even administer the sacraments to a man dying right in the pueblo. He recovered but now he was 50 years old. Father President Barbastro saw the problem and when, finally, the college sent him some men he assigned one as compañero to Carillo

Not yet 30, Father Narciso Gutiérrez rode into Tumacácori on July 10, 1794. For more than a year he worked with the old missionary. Then on the morning of October 10, 1795, he listened to Baltazar Carillo’s final confession. By three o’clock the veteran missionary was dead. The next day Father Gutiérrez presided at the funeral. A grave had been dug inside the crumbling Jesuit church just at the top of the steps in the center before the main altar.[5] On December 13, 1822, Father Liberós, who came later to Tumacácori, removed the remains of both Carillo and Gutiérrez from the old Jesuit church and reburied them in the new Franciscan church, beneath the floor of the sanctuary on the Gospel side.[6]

On February 21, 1935, Fathers Carillo and Guitérrez were exhumed from Tumacácori and buried in San Xavier’s mortuary chapel. Theirs are the only remains beneath the floor of the chapel.[7]

The long ministry of Baltazar Carillo had bridged two eras. When he took over the mission Cucurpe from the complaining Father Antonio de los Reyes in 1771, Viceroy Marques de Croix and Visitor General José de Gálvez were actively imposing the reforms of enlightened despotism. The year Carillo had moved north to Pimería Alta, Gálvez decreed the General Command of the Provincias Internas. At Tumacácori the friar had heard the first reports of the Yuma massacre. He had followed from a distance the rise and fall of Bishop Antonio Reyes. He had seen the Custodia de San Carlos come and go. José de Gálvez, in his last years, was given the title Marques of Sonora. Charles III and the era had died too.

The 1790s presaged another era, that of revolution. The younger Father Gutiérrez, who buried Father Carillo, would live through the turmoil of revolution and constitution to the very eve of a reactionary Mexican Independence.

[1] Arricivita, Lista, 1769. Madoz, Diccionario, Vol. 8, pp. 104-08. Padrón, estado spiritual y temporal . . . de Cucurpe, Carillo, November 13, 1772, AGN, PI, 81. Carillo’s first entry at Tumacácori is for a burial dated April 21, 1780. DCB.

[2] DCB. Although the San Rafael Company had its own books of baptisms, marriages and burials, on November 14, Carillo entered a Tubac baptism in the Tumacácori register where it is the earliest mention of “soldados de la companía de Pimas.” On January 21, 1788, Rosa, the wife of soldado Juan Legarra, stood as godmother to a Papago boy, Sebastián Pamplona. Later the same year Carillo identified Miguel Castro and María Dolores as “vecinos de Tubac,” Ugarte, Estado que manifesta el numero de tropas, Chihuahua, February 1, 1787, AGI, Guad., 521. Manuel Merino, Plan general de las tropas, Mexico, November 21, 1789, AGN, PI, 46.

[3] Carillo is the first Franciscan whose record is complete in the fragmentary Tumacácori books. On March 3, 1793, he married his namesake to Teresa Errán, a Papago girl of heathen parents. DCB.

[4] Barbastro, May 28, 1792; quoted by Gómez Canedo, Sonora, pp. 61-62n, 75. Earl Jackson, Tumacácori’s Yesterdays, p. 36. A year after Carillo’s death Tumacácori’s old church was described as “split in two.” Alfred F. Whiting, “The Tumacácori Census of 1796,” The Kiva, Vol. 19 (1953), p. 10.

[5] DCB.

[6] DCB. It has been suggested, on the basis of an analysis of the interior decorations, that the new church “must have been in use for some time before the 1822 date.” Charlie R. Steen and Rutherford J. Gettens, “Tumacácori Interior Decorations,” Arizoniana, Vol. 3, No. 3 (1962), p. 8. The documentary evidence, meager though it is, does not support this assumption. The dedication of a new mission church at Santa Barbara in California a couple of years earlier included a similar transfer of two friar’s coffins into vaults under the sanctuary. Geiger, Santa Bárbara, p. 47.

[7] Biography of a Desert Church, “The Story of Mission San Xavier del Bac,” Bernard Fontana.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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