map of pimería alta with presidios, missions, and rivers
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NPS / Harper's Ferry Center


What is the Pimería Alta?

When the Spanish first arrived in this area, they called the O'odham people the "Pima." This area of present-day southern Arizona and northern Sonora, Mexico, became known by the Jesuit order of Catholic missionaries as the Pimería Alta, which means "place of the upper Pimas" in English.

The lush river valleys of the Pimería Alta, already well-established with a string of successful O'odham communities, presented an appealing locale for expanding the Spanish empire.

It was built on three main pillars:


Last updated: August 1, 2020

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