For the O'odham living in the desert, it was the job of young girls to run each day in the early morning, often for many miles, to bring home water for their family. As the monsoon season approached, families would move to locations where shallow irrigation channels delivered rainwater to their fields.
The O'odham living along streams channeled river water directly into rich fields of corn, beans, squash, agave, and melons.
With the Spanish came European ideas of irrigation. The fired adobe structure before you is part of the acequia madre, the main irrigation channel that brought water to the mission from the Santa Cruz River a mile or more to the south. The narrowed end could be closed, raising the elevation of the water to serve various functions. As a compuerta, or diversion box, it turned water from the ditch into the orchard to the east. As a holding tank, it was convenient for filling ollas, earthen jars, to carry water back to the houses for drinking and cooking. Because it had a polished, red surface, it was probably also used as a lavandería, or place for washing clothes and dishes, and possibly even bathing.
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Self-guided tour - Orchard
The mission complex included a walled garden and orchard. The treelines here grow along the the foundations of adobe walls which originally protected a 4.6 acre enclosure. The orchard would have contained favorite fruit trees brought to the mission from Europe.
The saguaro and organ pipe cactus, generally found at lower elevations, provided the O’odham an annual treat of sweet, juicy fruit. The saguaro harvest was celebrated with dancing, singing, and storytelling, and the making and drinking of saguaro wine, essential for the calling of the clouds that would bring the summer rains.
The establishment of a mission brought new fruits, imported from Europe and considered essential to a “civilized” life by the priests and settlers. As farmers, the O’odham welcomed these new crops. Wheat, grown over the winter, provided a harvest during an otherwise lean season. Horses, cattle, sheep, goats, and chickens provided transportation, labor, fiber, and convenient sources of protein.
The mission complex included a walled garden and orchard, the contents protected from deer and cattle. Native trees, including hackberries, now grow along the foundations of those adobe walls. Within the original 4.6 acre enclosure the community grew vegetables and fruit trees. Favorite trees brought from Europe included peach, pomegranate, quince, and fig. As recently as 1938, peach trees lined the mission acequia, stabilizing its banks and making use of moisture which seeped through its mud walls.
The fruit trees that you see here today were grown from seeds and cuttings of old cultivar fruit trees—the oldest trees that could be found in historic orchards and yards throughout southern Arizona. The replanted orchard was dedicated in 2007.