Your first stop at Tumacacori National Historic Park will be the Visitor's Center. The Visitor's Center has a nice gift shop and a few displays. Here you will pay the $3 per person entrance fee (free for children 16 and under) which is good for 7 days. Special passes like the annual pass, handicapped pass and senior pass are honored here. The park is open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM. It is closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. At the Visitor's Center pick up a copy of "In the Footprints of the Past" which you will return at the end of your tour. This will help you with your self-guided tour of the park. You can ourchase a copy for $1.
The interpretive trail through the park is level, short and east to traverse. It starts with a view of the general area. On the left you can see some mounds. Beneath these mounds are the remains of the O'odham houses. About 30 miles away, you can see the Santa Rita Mountains where some of the building materials came from. The trail is well marked and easy to follow.
The compuerta was used to maximize the use of one of the most precious commodities for the mission. Water. It held water used for washing, cooking, and drinking and also directed the water to irrigate the crops.
This is an O'odham House or a Muuro-ki. It was constructed in modern times but was made by O'odham craftsmen using the original designs and materials. It is believed to very closely resemble the houses used in the 1600 and 1700s. In addition to the main house there is a Juato or ramada style porch, and a Comal used as a cooking area.
The church you see here today, was not the first church built on the site. Father Kino celebrated mass under a ramada or a brush shelter. The Jesuits built the first church here in the spring of 1753. It was abandoned when the Jesuits were expelled in 1767. The church you see today was built in 1822. In the photo, you can see all that remains of the Jesuit Church. The number 17 you see in the photo corresponds to the guidebook.
As you exit the church you see the Cemetery. One of the most prominent features here is the 16 foot diameter Mortuary Chapel. The roof of the chapel, probably planned to be a dome, was never completed. About 593 people were buried here between 1755 and 1825. Families that moved to the area around 1900 acknowledged this as still holy ground and used it once again as a burial ground. The last burial, and the only one identified, was of a nine month old girl named Juanita Alegria in 1916. Here descendants, who still live in the area, place fresh flowers on her grave.
On the right after you enter the church is the BaptistryThis is where the sacred ceremony of baptism was performed. There is a button on the wall you can push to hear the story of the room. At the rear left of the Baptistry is a staircase that leads to the tower and the choir loft. This area is not accesible to the public.
As you look toward the altar, you see the nave of the church. This is where the people gathered for the worship service. There were no pews. You either stood or knelt. There are four side altars where people lit candles and said prayers to individual saints.
There is a nice museum at the Tumacacori National Historic Park. It includes information about the O'odham Tribe and other tribes from the area; the Spanish Missionaries; the weapons they used to quell any uprisings; a map of the missions established in the area; and an exhibit about the construction of the church. There are also displays about the history of the Guevavi Mission and the Calabazas Mission. Next is the Kino Room which tells the fascinating story of Father Eusebio Kino. Last is the Model Room which shows the master plan for the mission and shows how much more it included than just the church. There is also an instructional video shown in the museum. Tours of the ruins of the Guevavi and Calabazas Missions are by special arrangement only.
Although Tumacacori was the first mission established in what is now called Arizona, Father Kino established the Guevavi Mission the next day and made it the headquarters. The first garden and church were built there. Although this is neither the first garden, nor the original garden for Tumacacori, it has been designed and constructed to be as close as possible to the original.
As you drive into the parking area for the Tumacacori National Historic Park you will see two signs by the building. One gives you a brief history of Tumacacori and the other is for the future dedication of an Emory Oak on 8 March 2008 to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the establishment of the park and to celebrate 100 years of statehood for Arizona in 2012. Thw sign also points out that Arizona is a Basque word meaning "the good oak tree".
Across the yard from the convent we saw a Murro-Ki, a modern construction of a traditional O'odham Indian dwelling, made of mesquite timbers, ocotillo cactus, and mud. It was built in 1997 according to ancient custom by O'odham workers using traditional hand tools. This type of structure was once used for O'odham housing as part of the mission complex. It has a juato or mesquite ramada porch and comal for cooking. These huts are said to be cooler in summer and warmer in winter because of the insulating properties of the materials used in the construction.
My favorite spot at Tumacacori was the garden. It is a carefully engineered replica of Spanish mission gardens everywhere. Gardens as this one were an important component of the mission courtyard, providing a place for quiet reflection around a simple fountain. Other than the section of native plants of the Sonoran Desert, the vegetation growing here represents plants introduced to this area by the Padres. There are many herb specimens, such as rosemary, thyme, and myrtle. Fruit trees include apricot, olive, pomgranate, and monk's pepper. These trees were all introduced by the National Park Service when the garden was built in 1937 as part of the visitor center. However, next to the east wall, is a fig tree that is a descendant of one of the original figs trees first brought to Tumacacori by Father Kino.
The ruin which once constituted the convento, or priests' quarters, has seen much usage, both during the mission era and afterwards. After abandonment, it was used as a residence by various people and was even used as a schoolhouse during the administration of the first resident superintendent at Tumacacori National Monument, later redesignated as a National Historic Site.
Probably the most extensive use the convento ever saw way when five priests stayed her for eight days, while waiting for the Anza Expedition to leave Tubac between Sunday, October 15, and Monday, October 23, 1775, as evidenced by the quote below:
"I stopped at the mission of Tumacacori, a league down the road from the presidio. Fathers Francisco Garces and Tomas Eixarch, who are to come on the expedition and remain on the Colorado River, were here. I remained with them and Fathers Pedro de Arrequibar and Felix de Gamarra during the days while the expedition was waiting at Tubac."
--Fr. Pedro Font, October 15, 1775
Lime plaster was used at Tumacacori to protect the adobe from moisture. Tons of raw material (limestone boulders) had to be brought to the mission for processing so that a coat of plaster, often more than two inches thick, could be applied to the walls. Like the timbers in the roof, limestone had to be transported some thirty miles from the Santa Rita Mountains to the east. This was most likely accomplished by means of ox carts, traveling through some thirty miles of the most dangerous Apache country in teh world.
Once on site, the limestone was loaded onto a heavy metal grate that rested on a shelf about halfway way down the wall of the kiln. Fire was placed underneath the grate and the rocks were "cooked" until they began to swell and break open. At that point they could be readily hammered into a poweder. The powder was then "slaked" by putting it in water for a day or two. Once th powder was "hydrated," it was made into a paste, sand was added to make plaster, and it was spread onto the walls to dry. Though course and lumpy by today's standards, it was (and is) the best protection possible for sun-dried adobe.
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