Thursday, September 21, 2023


Tumacacori Mission south of Tucson offers humble history

Tumacacori National Historical Park is home to the Mission to the Pimas. Made of adobe, plaster and wood, today, “these ruins evoke tales of life and land transformed by cultures meeting and mixing.”

Visitors to Tumacácori enter the park through the visitor center, staffed by very gracious National Park Service employees and volunteers. The museum and bookstore provide a wealth of information, including a 15-minute video (started at any time by the push of a button).

A self guiding tour book can be borrowed in the bookstore. On the day we were there, a park volunteer led a walking tour of the mission and grounds.

Tortilla making at Tumacacori mission (Julianne G. Crane)

Local artisans demonstrate traditional crafts on the grounds which may include tortilla making, paper flower making, O’odham basket weaving, leather working or iron working.

During November-December look for demonstrations on the weekends. January-April, there are activities Wednesday through Sunday.

The mission, itself is fascinating.   Father Kino established Mission San José de Tumacácori in January 1691, one day before Guevavi, making it the oldest mission site in what is now Arizona.

“The Franciscans began work in 1800 on an ambitious undertaking – a church that would match the frontier baroque glory of the celebrated Mission San Xavier del Bac not far to the north. Under the direction of a master mason, a crew of Indian and Spanish laborers laid five-foot thick cobblestone foundations that year, but construction ground to a halt as funds dried up.

Inside the mission shows details of construction. (Julianne G Crane)
“Over the next few years they were able to add a few courses of adobe bricks, bringing the walls up to seven feet [high]. These were plastered inside and out and decorative handfuls of crushed brick were pressed into the wet plaster.”

“It was not until 1821 that work truly resumed. An enterprising Franciscan, Father Juan Bautista Estelric, sold 4,000 head of the mission’s cattle to a local rancher, Don Ignacio Pérez, and with the first payment hired a new master and pushed the work ahead. The walls were raised to 14 feet, but the rancher stalled on his payments and construction again ceased.

“Two years later, Father Ramón Liberós, a persistent friar, finally got the rancher to pay his bill, and work resumed. Within a few years the church was almost completed, although the bell tower was never capped with its dome. The church must have been a striking landmark in the flat Santa Cruz Valley, with its embellished and painted façade and plaster walls embedded with crushed red brick.”

If you go: 

Tumacacori entrance. (Julianne G Crane)

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day, when the park is closed.

Entrance fee: $10 entrance. Free: 16 and younger; and those with America the Beautiful or Golden Age passes.

Directions: Tumacácori National Historical Park is located off of Exit 29 of I-19, 50 miles south of Tucson and 18 miles north of Nogales, Arizona.

The Visitor Center and Museum are located at 1891 East Frontage Road, Tumacacori, Arizona, 85640. (You can’t miss it.)

And, to make your drive to here even more worthwhile, check out two other places nearby where you might want to pull your RV off the interstate for a look-see, click here for information on the Santa Cruz Chili and Taumacacori Outpost.

— Julianne G. Crane
Go to about the RV lifestyle, 

All images by Julianne G. Crane.

Julianne G. Crane
Julianne G. Crane
Julianne G. Crane writes about the RVing and camping lifestyles for print and online sites. She was been hooked on RVing from her first rig in the mid-1980s. Between 2000-2008, she was a writer for The Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, Wash. One of her popular columns was Wheel Life about RVing in the Pacific Northwest. In 2008, Crane started publishing RV Wheel She and her husband, Jimmy Smith, keep a homebase in southern Oregon, while they continue to explore North America in their 21-foot 2021 Escape travel trailer. Over the years they have owned every type of RV except a big class A. “Our needs change and thankfully, there’s an RV out there that fits every lifestyle.”



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