Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Mission San Xavier del Bac

Situated 10-miles south of downtown Tucson, Mission San Xavier del Bac is a National Historic Landmark named for Christian missionary Francis Xavier, and founded as a Catholic mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. Many times over the last two years Dan and I have driven down the freeway and observed the mission, set back off the road a ways, with the striking architecture always catching our eye. Both of us agreed we should take the time to visit the Mission, and finally this March we did, discovering the beauty hidden inside the walls of the church, and the history behind it. The exact location of the mission is in a centuries-old settlement of the Tohono O’odham Indians and is still part of the Reservation. Over the centuries, this land has been part of New Spain (late 1700’s), Mexico (1821), and finally the United States in1854. The Mission has endured raids, earthquakes, lighting strikes, land wars, water damage, political and religious changes, and deterioration due to age, but ongoing restoration efforts have succeeded in keeping it whole.

Hailed as the oldest intact European structure in Arizona, the church’s interior is filled with stunning original statuary and mural paintings. Visitors take a step back in time to an authentic 18th century setting when walking through the doors. Widely considered to be the finest example of Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States, it receives over 200,000 visitors each year. The Mission is also a pilgrimage site, with thousands visiting on foot and on horseback (called cabalgatas in Spanish). However, even in the midst of the steady stream of visitors and ongoing restoration, the church still retains its original purpose of ministering to the religious needs of its parishioners.

What impressed me most of all was the Baroque architecture in the interior of the church. The rich ornamentation and dazzling colors of the paintings, carvings, frescoes, and statues display a mixture of New Spain and Native American artistic motifs, although little is actually known about the people who designed and decorated the interior. Every inch of the walls and ceiling are covered with scenes that depict their untold stories, but sparks the imagination to wonder what they might tell us. Many visits over long periods of time would be necessary to take this all in, but we did the best we could the one day we spent visiting Mission San Xavier del Bac. Hopefully our pictures captured a fraction of the beauty we witnessed.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Tubac, Arizona

Sixty miles south of Tucson, and close to the Arizona-Mexico border is the small artsy town of Tubac. Established in 1752 as a Spanish Presidio, or fort, Tubac now hosts working artists whose studios surround the former parade grounds. The name itself is a Spanish corruption of an O'odham phrase "s-cuk ba'a", or perhaps "cu wa", meaning "black water" or "low place", respectively, and probably a reference to its location on the Santa Cruz River. Tubac was one of the stops on the Camino Real (Royal Road) from Mexico to the Spanish settlements in California. Tubac’s most famous Spanish resident was Juan Bautista de Anza, who built the chapel of Santa Gertrudis, the foundations of which lie beneath today’s St. Ann’s Church.

In the 1930’s – 1960’s Tubac developed into an art colony, with an art school opening in this small desert village in 1948 which resulted in the restoration of some of Tubac’s historic buildings.  The Festival of the Arts was founded in 1964 and is still an annual event held in February of each year. I think most of the town’s 1100 residents must be artists because the town is filled with shops selling mostly Mexican themed painting, sculpture, ceramics, photography, crafts, antiques, and jewelry.

We made two visits to Tubac while staying in Tucson this season, once in December 2016, and once for the Festival of the Arts in February. A fun and colorful place for sightseeing and shopping, here are some of our pictures of the area. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Hiking in Tucson

It’s been three months since I last posted an update on this blog (December 2016) and that entry summed up the last of our summer travels from September 2016. We arrived in Tucson October 1st after a busy summer, and settled into a less hectic routine, in some ways doing many of the same things we did in Tucson last winter. Since I already made several posts last year covering the same ground, I have been less interested in creating new blog entries this year. But, as our time here comes to a close (we leave Tucson April 1 for a while), I decided to make one or two new entries to record what we’ve been up to and keep up the continuity of the blog, this first one on our hiking adventures.

One of the very nice things about Tucson, and the primary reason we are here, is the winters are moderate, allowing us to participate in outdoor activities throughout our five to six month stay with very little disruption due to weather. I really appreciate the freedom to get outdoors on a regular basis over the winter while much of the country waits for temperatures to come up above the freezing point. Tucson is surrounded by notable mountain ranges on all sides with the Tucson Mountains in the west, the Santa Catalina Mountains northeast, the Rincon Mountains east, and the Santa Rita Mountains lying to the south. There is no end to the hiking possibilities here!

This post is a compilation of photographs from the hikes we’ve taken this fall and winter. We started right off in October and were able to hike each month we were here. Our first hikes captured the peak of the fall colors, which may not be as dramatic as some places, but the uncommonness of it makes it all the more appreciated. As we worked our way through the weeks and months, we saw the loss of foliage, snow on some of the higher elevations, creeks and waterfalls filling up from rain and snow melt, and finally, in the spring, the reemergence of wildflowers and new growth on the cacti. These pictures are taken on our hikes to Bridal Wreath Falls, Hutches Pools, Mt. Lemmon, Madera Canyon, Sabino Canyon, Seven Falls, and Ventana Canyon.