Missions and Presidios in Tubac and the surrounding area. Above photo is the round Mortuary Chapel where vigils for the dead were held in connection with the Franciscan Church.
I have been planning a trip south to Tubac and Tumacacori for many months. Frequently, when people met me and see my camera, they fervently suggest Tubac as a place to visit. So, on a mild December day, I headed south. So far south of Tucson that the miles signs turned to kilometers and the landscape took on foreign and exotic feel. The mountains ranges of the Coronado National Forest bleed into the Madera Canyon. Stripes of color trace the river valleys where the cottonwoods hold tight to their yellow leaves, diving the landscape between water and desert.
Tumacacori in a National Historial Park and sits at the cultural crossroads in the Santa Cruz River Valley. The O'odham, Apache and Yaqui people met and mingled with the Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries, settlers, and soldiers. The intersection of vibrant cultures and traditions took place on this ground.
The Franciscan church is the defining feature and, though never completed, is a colorful landmark. It’s filled with signs of life from the 1700s. You see the sanctuary with a giant dome (some of the original paint remains on the wall like a fresco in Italy), baptismal rooms, built-ins for the 14 stations, storage rooms for food and housing of the missionaries and a cemetery out back. This was a living and working crossroads surrounded by images of Catholicism and Mexican Baroque statuary that give you a sense of wonder while strolling the grounds.
45 miles south of Tucson, it is worth the trip. Admission is free if you have a Parks Pass, otherwise, it is $7 for entry per person.
Minutes away from Tumacacori is Tubac. The 200-year-old town is like stepping back into a European city on US Soil. Known for its art, you will find many working galleries, where artists are friendly and willing to engage with people about their work. A site of retreats and learning experiences, you can get a hands-on lesson at The Tubac School of Art They offer classes like "paint your pet, abstraction, moods with watercolors, foundations of oil painting and many more.
If you are furnishing your hacienda, you have hit the goldmine for Mexican pottery, furnishings, and decor. The prices of pottery and other accouterments are very reasonable and most likely due to the proximity to the Mexcian border, only 19 miles away.
Once you have collected art and gifts, its time to eat! This trip I went to Elvira's for an amazing contemporary Mexican fare. Originally established in Nogales, the owners moved the flagship restaurant to Tubac. Everything on the menu is amazing but the moles will stop you in your tracks and the green chili enchiladas are amazing. The environment is truly unique with glass bulbs hanging everywhere from the ceiling and artwork everywhere. The biggest surprise was the Elviras store, where you can buy anything you see in the restaurant plus many more home furnishings.
Truly an exceptional day trip or extended weekend destination. I just scratched the surface on this artistic haven and plan to be going back soon!
The Holiday Season is in full swing in Tubac, Arizona!
Above (upper left) Dick, a retired artist who lives in Tubac in his home, (upper right) The unique interior of the famous Elvira's Restaurant, (lower left) Pottery galore, (lower right) Art everywhere in Tubac.
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