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Posts Tagged ‘Tumacacori Ruins’

We often visit Tucmacacori on warm spring days.IMG_1963 - Version 2

Last week when we visited the monument was quiet. No school groups or elder hostel outings were happening. The lovely woman who demonstrates tortilla making served with beans and salsa in a central courtyard wasn’t on hand. Too bad, I’d been looking forward to her hot sauce.

Still, this gave us a better opportunity to study the church itself. In the dark quiet of the sanctuary there is a sense of sacredness still and although ravaged by time, exposure to the elements (it lacked a roof for over 60 years) and bounty hunters, the church still shows some of its original glory. Faded walls and ceiling retain painted decorative motifs, especially in the sanctuary and around the altar beneath its domed apse. Originally founded by Jesuits in the 1690s, it was Franciscans who ultimately built this large church, completed in the 1820s, except for the bell tower whose dome was never finished. It became a part of the National Park System in 1916.IMG_4798 - Version 2

It’s fascinating to compare some of New Mexico’s mission churches with those here in Arizona. Franciscans founded New Mexico’s missions in the early 1600s. The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 finished off what was left at Salinas National Monument, while Pecos continued, at first thriving but then declining until its abandonment in 1838. These churches are built on a massive scale (especially Pecos) and show the standard pueblo-style architecture of adobes with unadorned brown stucco coverings, and buttresses to support the giant walls.

IMG_1966 - Version 2Nearby Arizona missions, in contrast, were, it appears, blinding white as San Xavier de Bac remains. The front of the Tumacacori church is said to have been painted in colorful red, yellow and black. The front columns appear to be Egyptian-inspired and, in fact, they were, influenced by the Moors who imported them when they arrived in Spain. Both were situated next to a then flowing river: the Santa Cruz.

And both these missions must have been in plain sight for miles, situated as they are in the Santa Cruz river valley. In contrast, New Mexico’s missions (especially at Salinas) seem to have been more hidden, perhaps in light of the marauding plains Indians just to their east.

Park brochures always invite the visitor to “imagine what it was like” when the missions were vibrant with life. Honestly, for me, it’s almost impossible. A life lived cramped in tiny rooms with no ventilation, being introduced (and pretty much forced to accept) alien religions from people who displayed little knowledge of the landscape, who brought guns and unknown diseases to tiny cities of people with too little food and no sanitation. With the luxury we live in, this is a scene just too difficult for me to place myself. I leave that to those with more imagination, or at least romantic visions.

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