Tag Archives: Tumacacori

Tumacacori Fiesta 2014

Every first weekend in December, for 44 years, Tumacacori National Historical Park has presented two days of the Fiesta de Tumacacori. It’s a time when the community celebrates the cultural history and diversity in the Pima Alteria of southern Arizona and Sonora, Mexico.

TumacacoriFor the past four years I have been a volunteer at this event. This past weekend I gave two days to assist, and I had a great time. In the past I’ve photographed the dancers, musicians, and awesome views of the Santa Rita Mountains.

This year as a greeter and representative at the Tumacacori National Park Service booth I had the pleasure of presenting a new focus for the Discovery Center. The Discovery Center is a section of the fairgrounds filled with booths of hands-on activities, from writing with a quill pen to inspecting chain mail to making adobe bricks.

This year, those who visited the Discovery Center booths could receive rewards for collecting stamps on the printed programs they received when entering the fairgrounds. On returning to the NPS booth they could choose their reward based on the number of stamps they collected. The rewards were a book for five stamps, up to nine, and a metal Tumacacori water bottle for 10 or more. The smiles and giddiness of the children, and even the adults who participated were wonderful. The most selected items were the Tumacacori cook book with recipes by staff and volunteers, and the water bottles. I think it was a very successful new program for the Fiesta.

I also enjoyed talking with the members of the U.S. Border Patrol who brought a couple of horses from their horse patrol unit. These are fabulous horses that are trained to track and detain persons illegally entering the U. S. over rugged terrain. They are also trained to be around people. I took these photos of a little boy reaching out to touch them.

Boy with Horse

Mustang-Draft and Boy2This brown horse is a mustang-draft horse, a very unique breed. He is very large and requires a large rider. Currently he is backup horse and not on regular duty.

Another activity for children is the piñata. Twice daily children could try their luck. This is one of the piñatas they opened.

Pinata2For two days there was cultural food and music and dancing and demonstrations of traditional crafts such as Tohono O’odham basket weaving, making cornhusk flowers, and making leather and horsehair rope. And on Sunday there was a traditional processional and mass at the Mission of Tumacacori church.
For more information about Tumacacori National Historical Park, the horses of the U. S. Border Patrol, and the Tohono O’odham people you can visit these sites.





A Gem of a Week

I’ve been busy since my last post with a ‘secret’ activity (that I’ll reveal soon) – so I haven’t had much else to write about.  But last Wednesday my sister arrived in town to visit me and experience her first Tucson Gem and Mineral Show.

After some rest on the day after her arrival, we went to the west side of town to see the offerings of the vendors open to the general public.  My sister was looking for items she could form into the silver necklaces, bracelets and earrings she creates.  She works with silver wire and chain, creating her own silver findings and stringing semi-precious stone beads into jewelry.  I work with seed beads, creating beaded bezels and bales for cabochons, beading earrings,  and stringing beads into necklaces, bracelets, and earrings.  I’m always on the lookout for unusual items, including clasps.

On Friday and Saturday we walked, and looked, and bought, and complained of sore feet and hips, while on the hunt for our ‘pretties’.   In the past I’ve gone to the shows with my friend – she always had done the driving.  This time, my sister rented a car and agreed to drive as long as the route wasn’t too complicated.  So in a way this was my first time to the show ‘on my own’, too.  We managed to get to the show locations at good times, and find a parking space without much trouble.

On the days we weren’t shopping (Thursday, Sunday, and Tuesday) we hung out in the sunshine and drank wine in the afternoon, and had great Greek food, Sonoran hotdogs and wicked margaritas, iced coffee, and strong morning coffee with sweetener and milk. We took a road trip to Tubac, Tumacacori and Patagonia.  Every day was filled with beautiful weather and great company.  We had the opportunity to share insights from our lives and compare notes about our experiences.

I can’t wait for when she comes back for her next visit!  And in the interim perhaps I’ll find a way to visit her side of the world again in Maryland.

Visiting Near the Mexico Border Again

Over the weekend I traveled south of Tucson, enjoying friendships begun last year as a volunteer at Tumacacori National Historical Park.  On Friday, with my friend who lives in Nogales, AZ I had lunch in Nogales, Sonora, just across the border.  Approaching the city one can see the Nogales, Sonora houses on the hillsides.  They had recently been painted in varying colors of blue, pink, green, turquoise, yellow and orange and they looked so charming.

The day was cold and breezy, and it was a chilly walk across the border from downtown Nogales into Mexico.  We warmed ourselves in the cozy atmosphere of a small cafe with tortilla soup and burritos, along with some hot tea.  I had not been in Nogales, Sonora before, except to cross the border from Mexico into the U. S. by car when I traveled with a group to Magdalena, Mexico.  On foot one gets a more intimate experience of the city.  It was generally peaceful, with only the shopkeepers and ‘hawkers’ shouting out for us to stop and buy something.  We weren’t interested…and just kept walking.  (We didn’t want to buy ‘no yunk’ – Mexican “junk”, lol.)

After lunch we returned to Nogales, AZ and parted company.  I was on my way to stay with a volunteer friend from Tumacacori National Historical Park who had offered her hospitality while we volunteered at the 41st annual Fiesta de Tumacacori on the weekend.  I stayed in a lovely home at the end of a dirt road, just southeast of Tumacacori.  We enjoyed informal conversation and meals, and playing with their six-month old puppy Tuffy.  The puppy will be a very nice dog in the future; however, his young habits put him in the dog house with me.  He managed to chew the lace off one of my shoes, and the shoulder strap and corner off the purse I was carrying.  Also he pulled a glove and ski band out of the pocket of my jacket and began chewing the band.  I’ve been invited to stay there again later this month after the luminarias display.  I will have to really watch where I put my things.

For two days of very cool, stormy weather folks came to the fiesta grounds at Tumacacori to enjoy music, dancing, food, and cultural exchange.  I volunteered to man the Western National Park Association (WNPA) booth for both days.  The WNPA publishes the books that are found in the bookstores and gift shops of the western national parks.  Their headquarters is in Tucson.  Each park has a WNPA staff person who manages the books and gift items available at the national parks.

For this weekend, I assisted in unloading the boxes and  putting the items out for display, talking with customers about publications, and receiving payments for the various items.  The day began about 8:30 and lasted until 5:00.  On Saturday the time was shortened slightly because of a sprinkle of rain – just enough to make us dash to cover and protect the merchandise.  Each night we had to box everything up and remove it from the area.  The next day we repeated this scenario.  And each day it was very cold.  I had on five layers to keep warm – long underwear, a turtle neck shirt, my volunteer shirt, a volunteer fleece jacket and a hooded, puffy nylon jacket to cut the wind.

There were many vendors who offered food and beverages, and it was easy to get a taste of authentic Mexican and Sonoran food.  The ‘sonoran’ hotdogs I’m guessing, weren’t quite authentic, but they were very good.  The big pepper they added to the top managed to keep my mouth and lips on fire for quite a while!  I also sampled Mexican hot chocolate, beef tamales, and a kind of Mexican rosette cookie with cinnamon and sugar.

Mata Ortiz Pots

Tumacacori Mission Tile “Night”

It was nice to see many of the other volunteers I met last year, and to learn of other volunteer opportunities closer to Tucson.  Saguaro National Park (East) is looking for volunteers to take a saguaro census, and this sounds like something that could be fun.  I also enjoyed catching up with the friends with whom I connected most strongly.  The staff and volunteers are very nice, caring people, and always had a ready smile.

After the fiesta closed we were all invited for snacks and drinks before dinner, a group dinner of chili and cornbread, and assorted desserts.  It was a great ending to a busy and chilly day!  And I was pooped.  I’d been invited to stay an extra night at my friends’; however, I was wanting to get home to check on the heat and water for the trailer.  So I drove the hour and 15 minute drive back to Tucson, and arrived around 8:15.  Shortly afterward I was in bed, snoozing!

I love to go to Tumacacori.  It’s hard to describe why I like it so much.  It’s the feeling I get when I am there.  That, and the friendship of the park service folks, staff and volunteers alike, make it feel homey to me.  The grounds are so peaceful, and the whole site is hugged by the mountains and the Santa Cruz River, with its cottonwood trees.  A place for the spirit to enjoy.

Fiesta Dancer in Visitor Center

Corn Husk Dancer Dolls  from Guadalajara, Mexico

Corn Husk Creche



More Fun at the Park

Sunday was a beautiful day, both weather-wise and activity-wise.  I was feeling a little tired after three consecutive full days in the visitor center, with another half-day set for Sunday.  My energy picked up when I realized that there was going to be a wedding in the church.

It was a very small wedding – bride, groom, flower girl daughter, officiant, parents, and a couple of friends.  Knowing that a tour through the park and church was scheduled for 11:00 a.m., the wedding was scheduled for 10:45.  Unfortunately, some of the guests were late, so there was concern for a conflict between the wedding and the tour.

With the help of the ranger on duty, and the flexibility of the tour guide, things went very smoothly to allow both groups to enjoy their activities without interference.  Eventually, the wedding ceremony was completed, and the tour was able to go inside the church to learn about its history.

I asked the bride how she and her groom had decided to have their wedding in this historic church.  She said that the groom worked for a company that contracted with the park to rehabilitate the administrative buildings next to the visitor center.  When he saw the site he told her he’d like to get married in the church.

While the church building is over 200 years old, and has some major issues regarding upkeep, it is still an awesome structure.  The Park Service is mandated to only preserve the structures and history of the mission, with no restoration.  So Mother Nature is taking back the earth from which the bricks of the church were made, slowly but surely.  Over years of abandonment and abuse, and incorrect methods of preservation, the church has deteriorated.  Still, it is a very ‘soulful’ structure and has a ‘presence’ that feels peaceful.

Just seeing the rose petals strewn on the floor, in preparation for the ceremony, gave me a satisfying feeling.

I had planned to go on the 11:00 tour as I’d not yet experienced the tour guide’s manner of the ‘telling the story’ of the mission; however, I got detoured to the wedding.  I joined the tour as the guide began to describe the details of the front facade.  Each guide or docent presents the information in his or her own creative way.  It’s fascinating.

Wedding before, tour after

Beautiful Signs of Spring

I know that in many parts of the country spring is happening, with new sprouts shooting out of the ground, greenness, crocuses, daffodils, and blooming trees.  If I lived in a colder climate I would think that southern Arizona had already begun spring, way ahead of other places.  But as I have walked around this place I see that new shoots of greenery are just beginning to come forth here as well.

Just outside my door is a large mesquite tree that just a few days ago had no sign of green.  Today the leaves have burst forth.  After the terribly cold weather here in January and February I thought the plants would have a very hard time coming back to life.  But today as I walked in the visitor center garden I saw blooms aplenty .  The garden is a charming place to sit and be still, and listen to the birds and feel the breeze.  It is planted after the mission traditional gardens from centuries ago.  And it is always a joy to visit.

In that garden are roses, violets, quince and pear, orange and apricot, and pomegranate trees.  They all made it through the winter, and have produced hundreds, even thousands, of blooms.   So today I’m posting photos of some of my spring discoveries as I’ve walked in the garden the past couple of weeks.

A Hint of Pink

Butterfly on Penstemon

Yellow Columbine

One of my favorite delights was seeing a sphinx moth.  I didn’t know what it was at first, so I inquired – a cross between a bee and a hummingbird, it seemed!   As I browsed for information online it seems that these are call ‘hummingbird moths’.  I didn’t get a photo of it, and it seems that most online images are copyrighted, so if you want to know more, you’ll have to do some research.

Another part of spring arriving is the number of birds that have come to cheer up the mornings.  Of special interest to birders is the vermilion flycatcher.  There are several pairs here right now.  I don’ t know a lot of the birds, but there are several kinds of sparrows, cardinals, phainopepla, black phoebe, doves,  finches, orioles and hummingbirds.  A couple of days ago I saw two turkey vultures land in a nearby tree.  The Santa Cruz river is less than half a mile from here so this is a place where lot of birds like to come.

It is so easy to love this setting!!!

Visitor Center Breezeway – Yellow Columbine



I arrived at Tumacacori National Historical Park yesterday. It’s a beautiful place, and of course it has a different flavor from Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

Tumacacori dates back to the 1600s when the Spanish were exploring. One of the most famous persons in this area was Father Kino who was a Jesuit priest serving under the auspices of King Charles II of Spain. He began many missions to convert the local people to Christianity. He was good to the people and they revered him.

Father Kino was also a cartographer and agriculturalist. He was the first to map the Baja peninsula as a peninsula rather than an island.

This week I am ‘resting’ as most of the staff are on vacation. I have been walking up to the visitor center to observe and visit with the staff and volunteers who are working there. There have been lots of visitors, many who have been here more than once.

My home is feeling settled now, probably the most organized and neat it’s ever been! It feels good…

And I am enjoying being back online from my home, and being able to make phone calls!

Organ Pipe Update

This week I’m in training related to the Interpretation Division of the park.  Yesterday we took a long, tiring trip (17 miles of very bad dirt road – one way) to the homestead at Bates Well that was established in 1919, before Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was declared a monument  The remains of the homestead is being stabilized for preservation as a historic part of the Monument.  Back then, as now, human trash has been deposited over the landscape – now they are known as ‘artifacts’.

Tuesday was the first day of training and we were advised of our ‘safety’ responsibilities.  We get a lot of questions from visitors about venturing out into the accessible areas alone, or going to Mexico, specifically Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco), which is only about 60 miles from here.  The Law Enforcement Division ranger advised that it is NOT safe to go to Mexico; however, people must make their own decision about that.  YES, there IS a lot of illegal activity being monitored in this park – much smuggling of drugs through any means available.  The good news is that they don’t want to be seen in the areas where visitors and staff are, so in general, the park is pretty safe if you stay in the designated areas.

The toll on the environment from illegal activity, whether drug smuggling or human smuggling, is bad – trash and human waste, and the occasional dead body.  A few days ago two UDAs (UnDocumented Aliens) ventured into the volunteer housing area on foot, and knocked on our doors, including mine, asking for food.  This is not uncommon here.  Their presence was reported to a staff member who was carrying a radio, and the information was passed to Law Enforcement.  They arrived quickly and apprehended the men.  We never felt any danger; however, we are advised to not engage with these people in any way, whatsoever.

The Visitor Center exhibition area is getting a facelift, with new photographic and hands-on demonstrations.  Here is a  photo of one of the mock-ups for the proposed exhibit.  My boss, who is the Chief of Interpretation, is delighted and excited to see the completion of this goal soon.

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to attend the 40th Annual Fiesta at Tumacacori Historical National Park, the site of a historic mission, and the place where I will be volunteering later this month through April.  I met several of the people whose names I’ve either seen in emails, or with whom I’ve been communicating.  I happened to meet the person there who is responsible for the new materials in the Organ Pipe exhibit, and she said she hadn’t heard how they looked.  I just happened to have my camera with my photos of the materials with me, so she could get a peak.

There were lots of booths and good food and musical entertainment.  Here are some photos of the dancers performing traditional dances in traditional costumes.

I will be leaving Organ Pipe just before Christmas; it’s too bad that I won’t get to demonstrate too much of what I’ve learned in training before I go!  Most of the volunteers for the winter season have arrived.  Some of us are leaving soon.  This has been a very interesting enterprise for me.  I have met a lot of very nice folks here.  Even out here in the remote desert there are potluck dinners, cards and jigsaw puzzles, dancing and nights at the movies.  The Visitor Center just got a new audio/video system and we can watch DVDs on a big screen after-hours there.  Tuesday night we watched “Avatar”.

The cellular/Internet situation has not improved so I have not been able to get phone service here.  And by the time I complete a day or several days at ‘work’ I’m too exhausted to travel to the park ‘hot spot’ to go online.  By that time it’s dark, and getting cooler, and the bathrooms are not very close by.  That is a real factor!!!