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Young Apache Crown Dancers
Young San Carlos Apache boys perform the "crown dance" - December 4, 1999 Photo: Kimi Eisele

La Fiesta de Tumacácori

A two-day event celebrating the many diverse cultures and traditions of the Arizona borderlands. Native American peoples such as the Navajo, Tohono O'odham, Apache, Tarahumara, and Yaqui peoples are represented, as well as the Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo cultures. The fiesta centers around the 17th-century Mission San José de Tumacácori, which is considered the best preserved Franciscan mission ruin in the United States and represents one of the oldest outposts of European civilization in the United States. An integral part of the mission chain founded by Jesuit Eusebio Francisco Kino, and Italian-born Jesuit priest and the first missionary in the Southwest, this mission stands as a monument to the expansion of the Spanish society in the New World and the dynamic cultures that exist in the borderlands today. The mission is now part of the Tumacácori National Historic Park of the National Park Service. (Tumacácori is a Pima word meaning "place of the flat rock.") The Fiesta de Tumacácori helps to make visitors aware of the unique cultural fabric of the borderlands.

The fiesta, held the first Sunday in December since the 1960s, is tied directly to historical events of the mission; it offers a glimpse of modern traditions as they intersect with centuries-old customs. It includes music, food, dance, crafts, and storytelling. Live music and dancing from Mexican, Tarahumara, Yaqui, Tohono O'odham, and the American country-western traditions entertains participants and visitors throughout the weekend. Over two dozen booths offer foods such as tortillas, burritos, fry bread, tacos, menudo, and chili con carne, and crafts ranging from reverse glass paintings, basket-weaving, pottery, and leather to paper flowers. A "Kid's Corner" features puppet shows about local history, a hands-on natural history exhibit, and the always popular piñata swatting. Closing the two-day celebration is a Waila band. (Tohono O'odham waila or "chicken scratch" music has a German polka beat, and is played on the accordion, drums, guitar and fiddle.) The heart of the Fiesta is the Sunday morning procession and Catholic mass, celebrated primarily in English and Spanish, with songs, blessings, and dances in Yaqui, Tohono O'odham, and Tarahumara. After the mass, there is a procession back to the Fiesta grounds where a statue of the venerated St. Francis Xavier, the patron saint of the Fiesta, is sheltered in a ramada.

Project documentation includes a written report of 41 pages and bibliography; 29 8 x 10 color photographs with descriptive information; a videotape of the 1999 Fiesta, a video log; articles from the Green Valley News and Arizona Tourist News; a map of Mission grounds, a map of the Fiesta grounds with booths identified, a list of booth participants; a Fiesta schedule/poster; an excerpt from a book The Pimería Alta, Missions and More; and brochures on Tumacácori National Historic Park.

Originally submitted by: Ed Pastor, Representative (2nd District).



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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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