Laurie Zuckerman mission to photograph the Mission San José de Tumacácori was fulfilled during a warm week in mid-January. This Southern Arizona mission was established in January 1691 by Jesuit Father Eusebio Francisco Kino. Tumacácori was one of the first few missions established in what is today Arizona. First the Jesuit missionaries and then the Franciscan Missionaries controlled this spectacular mission. Now in ruins, Tumacácori has been preserved stabilized by the National Park Service since 1917.
Tumacácori Mission is situated in a serene setting with a stunning mountain backdrop—the most beautiful mission ruins I have visited in the Southwest. There are wonderful passages of pastel decaying paint around the church altar, which is rare among Southwest missions. Most are reduced to bare adobe.
Above is a large cross covered in Mexican garish paper flowers and a lithograph of Ecce Homo, the only decorative item inside the crumbling church. Outside the church are wide plazas and open vistas. Behind the church is a walled-in cemetery with a rotunda chapel, minus its roof.
The most unique quality of the mission's cemetery are the incised crosses defacing the adobe walls. I have no idea how old these petroglyphs are. The styling of these crude crosses with rectangular bases appears quite old. The NPS volunteer guide did not know their history. Stone-piled graves with small wooden crosses populate this sparse cemetery. The last known grave is dated 1916. The nearby Tubac cemetery had a similar style cross carved into a fieldstone, used as a headstone, on a similar unidentified rock pile grave.
For more information about the history of the Tumacácori Mission, visit the National Park Service site at: