Monday, February 8, 2010


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:

Sunday, February 7, 2010


On the way to Patagonia to do some winter birding, Laurie Zuckerman stumbled across the Telles Family Shrine, perched on a rocky hillside in Southern Arizona. This rock grotto was built in 1941 by Juanita and Juan Telles in gratitude for the safe return of their son from World War II. These shrines, also known as capillitas or grutas, are Southwestern icons, but they are usually few and far between. It was a stunning find for this particular snowbird. I have been to Patagonia many times, but never from Nogales north on Highway 82.

Here's a look at what you would see from this windy road near mile marker 16. Follow my camera all the way up the crumbling concrete staircase into this alluring cave. In hindsight, the setting for this shrine was far more provocative than the shrine itself, which contains mostly newer mundane plaster saints, plastic flowers, and glass votive candles, many of which were lit with the eternal flame the Telles  family planned for.

Thank you to all who have contributed comments and family history of this Telles Family Shrine.


Laurie Zuckerman's January trip to Tubac, Arizona proved to be sunny, warm, and historically intriguing. The Tubac presidio is the oldest European settlement in Arizona, founded by the Spanish in 1752. The Tubac Cemetery, albeit old, does not appear to date back to the Presidio days, but it is filled with a plethora of rock graves, field stones with carved crosses, a few rotting wooden crosses, and old metal crucifixes amongst the rubble. Best part—no snow!

Stay tuned for photos of the historic Tumacacori Mission and cemetery, just south of Tubac, Arizona.


Laurie Zuckerman traveled to Southern Arizona in January with my new Canon digital SLR to investigate the Hispanic cemeteries and roadside shrines in and around Nogales. On a windy bleak day, I photographed the children's section of this large, clean municipal cemetery. I was surprised to find statues of angels that were so similar to the angels I have documented in the more affluent and ostentatious La Luz Panteon (cemetery) in colonial San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. This weathered blue angel in Nogales doesn't receive the yearly repainting that the angels of San Miguel enjoy.

Being that Nogales is a large border town, similar Mexican-Catholic burial traditions were abundant in this cemetery. I am assuming the angels and monuments are imported from Mexico.

Grundgy stuffed animals were ubiquitous on the graves of the children, along with kitschy new ceramics, both visual trends that are popular throughout the Southwest.

Wrought iron fences, known as cerquitas, adorned several of the wealthier plots. I loved this hot pink fence and hot pink concrete angel. My "favorite" Mexican-style color—Pepto-Bismol pink. My own "In the Pink" altar installation isn't nearly so garish! 

I don't find many angel statues that aren't overly saccharin. This broken blue angel is one of the sweetest and most poignant, lying on the bare earth of this child's grave.

Stay tuned for further photographic installments of my week-long journey through Southern Arizona. I visited much older Hispanic cemeteries in Tubac and at the Tumacacori Mission, plus a great roadside shrine outside of Patagonia.