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.


rebecca said...

as always you take the path less traveled and with it,
a willingness to share each hidden tender treasure of honor.
for this i thank you, and your eternal tender cherishing regard.


KidOkra said...

Beautiful pictures. I have been there, too. It was very moving. Thank you for sharing the photos.

Brittney said...

My grandpa was just telling me of his grandma juanita who made a shrine in Arizona many years ago. It was recently deemed a historical site so I was looking up pictures and I was surprised to have found this blog on it! Thank you for writing what you know and posting these pictures. It was really touching to see that my great great grandparents made such a difference. :)

Unknown said...

Remember this from 3 decades ago.. my father was the Sheriff.../marshal..of Patigonia.. I miss him and this town... RIP M.DEChicio

Roni said...

Thank you for your photo!

Minor spelling error...Juan, not Jan Telles.

Tio Juan was the younger brother of my great grandmother. There was so much tragedy in their family when they were growing up; having all five sons return safely had much more significance than one could only imagine. My great grandmother and grandparents always talked about the marker, and told me that it was Tio Juan and Tia Juana's nature to place the well-being of everyone in their hearts and prayers.

History can be unkind when it involves Arizona's 'wild west' days and Hispanic/Mexican/Native American ranching families. Juan Telles lost his mother when he was young, and shortly thereafter, his father was gunned down over a land claim dispute. Epifanio had filed a claim the year before for the grazing and water. One of the other men insisted that now owned the land as a mining rights transaction. My great grandmother, then 16 years old, and their 17 year old brother Pablo, witnessed the entire scene. Their father, Epifanio, was shot by a man
on horseback. Although their father was unarmed, it was ruled self-defense.

In 1951, Juan Telles was himself shot and killed in a dispute with a childhood friend. Juan Telles and the Telles Family were hard working, well respected ranchers in the area since the late 1800s. Today, one of Juan Telles' ranches is a part of the Audubon Research Facility in Elgin.