Thursday, February 9, 2017
Patagonia & Tubac, AZ (1/28 & 1/29/2017)
Some of the back roads around Patagonia took me through the beautiful ranch land of San Rafael Valley, where I came upon a large memorial to Marcos de Niza, a Franciscan friar who spent much of his life exploring the "new world". After exploring much of South and Central America, he came to Mexico and was given the mission of exploring the territory north of Sonora. He became the first European to enter what is now the U. S. west of the Rocky Mountains when he came through this area in 1537. He returned to Mexico with stories of fabulous wealth, including a "city made of gold" called Cibola. His account led to Coronado's 1539 expedition, with the friar as a guide, searching for the gold. It turned out there was no such gold. De Niza had only seen the Zuni city from a distance, possibly while the pueblos were lit by the setting sun, making them appear to be golden. He was disgraced by his exaggerations and returned to Mexico in shame to live out his life as a friar.
The nearby town of Lochiel is considered a ghost town, although it is privately owned by a man who still lives there. A Border Patrol agent there told me the old man will usually chase people off the property, but he was away at the time of my visit. The agent suggested I take advantage of the opportunity to see the old buildings. The town is right on the border with Mexico and was once a center for shipment of goods between the two countries. The old man lives in what was the customs house. The church and school are abandoned, along with a few other buildings.
My last day in Patagonia, I made a trip to Sonoita, about ten miles north, to see the sunrise at the Santa Rita Mountains. The skies were clear, so I didn't expect a colorful sunrise. However, I had seen a photo on the internet of first light hitting the mountains, making them a bright red. Trying to find a viewpoint proved more difficult than expected, so I eventually entered the road to a ranch and got a good view. The pre-dawn color was nice, and the light on the mountains made the drive worthwhile.
Later that day, I visited the town of Tubac, now famous for its art galleries, Mexican import sales, restaurants and a State Historic Park featuring the remains of the original presidio (fort) built there in 1752. The Spanish were run off by Apache raids in the 1840s, but the town came back when miners and ranchers arrived later in the 19th century. Today it is known as an artist colony, with a population of about 1200. It seemed to me that many of its buildings are new since I was there in 2003.