October 7, 2017

Tucson. January, 1990

Was this my first visit to San Xavier del Bac Mission? Or had Simon and David taken me there on an earlier visit to Tucson? At any rate, it was after the 1989 emergency restoration of the interior. An expert job that brought out some of the original 18th-century colors but not so much that it looked like it was born yesterday. Nine miles south of Tucson, rising out of the desert landscape as we get closer, this Franciscan church is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona, built when this land was still part of New Spain. Little is known about the artists who decorated the interior of the mission known as the White Dove of the Desert, but the general consensus is that artists in Mexican guilds and workshops created the sculptures, which were then transported north by donkey. Craftsmen then sculpted the gesso clothing on the figures once they were in place. In place outside the Mission (on land that is part of their reservation) are local Tohono O’odham people selling their traditional fry bread from the backs of vans. Food for the body, food for the soul.

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