San Jose de Tumacacori Mission Church

San Jose de Tumacacori Mission Church © 2011 Bo Mackison

I’ve spent a couple of days visiting the Tumacacori National Historical Park in Tumacacori Arizona, a tiny village about 50 miles south of Tucson.

The mission of San José de Tumacácori  was founded in 1691 by a Jesuit missionary, Father Eusebio Francisco Kino. The Spanish mission was built on the site of a Pima Indian village.


Detail of Tumacacori Exterior

Detail of Tumacacori Mission Church © 2011 Bo Mackison

Construction began on the massive adobe church in 1800, but it was never completed. The people who lived at the Tumacacori mission eventually moved northward and settled at the Mission San Xavier del Bac in Tucson, another of the more than twenty mission sites founded in the southern Arizona and northern Mexico by Father Kino.

The exterior of the church was originally painted bright colors–yellows and reds, and detailed with black. It was a most impressive structure to the indigenous people who visited the mission.


Tumacacori Garden

Tumacacori Garden © 2011 Bo Mackison

The mission has been under the administration of the National Park Service since 1916. One of the Park Services main objectives is the continued preservation of the adobe mission church and the adjoining structures which include a granary, a mortuary and cemetery, and other archeological features in the 300+ acre park.

The garden which is adjacent to the Visitor Center (itself an historic structure built by Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s) is planted with nut and fruit trees, and herbs that were introduced to this area by the Jesuit missionaries. It also has an area of native plants including many cactus varieties.

I found the garden a lovely place to sit and reflect on each day’s journey. It has a sparkling fountain as its central feature with walkways throughout the arbor and gardens. The shade from the mature trees offers protection from the desert sun, welcome even in the month of February.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. She is living in Tucson for the next eight seven weeks, exhibiting her photography in art shows, taking photographs of Arizona landmarks, both historical and natural, and blogging about photography, art fairs, and learning to live on her own. Her mantra is “Bo goes solo!”

About Bo Mackison

I’m a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place – a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I’d love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It’s my gift to you.


  1. Fascinating. I love the history.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Tucson is filled with so much history that I am barely aware of. We must not have concentrated on too much Southwestern US history…

  2. Lovely photos. One of my favorite stories is of the Tohono O’odham (also called Pima or Papago) who lived here, who thought the Church members were “of the same tribe.” The couldn’t understand why people who belonged to one tribe lived so far apart and kept individual houses and businesses, but came to one house (the church) just once a week. Of course, in those days it made sense for churches to serve as more than worship centers–they became schools and granaries and mills, and weaving centers. I would love to know what you heard and felt as you sat and rested in that sacred space.

  3. Your pictures are wonderful to see Bo! I still do love Arizona.

  4. How lovely, Bo. We’ve visited Mission San Xavier but not this one. The garden shot really tugs at my heart – how exquisite. You’ve such an eye for detail, missy. LOVE this.

  5. They are all beautiful photos but that last one… I love it.

  6. Joanne Keevers says:

    I’m looking forward to your reply to QuinnCreative’s question…what did you hear and feel as you sat and rested in that sacred place? I’ve often pondered that question as I read through your stories.

    For buildings constructed in the days when they lacked the so-called technology we have today, they did an amazing job with the details in their work!

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