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When Father de Niza reported that he, too, found the fabled Seven Cities of Cíbola, Don Francisco Vásquez de Coronado organized his expedition. But Coronado found pueblos of stone and mud. A secondary expedition led by Garcia Lopez de Cárdenas revealed the Grand Canyon; another group, led by Don Pedro de Tovar, found the Hopi mesas.
An Hispanic culture exists today in Arizona because, unlike other European conquerors, Spain never wanted to eradicate the Indian people. Instead, Spain attempted to annex whole cultures, a philosophy that allowed for intermarriage and the continuation of the Spanish and Indian cultures. Those annexation attempts were often ruthless. Coronado and his men attacked, pillaged and killed pueblo Indian peoples. Later Spain established military forts to protect its interests.
Coronado searched for gold, but Spanish missionaries came to convert the Indians. Spain’s most important missionary, Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, was not Spanish but a native of Trent, Austria. He was an adventurer and geographer who did not want to go to the New World. His choice was the Orient, but he lost a drawing of lots.
German-educated, Kino, who was of Italian descent, named the region “Pimería Alta” and established 24 missions in the Sonoran Desert region of northern New Spain during the late 1600s. Seven were located within the boundaries of the Primería Alta, but only three, Guevavi, Tumacacori and San Xavier del Bac, were in full operation at the time of his death in 1711. The Jesuit influence in the Pimería Alta ended in 1767 when the Spanish Crown expelled the Order. Kino’s missions fell into ruin.
During this same time, in 1751, the first permanent European settlements in Arizona were established at Tumacacori and the nearby presidio (military post) of Tubac. In 1776, the Tubac presidio was moved to Tucson.
Following the expulsion of the Jesuits, the Crown sent the Franciscans to convert the Indians to Christianity. At first, the missionaries posted in northeastern Arizona and New Mexico were tolerated by the Hopi and other pueblo peoples. But in 1680 the Pueblo tribes revolted, killing the missionaries and destroying the missions.
A similar uprising occurred in the southern part of the region in 1751 when Indians attacked and burned the mission at Tubac. Spain retaliated by establishing a presidio at Tubac that same year. Another uprising was staged in 1781 when the Yuman tribe, whose land at the confluence of the Colorado and Gila rivers had become a Spanish settlement, staged a coup that destroyed the Yuma settlement.
In 1821, Mexico won its independence from Spain. Tucson, with a population of 65 inhabitants, became part of Mexico, a territory that extended to northern California. The Mexican government was unable to protect its remote northern region, however, and the Pimería Alta was attacked by Apaches, Tumacacori was lost and the Mexican government discouraged large property holders in the region.
Due to unresolved issues over the border between Texas and Mexico, the Mexican American War began in 1846. In 1848, most of that territory, except for a small section of southern Arizona that included Tucson, was ceded to the United States under the Treaty of Hidalgo. That treaty paved the way for the Gold Rush of 1849, for gold seekers used Cooke’s Wagon Road to rush to the California gold fields.
When it quickly became obvious that a right of way was needed for the southern transcontinental railroad along the route marked by the Mormon Battalion, in 1853, James Gadsden, Minister to Mexico, negotiated the purchase of 45,500 plus square miles between the Gila River and present southern boundary of Arizona and New Mexico for $10 million. The border, as we know it today, was created on December 30, 1853 by the Gadsden Purchase.
Officially the Hispanic period closes in 1848, but some scholars insist this ignores the significant contributions of Hispanic pioneers. By the mid-nineteenth century, the populations in most southern and central Arizona towns were 50% to 90% Hispanic. By the early 1860s, Tucson, a heavily Hispanic community, was an important trade center for the region.
Throughout central and southern Arizona, skilled men and women built a prosperous economy using traditional Mexican techniques of irrigation farming, ranching and mining. Independent Mexican freighters, dominated by educated Sonoran immigrants, including Esteban Ochoa and Antonio Contreras, and merchants transported most of the goods across Arizona, including provisions for mining camps and army forts.
After the Civil War, as Anglos began migrating into the territory, they often settled in existing Hispanic communities and changed the town names. Rio Salado became Tempe; Pueblo Viejo became Solomonville, etc. But despite the new monikers, the Hispanic influence in Arizona can be felt and seen today in communities throughout the state.
Visit the site www.azhistorytraveler.org
The first Europeans to visit the region may have been a crew of shipwrecked Spaniards who wandered across the Southwest during the 1500s. Upon their return, they described cities with amazing riches. Convinced that wealth existed, in 1539 the viceroy of New Spain sent out a small expedition, led by Father Marcos de Niza and Estévan de Dorantes.
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