Newsletter | Jan/Feb 2015

Road Trip to an Inland Presidio

by Lucia Bogatay

The pool at the Chase (L. Bogatay) Figure 1

In October, Lucia Bogatay and Sharon Gadberry, both members of the PHA board, took off in Lucia's new car to visit Lucia's brother in Bisbee, Arizona, and to explore some of the early Spanish sites in Southern Arizona. Starting south from Tucson, and armed with an introduction to the Park curator Shaw Kinsley, from Boyd de Larios, they arrived at Tubac State Historic Park, not far from the Mexico border. They drove along a portion of the Anza Trail, along which the first settlers of San Francisco had traveled in 1775. Along the way, they listened to a CD from the Anza Trail Guide. The words of Don Gorate, narrating the disc, the clopping of burros, the lowing of cattle, the haunting trail hymn, the Alabada, and words of the O'ohdam language, all provided a strange but unforgettable 18th Century atmosphere for the trip.

After two days in Tucson, Sharon and Lucia started south to Tubac, armed with an introduction to the Park curator Shaw Kinsley. They arrived at Tubac State Historic Park, not far from the Mexico border. While driving along a portion of the Anza Trail, the route along which the first settlers of San Francisco had traveled in 1775, they listened to a CD from the Anza Trail Guide. The words of Don Garate whose narration alternated with the clopping hooves of burros, the lowing of cattle, the haunting trail hymn, the Alabado, and words of the O’ohdam language, wove a spell, and provided a strange but magical eighteenth Century atmosphere for the trip.

Kinsley, with a BA in history, was a clothing marketing executive for eleven years, but in 1992 became an archivist and librarian with an MS degree from Pratt Institute, School of Library and Information Science in NY and an MS from Oxford, UK in the history of science in 2000. He is now in charge of the Tubac State Park. He was a well-informed, engaging fellow and an excellent guide. He showed them around the exhibits, explaining the significance of several of the wonderful old maps in the museum, interpreted displays and paintings of historical events, and conducted them through an underground archaeology display of the early comandante’s residence. Kinsley then returned to his duties, and sent them off on a self-guided tour of the more recent structures, and a collection of slightly kitchey paintings, entirely by William Ahrendt¸ contemporary painter of historical western themes, especially the Spanish exploration.
Established in 1752 as San Ignacio de Tubac initially with 50 soldiers, Tubac was one of two Presidios established in that year (the other was Santa Gertrudis de Altar in Sonora) near existing mission villages, in response to revolts of the indigenous tribes, the Seris, Pimas and Papagos, which had left the area open to the depredations of the nomadic and effective Apaches.1 The Captain at Tubac was Juan Batista de Anza for a period in the mid 1770’s, and it was from here that Anza planned and made his two long trips to Northern California, the second of which brought the party of 240 colonists (some from further south, but 60 from Tubac) that established the Presidio de San Francisco in 1776.

San Ignacio de Tubac (Arizona State Parks) Figure 2

The Tubac Presidio was moved to Tucson in 1776 in an effort to shorten and regularize the distance between the inland presidios and form a line of them which stretched across Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. While this creation of a single line instead of a more scattered distribution of presidios served to regulate and standardize them, it was less flexible and it didn’t solve the military problem of defending adequately the Spanish population against the hostiles, and was later condemned as a colossal blunder.2 The inland presidios were constantly beleaguered by attacks, and doubled their size every few years in response to being enormously outnumbered by the marauding Apaches, who on several occasions, managed to destroy the fortifications. As the presidios provided protection, they attracted retainers and families around forming them a pueblo. As the presidios grew in population, so did the pueblos near them. The increasing pressure on the indigenous population of Spanish colonization provoked an uprising of the Yuma in 1781 and resulted in the closing of the overland supply route created by Anza, requiring that the California garrisons thereafter be supplied by sea.3

According to the park literature, the Tubac Presidio is one of only three presidios in Arizona. A presidio is buried under downtown Tucson, and another is near Fairbank in Cochise County.4 Bogatay and Gadberry visited, at Kinsley’s recommendation, a reconstruction of part of the Tucson Presidio which included a charming southwestern restaurant.
By contrast with the inland presidios, the coastal presidios in California were intended to discourage the British and French territorial ambitious by sea, and were seldom attacked by hostiles, were perhaps even more poorly funded, supplied, and staffed, and the garrison spent much of its time rebuilding earthquake weather damaged adobe structures. Since there was little budget for construction, labor was provided by conscripts who were assigned to make adobe and do other building tasks. The presidio captains regularly requested conscripts with carpentry and other building skills.

Misión San Cayetano de Tumacácori, 1800 (L. Bogatay) Figure 3

From Tubac, Sharon and Lucia continued south to San José de Tumacácori, a mission established in 1691 as Misión San Cayetano de Tumacácori, and moved and renamed after a 1571 uprising. It is a National Historical Park. Its large, impressive, and incomplete mission church was begun in about 1800 and its grounds are lovely. Reconstructed gardens and out--buildings, vegitable and flower gardens and an orchard complete the site.5

The final gem of their exploration of the region’s architecture of New Spain was a visit to the magnificent Misión San Xavier del Bac, just south of Tucson. The present church, not far from the airport, can be seen across the desert, a dramatic white form, silhouetted against the mountains. It was built by Franciscan father Juan Bautista de Belderrain (after the expulsion of the Jesuits) in the early 1780’s. It is still in use today by the descendants of the original O’odham neophytes

The town of Bisbee, about 90 miles South of Tucson, is an old copper mining center for Phelps Dodge. It has a wildly picturesque site and lots of early twentieth century buildings in various states of disrepair. It is an interesting cross between Santa Fe and a ghost town, and is waging a battle against entropy. Most of the adobe structures have melted away, leaving empty the higher terraces along the stairs which range the canyons which form the town.

Todd Bogatay lives about 1200 feet above the town of Bisbee on 80 on the mountain above the tunnel into the Bisbee canyon. For thirty years or more he has been constructing things for himself and others on his 80 acres. He practices architecture, designing projects for public and private clients, but delights most to design and build for himself and his friends using salvaged materials, natural rock, ferro-cement and reinforcing bars, producing structures which are half sculpture and half architecture. All his creations are off the grid, and passively heated, using PV for power and light. It is a breathtaking and beautiful site, and the views from his living room terrace into Mexico are gorgeous. OWA/DP members who find themselves in Bisbee should contact him because, being a bit isolated, he loves to entertain and tour his creations. However, the road up the mountain is gravel,

Binaziz, residence of Todd Bogatay. (T. Bogatay) Figure 5

bumpy, steep, and not for the faint hearted. Todd’s aesthetic is somewhat Gaudi inspired, and some of his more daring ideas sometimes sacrifice comfort for drama. But the ensemble is inspiring.

1 Max L. Moorhead, The Presidio, Bastion of the Spanish Borderlands, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.1958. p 52
2 Ibid. p74
3 Op. cit., p 87
4 Tubac Presidio Arizona State Park website
5 NPS flyer Tumacácori, GPO 2011
6 Patronato San Xavier flyer Mission San Xavier (no date)

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