Tumacacori-Carmen, Arizona

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Tumacacori is a census-designated place (CDP) in Santa Cruz County, Arizona, United States. The population was 569 at the 2000 census. It abuts Carmen, Arizona.



Tumacacori is the site of a Franciscan mission that was built in the late 18th century. It takes its name from an earlier mission site founded by Father Eusebio Kino in 1691, which is on the east side of the river south of the National Park. This Kino-period mission was founded at an extant native O'odham or Sobaipuri settlement and represents the first mission in southern Arizona, but not the first mission in Arizona. The remains of the native settlement are still extant and have been investigated and reported on by archaeologist Deni Seymour.

The later Franciscan mission, which is now a ruin presrved as Tumacácori National Historical Park, was never rebuilt after being abandoned after repeated Apache raids in the 19th century that killed farmers and ranchers in the area and put a stop to the growth of the area's economy. Nearby Tubac, Arizona was besieged in 1861.

Tumacacori treasure

In 1766, the Spanish colonists of Tumacacori discovered silver near their mission town, immediately afterward the priests had the local Opata and Tohono O'odham native Americans begin mining, thus establishing the Opata Mine. The natives dug a large shaft and in the back had a huge room where they stored all of their silver and practiced pagan rituals. Despite clinging to their pre-columbian faith, they also adopted Catholic beliefs. One day a Mayo native princess was traveling alone through the desert nearby which made the Opata believe she was the reincarnation of the Virgin Mary. The Opata captured her and took the princess to their chief within the silver storage room. The Opata told the princess that she would marry their chief to produce a child savior or be sacrificed to their gods.

After refusing to marry the chief the Opata tied the woman to the silver, cut her hands and rubbed a type of poison into her wounds. The princess died and the Opata celebrated with the usual ritual of dancing and singing around a fire pit. Hearing the celebration a priest from the mission entered the mine and found the dead princess tied to the silver. Disgusted with the murder, the Spanish priests sealed the mine shaft entrance with the princess and the silver still inside. According to Spanish accounts, both the silver and her skeleton remain hidden somewhere near the Tumacacori mission. Spanish records say the Opata Mine was halfway between the Guadalupe Mine and the Pure Conception Mine. As of 2010 no one has ever found the buried treasure.

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