Tubac lies 45 easy-driving highway miles south of
, the small university city ringed by mountain ranges. Allow yourself time for a day trip, where-as the welcoming sign announces-"art and history meet."
The leisurely drive affords myriad sights in addition to the countless saguaro cactus. The Mission San Xavier del Bac (made familiar by famed photographer,
Ansel Adams), rises strikingly on the right, a shining lime plaster incarnation of its nickname, "White Dove of the Desert." Farther on, the huge plateau-like mound that looks like a set from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" is actually a copper mine, with its own history of mining technologies and corporate battles. On the left, signs invite travelers to tour the impressive Titan Missile Museum in Green Valley.
Tubac is a small community whose dual identities derive from the Tubac Presidio State Historical Park and a multitude of galleries, shops, and artists' workshops. These two aspects of the town are relatively, but not entirely, discreet. Ambling around town (the right pace for exploring Tubac), the visitor finds an historical plaque on a shop announcing that it was once the "Custom House," founded in 1914 as a general store and later-since it stood beside the only road from Mexico through Nogales and Tubac to Tucson-the headquarters of Customs, Immigration, and the Border Patrol during the Prohibition era. The artistic life of Tubac is actually linked to its history: an arts colony was established along with the Presidio in 1752, and an Artists School was opened in l948, the beginning of its modern history as an artists' enclave, supported today by the energetic Tubac Center of the Arts.
But most of the historical attractions are located within the Tubac Presidio State Historical Park and Museum area. Artifacts in the museum and structural remains such as the foundation of the Spanish Presidio speak to a long, complex history of cultures, conflicts, and territorial claims. These include Native American tribes of
Apache; Spanish Catholic missionaries; Spanish, Mexican, and United States armies; and the various settlers, ranchers and miners who came and went over the centuries.
The compact center of Tubac-a Southwestern shoppers' arts-and-crafts mecca-is lined with galleries and shops featuring local, national, and international artists housed in one-story colorful adobe structures that look as if hitching rails might be missing. From copper to clothing, antique to modern, jewelry to pottery and home décor, Tubac offers one enticing gallery or shop setting after another. Wandering from one door to the next, surrounded by the high desert mountain vistas, examining the wares that spill into the streets, serious browsers experience a great integration of climate, culture and aesthetics.
The Tubac Visitors Guide lists 19 restaurants-so many options, so little time! The delicious quiche, homemade pastry, and coffee from the
Tubac Deli and Coffee Co provide sustenance for the morning rambles. A late lunch of quesadilla and draft beer on the sunny patio at the
Old Tubac Inn reinvigorates us for the afternoon forays-more galleries and the outdoor sculpture area across the arroyo and among the cactus. A sign of another good day.
Michelle H. Norell, PhD, has degrees from the University of Rochester, Brown University, and George Mason University. She is an amateur photographer and retired educator with a professional history in school administration and teaching English, Film Study, and Advanced Composition.
Michelle Hull Norell
If you go
Churches & Synagogues: http://arizona.hometownlocator.com/az/santa-cruz/tubac.cfm
Tubac Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center, 2 Tubac Rd; www.tubacaz.com
Will provide a free village walking map. The site offers a preview of the 52 page Visitors Guide.
Tubac Center of the Arts: www.tubacarts.org/
Tubac Presidio State Historical Park: www.azstateparks.com
Juan Bautista de Ariza National Historic Trail: www.nps.gov/juba/
Tumacori National Historic Park: www.nps.gov/tuma/
Mission San Xavier del Bac: www.sanxaviermission.org/
Titan Missile Museum: www.pimaair.org/