The missions of the Southwest represent an important chapter in Southwest history - the meeting of the Hispanic and Native cultures. More than a place to worship, Missions were established as resting places along a travel corridor, as centers of a newly established community with the school, church, town square sometimes surrounded by an adobe wall. As you visit the missions, the story will unfold.
It is a story that will sometimes make you uncomfortable, but one that needs to be told.
New Mexico Missions
San Esteban del Rey Mission - Acoma Pueblo- Completed in 1640, the 21,000 square foot complex was constructed with the labor of the Acoma people, on the top of a beautiful mesa, Acoma Sky City. Acoma construction methods were used in building the church/school complex. It is a large adobe structure, standing two stories high among very small homes and kivas on the mesa. Both the Pueblo and San Esteban del Rey Mission are listed on the National Register of Historic Monuments.
Location: Acoma Pueblo. Acoma Sky City is located 45 minutes west of Albuquerque and one hour east of Gallup.
Admission: With Ticket to visit the Pueblo and only toured with a guide.
What You Will See: Beautifully painted walls in a traditional style, dirt floors, adobe wall, graveyard.
Zuni Mission- Accessible with a guide, the simple mission at Zuni Pueblo is a must see.
When the mission was restored in the '80's, Alex Seowtewa, a well-known Zuni artist, proposed to paint a series of traditional Zuni ceremonial figures or Kachinas on the walls. Permission was granted and Alex began beautiful work in 1970. By 1983 Alex, with the help of his sons, Gerald and Kenneth, completed 24 figures of kachinas and tribal religious leaders.
Since then three additional panels depicting traditional crops, birds and animals, and a kiva altar have been completed. The murals, themselves, are worth a trip to Zuni.
Location: Continuing west from Acoma, you can reach Zuni from I-40 by taking Route 602 South from Gallup, then turning west on Rt. 53. You can also take the scenic route from I-40 and Route 53 near Grants.
More Information: Full article on visiting Zuni.
Admission: With the price of the tour to the inner village.
Tip: Call the Visitors Center ahead of time to ensure you can arrange a tour of the Mission.
Mission San Miguel in Santa Fe - Touted as the oldest church in the United States, Mission San Miguel was built between 1610 and 1628.
What You Will See- Foundations of the first church remain observable under the sanctuary of the present structure. The altar screen dates from 1798 and is the oldest wooden reredos in New Mexico. Mission San Miguel is one of the important sights to see in Santa Fe.
Location: 401 Old Santa Fe Trail in the historic district of Santa Fe. Map
Tumacácori National Historical Park, Near Tubac - Mission San José de Tumacácori was established in January 1691 by Jesuit Father Eusebio Francisco Kino. Located on 310 acres at the town of Tumacácori, Arizona, it is open to the public from the Tumacácori National Historical Park visitor center.
Location- Take exit 29 off of Interstate 19, fifty miles south of Tucson, Arizona and eighteen miles north of the international border with Mexico at Nogales, Arizona/Sonora.
Admission - $3.00 per person age 16 or older. It is well worth it.
What to See
There is an excellent Visitors Center and Museum as well as a self-guided tour of the Mission grounds. Be sure and see the introductory movie when you are at the Visitors Center. And, of course, bring your camera!
More Information - Mission Website
San Xavier del Bac Near Tucson- Often called "The White Dove of the Desert," San Xavier del Bac is on the Tohono O'odham Reservation, San Xavier District.
Location: 1950 W. San Xavier Road, San Xavier District off Interstate 19 South.
Admission- Parking is Free. Donations are appreciated. Often there will be vendors selling food and craft items.
What You Will See- This is a beautifully restored Mission church. San Xavier Mission is acclaimed by many to be the finest example of mission architecture in the United States. The white church has domes, towers and spires. It is amazingly graceful and beautiful.
Don't forget your camera!
More Information: San Xavier del Bac Website.
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park -
Location- The San Antonio Missions National Historical Park visitor center is near the intersection of Roosevelt Avenue and New Napier Avenue in San Antonio, Texas. This is the starting point for your driving tour of the local missions. The missions are about two miles apart
Admission - No charge for park entry
What to See
Four Spanish frontier missions (Concepción, San Jose, San Juan, and Espada), part of a colonization system that stretched across the Spanish Southwest in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, are preserved here.
You will want to wander the gardens and enjoy the architectural details. Of course, bring your camera!
More Information - Official Website and Article on the National Park.