The Hispanic-American History Timeline
1692 Father Kino Builds San Xavier del Bac
Father Eusebio Kino, an Italian-born Jesuit missionary and explorer, establishes the Spanish Catholic mission San Xavier del Bac in southern Arizona.
On a mission to spread Christianity among the Tohono O'odham natives of the area, in the past year, Kino already has established two nearby missions, at Tumacácori and Guevavi, and now becomes the first non-Indian to visit the village of Bac. He already has established many other missions in present-day northern Mexico, and he goes on to establish more mission in Arizona. He also conducts several expeditions on horseback, covering and mapping more than 200 miles -- all along teaching the natives how to raise cattle and crops.
Kino's original San Xavier church is rebuilt from 1783 to 1797 -- 14 years! -- by Native Americans and Franciscan missionaries who have taken control of the mission. The church is known as "The White Dove of the Desert," because it appears that way when seen from a distance.
With its combination of Moorish, Byzantine and late Mexico Renaissance architecture, and with its interior walls packed with numerous hand-carved and brightly painted wooden angels and saints, San Xaxier remains as perhaps the best example of mission construction in the U.S. It's one of the few places in the United States where you can step back in time by entering an authentic 18th-century space.
The church still serves the descendants of the Tohono O'odham natives Kino converted to Catholicism. It also has become a place of pilgrimage for many people who go there to fulfill promises to the patron saint of the mission, San Francisco Xavier, another missionary who was one of the founders of the Jesuit order.
By Juana Arellano, Lehman College