Best Of Tucson®

Best Piece of Tucson History

San Xavier Mission

READERS' PICK: Mix the mystical Native flute of R. Carlos Nakai with the somber Gregorian chanting of monks, and you have the musical equivalent to San Xavier. Built in 1783 by Tucson's beloved Father Kino, the mission embodies the mix of Native culture, Mexican heritage and European influence that formed the religious and cultural bedrock of Tucson. A living piece of Tucson's history, the mission is a central fixture of the Tohono O'Odham reservation and is a site for religious pilgrims and tourists alike. The faithful go to attend mass, light candles and pray, bringing milagros and pictures of ailing loved ones. By their sides, tourists stroll through the chapel and along the grounds, looking at museum-like exhibits displaying information about the history of the mission and the region and artifacts from the mission's early days. A visit to the gift shop, a walk to the top of the hill where the cross is planted and a piece of frybread from one of the stalls outside the church complete a journey to the White Dove of the Desert.

B-SIDE: Historic Locomotive #1673, along the railroad tracks at the downtown train depot, 400 E. Toole Ave. Train service to Tucson began in 1880 and thousands of local people have worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad Company since then. To honor them, and the steam era of locomotive power, the City of Tucson recently completed a railroad display featuring engine #1673. The engine logged over one million miles of service for SP until it was retired in 1955 and presented to the citizens of the city. The year before, it had been used in the filming of Oklahoma, which was shot south of town. The role of the railroad in our nation's history has been sung by many, but about our very own steam engine we like to paraphrase Little Eva: Everybody's talking about the engine now / Come on people, see the locomotive / It was steam powered and is a 102 years old now / Come on people, see the locomotive.

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