History of Tubac

When Tubac was first founded back in 1752 by the Spanish army, the name was spelled and pronounced Tubaca. It is thought that this was due to the Spanish accent at the time. Over the years, the final letter ‘a’ was dropped, thus resulting in the new name Tubac.

Located alongside the Santa Cruz River, it has been the perfect location for farmers, miners and ranchers over the years. The Santa Cruz River, which runs from southern Arizona into northern Mexico, spanning a total of 184 miles, is one of the main reasons why settlers wanted to stay in this area. Apart from the river, there are also acacia trees and plenty of plants and nutrition to be found in and around Tubac village.

At the start, the people who settled in Tubac wanted to be protected from the native Americans who might want to attack them. Various native American tribes were not happy with the way things were going in the southern parts of Arizona, and with many uprisings and wars taking place in the South West parts of America and North West areas of Mexico, the most important thing on the minds was protection. They created the presidio, which means ‘fortress’ in English, in order to protect themselves and their new settlements.

Juan Bautista de Anza, the commander of the garrison of Tubac, is hailed today as the most important person to ever live in Tubac. He lived there for sixteen years in total, settling in 1760 and then leaving the village in 1776. While he was there, he built the famous Santa Gertrudis chapel. This chapel eventually became unused after the Jesuits were expelled, and for several years, Catholics who wanted to worship would have to travel as far as Sonora in Mexico to worship together. While the chapel of Santa Gertrudis no longer stands in Tubac, the foundations of it lie under St Ann’s Church, a more modern Catholic church which was built in 1929.

In 1774, two years before de Anza left Tubac, he was ordered to create an overland route from Tubac to San Francisco. With just thirty-four men beside him, he was able to venture from the small colony of Tubac and into the large city of San Francisco. The following year, accompanied by hundreds of men, women, children and cattle, he made the trip a second time.

During the O’odham uprising, which was a revolt of the Pima native Americans, all the inhabitants of the Tubac village left the area. However, in the 19th century, Tubac became an inhabited colony yet again, with many farmers and ranchers settling here and starting a new life.

Between the 1930s and 1960s, Tubac began to slowly turn into an art colony. Dale Nichols, who was a painter, illustrator and crafter, opened his own art school in 1948, thus encouraging more interest in the world of arts and crafts. He also played a large role in restoring many of Tubac’s historical buildings. Soon, lots of the local people were getting involved, and in 1961, over eighty members formed the Santa Cruz Valley Art Association. Once this was properly established, they began the Tubac Festival of the Arts, which debuted in 1964.

In the 1980s, online payday loans became widely available in the US, which meant that people living in Tubac could borrow money to help with everyday living costs. These became illegal in 2010 when many laws within Arizona began to change.

Today, people visit Tubac if they want to learn a lot about historical Arizona and also the art work which has become so famous here. Many renowned artists such as Hal Empie and Sophie Steiger spent a lot of their time here.