Doorways to the Past: An Introduction

  The purpose of this book is to provoke more questions than it answers and to open new doors. It gives a sampling of what has not been told about Arizona history. Zane Grey novels and Hollywood movies give the false impression that all the research has been done and all the facts are known. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Veteran anthropologists and historians are the first to admit that we have barely started. Much that has been presented in the past has been based on little research or on the retelling of familiar stories. Arizona Indian history, for example, as recorded in native oral tradition, on calendar sticks, and in Spanish, Mexican and Anglo accounts still needs years of study. A chronicle needs to be written from the Apache point of view, which would have little to do with the white man's glorification of Cochise and Geronimo. Such Arizona archives as those in the Arizona Historical Society contain a wealth of untapped primary sources which bring to life the forgotten past.

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If Spanish and Mexican history has suffered neglect at the hands of historians, so has geography. Spanish and Mexican Arizona included a large section of what is now northern Sonora - the districts of Fronteras, Arizpe, Magdalena and Altar. Southern Arizona as we know it was actually only the northern fringe of these districts. Politically, socially and geographically they were a unit. The very name of the state was stolen from a mining district south of the present international boundary. A description of the fabled and fabulous mines of Arizonac will be found in document four.

Mexican-Hispanic culture is the rightful heritage of all who live in Arizona today and they may take pride in the heroism revealed in the accounts which follow. It is sad indeed that modern Mexican-Americans have had to resort to the Aztlan myth to provide themselves with a past. Today's youth of Latin ancestry will find greater reason for pride in their background, as presented in these pages, than in a vague and equivocal connection with the Aztecs - a connection which lends itself readily to false patriotism, protest and violence, if not to instant revolution. They are descended from the heroes and heroines who speak here for themselves.

The series of translated documents begins in the latter half of the eighteenth century. Spain was in the Arizona desert long before that, of course, but the earliest records covering the period of exploration and Indian acculturation - the times of Coronado and Kino - have already been explored by scholars and need no further treatment here. The primary sources for the succeeding years, however, are little known and information is scanty or nonexistent about such matters as the day-to-day life of the Spaniards after the founding of Tucson in 1775,

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the complexities of building a frontier mission church, the role of Tucson's presidial soldiers during the war for Mexican independence. Since the roots of Arizona's Mexican-American society of today are found in this era, its records are of first importance to modern historians and students of our culture. The bases of our heritage are firmly fixed in this period, though five different flags have waved over the land since colonial times.

Since the publication of this book coincides with the 200th birthday of Tucson and the bicentennial of the second Anza expedition, it is fitting that the first documents come from these years. Tubac, founded in 1753, is not, however, neglected. The Anza observance, it should be noted, is an official project of the Arizona Bicentennial Commission and document eleven establishes a connection between these Spanish outposts and the American colonies at the time of the Revolution.

Particular thanks are due to the Sons of the American Revolution and the Arizona Bicentennial Commission, whose generous financial help aided materially in the publication of this book.

The doorway to the past was never more widely open than it is today, and no trip is more exciting than a documented safari into history.

Kieran McCarty
Arizona Historical Society

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Desert Documentary by Kieran McCarty - Introduction
Tucson, Arizona: Arizona Historical Society, 1976.

© 1976 The Arizona Historical Society. All Rights Reserved.

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