I had to get away on a road trip one Sunday this January. All this adulation for the newly elected president and the liberal tripe spewing forth from Hollywood and the editorial pages was driving me to distraction.
Am I one of those neo-conservatives, you might ask? No, they as well may drive me to drinking. I just happen to be a Middle American who knows BS when he hears it, and there is plenty coming from the elitists from both ends of the spectrum.
Currently, those of the “tax and spend” creed are in the pink and ready to do their thing, or damage, depending on your perspective. Those on the other side are licking their wounds and lamenting the day they believed a Republican president could emulate LBJ, the last Texas rancher who gave us guns and butter, and the economic malaise of the 1970s.
This whole decade has been one continuous battle with morons on both sides sniping at one another on college campuses, radio, television and web pages, and it appears this will only get worse. So I was depressed and needed a road trip, but to where?
It finally dawned on me I have wanted to hit Tubac for years, and not just the past few but several decades worth. Lord knows how many friends and relatives we have zipped to Nogales at the expense of Tubac. Well, no more. I found out Tubac is worthy of any trip for visiting dignitaries from extended families and circles of friends. And for those with limited means and a love for art, it is a downright nightmare.
It was love at first sight (but for the never-ending parade of vehicles with campaign bumper stickers). The village of Tubac, as they like to be known by, was the first permanent European settlement established in what is today the great, and very broke, state of Arizona. People have lived in this Santa Cruz River valley location for God knows how long, some historians thinking as far back as 300 AD when the Hohokam called this arid land home. For those new to our state, the Hohokam just upped and disappeared, no forwarding address for relatives or archeologists. That is not to say the Pima and O’odham people of today may not be distant relatives. It’s just the Hohokam as a society ceased to exist, be it drought or deficits which sent them scurrying to points unknown.
By the time the Jesuit, Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, came along in the very late 1600s, the valley was populated by a people of kindly disposition who took a liking to Father Kino, his Christian ideals, and those pretty cool-looking and exotic animals called cattle and horses. The introduction of these animals, new crops as well as new farming techniques enriched the native population, but the arriving Spanish settlers also discovered mineral substances which enriched them. The thriving valley around Tubac was settled with rancherias and smaller farms not far from the Tumacacori mission established by Father Kino in 1691. However, some of these Spaniards were downright rude and controlling (forced labor in mines and such) and by the middle of the 1700s the Pima had finally had enough and went into a full-scale rebellion. This was not some minor protesting, but nasty, angry revolting to the extent that many were killed and the Spanish had to use some very harsh responses to defeat what historians think was nearly a 2,000-strong band of Pima warriors.
To make sure the native population would not misbehave again, the Spanish established the Presidio of San Ignacio de Tubac. Tubac is not Spanish but Indian, much like Tucson, Susquehanna, Manitowoc, and the thousands of other towns, lakes, rivers and even state names that dot this great nation. Though Tubac began as a Spanish settlement, it ended as a victim of Apache encroachment. Having the presidio moved up the river valley to Tucson sealed the deal and left Tubac a virtual ghost town for nearly 10 years until the Spanish re-established the presidio as San Raphael de Tubac.
Through fits and starts Tubac struggled against the Apache, pestilences, the new government of Mexico, a war between the United States and Mexico and the California Gold Rush, the latter pretty much putting the nail in the town’s coffin since many of the occupants headed off the those golden shores along the Pacific Ocean.
Along came the Gadsden Purchase of 1853, and within three years the valley around Tubac was once again being populated, this time by Americans, as well as by the native peoples, who never really left. The Civil War threw a monkey wrench in the works, sending what little federal protection there existed to the East to fight the Confederate States of America (or to join the CSA), who in turn sent out a detachment of their own to claim this area but lost it to a pro-union military column from California. And, of course, the Apache were once again running amok on the settlers, since the various military attachments were preoccupied with one another.
But by 1900 the Civil War was long over, as was the Spanish-American war, the Apache had been subdued and the nation as a whole was settling into a normal pattern of existence, where paying bills became a greater concern than worrying about raiders on horseback. Of course now we have to concern ourselves about raiders in suits, but I digress.
It was in 1948 when Dale Nichols, an artist with a big dream, opened the Tubac School of Art, and by 1960 the Tubac Festival of the Arts was a reality.
And thus my nightmare was born courtesy of Mr. Nichols, for if the truth be known I am of limited means but a great lover of art, Western art to be exact, and in all kinds of forms. And Tubac is Heaven on Earth, its outward rustic ambiance merely a façade for some of the best artists and their wares to be found in this country. Oh yes, I know, what about Santa Fe, Taos, Scottsdale, and every other major city in this country that sports art galleries and museums? Well, what about them? They aren’t Tubac.
With wonderful work by such artists as Richard Iams, Darcie Peet, Neil Myers and Paul Sheldon, just to name a few who are able to place some stunning Western beauty on canvas and display their creations in numerous galleries in this village, Tubac can hold its own. And the Native American jewelry and all its beauty, it’s enough to make a grown man cry. And sculptures? I need not say anymore, just go see for yourself and don’t wait as long as I did. It’s actually embarrassing to admit, and in print, that it took me far too many years to make my way down to this sleepy little village that is not merely alive with Western art, but a living center of Western history itself.