Big Jim: ...And another mural

2014-05-20T00:00:00Z 2014-09-12T09:22:33Z Big Jim: ...And another muralJim Griffith Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

There’s a large tile mural on the west wall of the Diocesan building on the southeast corner of Broadway and Church, just east of 20 de Agosto Park. It is called “A City and a Church Arise Together,” and was commissioned by the Catholic Diocese of Tucson and executed by the Tohono O’oldham artist, Michael Chiago Sr. Chiago is a prolific watercolor painter who specializes in depicting aspects of traditional O’odham life such as harvests, fiestas, processions, and village scenes.

The mural is filled with detail and activity, while at the same time suggesting the open skies and spaces of the Sonoran Desert through a diagonal balance between landscape and sky. It includes depictions of an O’odham saguaro harvest, an O’odham religious procession, San Xavier Mission and village, Mission San José del Tumacácori, and two portraits. One of these depicts Bishop Jean Baptiste Salpointe, Tucson’s first bishop and the man after whom Salpointe School is named. The other shows Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, S.J.

Father Kino was the subject of one of my earliest blogs in this series. He is the individual who started the process of connecting our region with the rest of the world — a process that continues to this day. More to the point of this mural, he brought Christianity to what is now southern Arizona. This particular image of Father Kino seems to be taken directly from the statue that stands in Washington, D.C., in the Capitol Building, a duplicate of which can be seen in front of the Arizona Historical Society in Tucson. He faces the viewer, with his right hand slightly raised.

It is interesting to speculate on just what that gesture would be, were it completed. Kino was a Catholic missionary, of course, so it is probable that the hand is raised in blessing. However he was famous at the time for being a man of peace, visiting countless villages over the course of his work here, and advocating non-violent solutions in tense situations. So that hand may simply be raised in peaceful greeting.

But consider where this mural is located. There is a clear view from it, across a street corner and a small park, to the statue of Pancho Villa. So what does a Man of Peace do when confronted by a flamboyant Man of Violence? I like to think that in this case Father Kino is raising his hand so that he can thumb his nose at Pancho.

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About this blog

Jim Griffith is the former director of the Southwest Folklore Center at the University of Arizona, and co-founder of Tucson Meet Yourself. He’s also the author of seven books on the folklore and folklife of our region, most recently “A Border Runs Through It.” His books can be purchased at tucson.com/wildcatgear.

If you have questions or suggestions for Jim Griffith or this blog, e-mail bigjimgriffith@gmail.com