As you drive through Ímuris on Highway, 15, you’ll probably notice a car from the Policia Federal de Caminos, or Federal Highway Police. It is not true that they are there to arrest folks who don’t stop to buy quesadillas, but I’ve never put it to the test. Follow the divided highway through a hilly stretch, and when the road flattens out you’ll see a road to the right, signed “MAGDALENA DE KINO.” Take this road, curve to the left, and you’ll see a smaller sign to the right that says “San Ignacio.” Take that road.
The stretch just before and after this second turn-off is a village called “Tasícuri” – the archaic O’odham name for javelina. Some scholars guess that many years ago this was as far north as those wild peccaries went. Nowadays they’re up around Tucson, as we all know. This stretch of road contains produce stands that were featured in a recent edition of that great magazine, Edible Baja Arizona. The thinnest giant flour tortillas I’ve ever eaten came from one of these stands.
The village at the end of this road, San Ignacio, was first visited by Father Kino in 1687. In 1693, a fellow Jesuit. Father Agustín de Campos, arrived and stayed for a remarkable forty-two years. He was finally removed by his superiors after a typical “man in the field vs. headquarters” facedown. It was he who buried Kino in Magdalena in 1711.
The church, which in its present form dates from Franciscan times, should be visited for several reasons. Its beautiful carved wooden doors are unique in this region, and were copied for the Visitors’ Center at Tumacácori. It is filled with religious art from the colonial period, notably a large painting of Our Lady of Light above the crossing. This is one of a relatively few oil paintings in this region to have survived until today. A small statue in the sanctuary, now venerated as St. Lucy, seems to have been originally meant to represent St. Mary Magdalene, and may have come originally from the church in Magdalena during the religious persecution of the 1930s. A small museum occupies a chapel to the left of the crossing.
Ímuris is famous for its quince orchards, and the making of cajeta de membrillo, or quince preserve, is a local specialty. You can find it in booths along the highway in the form of brown bricks. It is best eaten with local salty white queso ranchero, and thereby hangs a tale. This wonderful food combination comes directly from Spain – from the region of La Mancha, I am told, and some old Spaniard must have imported the whole thing to this valley. And here it still is, over three hundred years and several thousand miles from home!