Collection: The best of Big Jim Griffith's blog, “Our Storied Desert Land”

If there is a Tucson tale to be written or a Southwest fable to tell, chances are Jim Griffith has covered it in his Arizona Daily Star blog, “Our Storied Desert Land.” And today it hits a big milestone — 100.

In one year, 100 blog entries and more than 125,000 web-page clicks, Big Jim Griffith’s blog has entertained readers with Southwest folklore, Sonoran food and the wonder of diversity in our region. 

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.”

Here is a look at 10 of the best Big Jim stories so far, according to our readers.

Big Jim: Father Kino and the beef burrito

Big Jim: Father Kino and the beef burrito

Go to any Mexican restaurant in Tucson and look over the menu. Breakfast and sweets aside, you’d be hard put to find many dishes that don’t include beef or wheat. It’s the same in Sonoran home cooking too, and it’s been that way ever since March of 1687, when Kino came into this region with …

Big Jim: The evolution of sand trout

Big Jim: The evolution of sand trout

It all began when the Sonoran Desert started drying up, to become what it is today.

Big Jim: Roadside crosses and other markers

Big Jim: Roadside crosses and other markers

You see them all over town, and in the surrounding countryside on both sides of the border. Their numbers are growing, and they've been here for over two hundred years. They are one of the visible traditions that tie us to our past.

Big Jim: Chiltepines

Big Jim: Chiltepines

Chiltepines are tiny, red, fiery-hot chiles. In Sonora, some farmers cultivate them, but they also grow wild in the hills of Arizona and northern Sonora. In fact there's an official wild chiltepin preserve in the mountains west of Tumacacori and Tubac.

Big Jim: The Mission Gardens

Big Jim: The Mission Gardens

A remarkable historical project is developing at the foot of Sentinel Peak (or “A” Mountain, if you prefer) — The Mission Garden. It’s a wonderful example of what can be done by a small group of hard-working visionaries.

Big Jim: Magic in mesquite beans

Big Jim: Magic in mesquite beans

I’ve got a wonderful word for you – péchita. That’s the purely regional name for mesquite beans, and it comes from the Opata language. In Texas or New Mexico they know about mesquite beans, but they call them something else. “Péchita” is strictly ours.

Big Jim: A river ran (and still runs, sometimes) through it

Big Jim: A river ran (and still runs, sometimes) through it

Let’s start with a river – The Santa Cruz River. We have to start there, because that’s where human settlement in this area started.

Big Jim: Green corn tamales

Big Jim: Green corn tamales

Tamales (the singular in Spanish is “tamal,” not “tamale”) are a link with Mexico’s ancient past. Tamales were made (and eaten!) in Mesoamerica long before Columbus found what he wasn’t looking for.

Big Jim: La Llorona in Tucson

Big Jim: La Llorona in Tucson

La Llorona is alive and well locally, even though we lack running water. I have known teenaged Chicanas who wouldn’t ride their horses in the dry bed of the Santa Cruz (a good galloping place, that) because “that scary lady” was there.

Big Jim: El Día de los Muertos

Big Jim: El Día de los Muertos

November 2 is All Souls’ Day in the Catholic Church — the day set aside for remembrance of the dead. In Mexico it is “el día de los muertos,” or the Day of the Dead.

Big Jim: Sonoran flat enchiladas

Big Jim: Sonoran flat enchiladas

It’s been a while since we’re touched on one of my favorite subjects – food, so let’s take a look at a true regional specialty: enchiladas chatas sonorenses or Sonoran flat enchiladas.

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

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