This Nativity scene is an 800-piece marvel
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This Nativity scene is an 800-piece marvel

Be prepared to be overwhelmed.

El Nacimiento at the Tucson Museum of Art’s historic Casa Cordova, a fall tradition that you will find only in Tucson, has opened. It’s well worth a trip to the museum to see this lovingly built, intricate exhibit of scenes that tell the Christmas story, as well as other Bible stories.

Housed in a separate room since 2009, according to Star archives, the elaborate 800-piece Nativity installation has been presented in Tucson from November to March since 1978.

Nacimiento maker Maria Luisa Leon Teña added pieces, updated scenes and set up the nacimiento for more than 30 years to honor her mother, who died in 1977.

Before there was a permanent glassed exhibition space that protects the figurines from heat and dust, Teña dusted the figures, retouched nicks and reinstalled the nacimiento year after year after year.

Teña learned the art of nacimiento from her mother, Maria Arredondo de Leon, who won several nacimiento competitions in Mexico, according to Star archives.

‘Her mother was so famous for her Nativity scenes that people would come to the door of their home and ask permission to come in to see it. Buses would stop so passengers could get a look, and nuns would make sure not to miss it,” the Star said.

Teña’s nacimiento fills an entire room and might take your breath away. Plan to spend some time peering into the complex scenes and discovering the intricacies and wonder of this exhibit.

Contact Ann Brown at

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