Blog #2 – San Xavier & Desert Museum

As promised, day 2 in Arizona offered more cacti, animals, and Mexican food. The day started on the Tohono O’odham Nation Reservation at San Xavier. This mission site displayed the influences of Catholicism in O’odham religion, as well as emphasized the interconnectedness of nature and sacred entities. These aspects strongly exemplified the cosmological principle of place-centeredness, both in the church itself and on top the neighboring peak. Most notable about this mission site is the Papago and traditional native beliefs that remained prominent after the missionary work done by the Spanish. The first example of this that comes to mind is the shrine nestled in the side of the neighboring peak – the use of a natural structure to feel closer to the supernatural. Other examples could be found inside the church, like the exclusion of the four stations of the cross – leaving out parts of traditional western religion to maintain room for their own cultural beliefs. My question posed for San Xavier, then, is where in their religious assimilation did the O’odham draw a line to determine what they accepted from the new western influence and determine what would undermine their ancestral beliefs.

Before even making it to the Desert Museum (what I call a dry zoo), I met a strangely friendly roadrunner on the peak next to San Xavier. Then, at the museum itself I met a “teenage” mountain lion named Cruz who was enjoying an afternoon siesta in the shade. I must admit, zoos are a weak spot, and I try my hardest to visit a zoo wherever I visit. Admittedly, I probably talk to the animals too much and think way too many of them are cute.

2 Replies to “Blog #2 – San Xavier & Desert Museum”

  1. I find your wording at the end of your first paragraph interesting because it calls into question whether the Tohono O’odham themselves actively decided to what extent they would allow Spanish culture to permeate their religion, as opposed to necessarily assuming that the Catholic missionaries impressed their ways of life onto the Tohono O’odham. These two perspectives indicate opposite balances of power. However, as seems to be the case, the process was more complicated than simply the Spanish impressing their religion on the natives or the Tohono O’odham completely seizing and subverting Catholicism for their own purposes.

  2. Interesting point about the natural use of natural structure in the shrine just next to the mission. That does seem to be a connection to earlier native traditions, and it’d be fascinating to explore just how the two belief systems are differentiated among the O’odham.

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