San Diego de Alcala, San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, San Antonio de Padua. So begins the list of missions founded along the Pacific Coast in the late 18th century. But they were not the first outposts of European civilization at the edge of the Spanish Empire. Almost 100 years earlier Father Eusebio Kino was working to establish missions in the Sonoran desert of southern Arizona and northwestern Mexico. I first learned about Kino, a Jesuit, years ago when I visited Mission San Xavier del Bac, about 10 miles southwest of Tucson. The gorgeously restored and much-photographed church, started by the peripatetic Kino in 1700, looks like a dove nesting among paloverde trees. After seeing it, I went on a pilgrimage to see other simple, soulful Kino missions in the sparsely populated northern reaches of the Mexican state of Sonora. -- Susan Spano Read more: To the Sonoran desert, on a mission Upper photo: Arizona's Organ Pipe National Monument Lower photo: A bronze statue of Father Kino sculpted by Suzanne Silvercruys.
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