45 miles S of Tucson; 21 miles N of Nogales; 84 miles W of Sierra Vista
Located in the fertile valley of the Santa Cruz River 45 miles south of Tucson, Tubac is one of Arizona's largest arts communities and home to a large retirement community. Because the town's old buildings also house more than 80 shops selling fine arts, crafts, unusual gifts, and lots of Southwest souvenirs, Tubac is one of southern Arizona's most popular destinations.
In 1691, Father Eusebio Francisco Kino established Tumacácori as one of the first Spanish missions in what would eventually become Arizona. At that time, Tubac was a Pima Indian village, but by the 1730s, the Spanish had begun settling here in the region they called Pimeria Alta. After a Pima uprising in 1751, Spanish forces were sent into the area to protect the settlers, and in 1752 Tubac became a presidio (fort).
While the European history of this area dates back more than 300 years, human habitation of the region dates far back into prehistory. Archaeologists have found evidence that there have been people living along the Santa Cruz River for nearly 10,000 years. The Hohokam lived in the area from about A.D. 300 until their mysterious disappearance around 1500, and when the Spanish arrived some 200 years later, they found the Pima people inhabiting this region.
Tubac's other claim to fame is as the site from which Juan Bautista de Anza III, the second commander of the presidio, set out in 1775 to find an overland route to California. De Anza led 240 settlers and more than 1,000 head of cattle on this grueling expedition, and when the group finally reached the coast of California, they founded the settlement of San Francisco. A year after de Anza's journey to the Pacific, the garrison was moved from Tubac to Tucson, and, with no protection from marauding Apaches, Tubac's settlers soon moved away from the area. Soldiers were once again stationed here beginning in 1787, but lack of funds later caused the closure of the presidio when, in 1821, Mexican independence brought Tubac under a new flag. It was not until this region became U.S. territory that settlers returned, and by 1860, Tubac was the largest town in Arizona.
After visiting Tubac Presidio State Historic Park and Tumacácori National Historical Park to learn about the area's history, you'll probably want to spend some time browsing through the shops. If you happen to be visiting between June and September, keep in mind that many of the local artists leave town during the summer and local shops tend to close on weekdays. During the busy season from October to May, however, shops are open daily.