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Father Eusebio Francisco Kino

Desert Missionary and Explorer

Jesuit missionary Father Eusebio Francisco Kino was one of the early Spanish explorers of the deserts of the American Southwest. In addition to establishing a number of missions in the New World, he proved that Lower California was a peninsula, the Baja Peninsula -- not an island as had previously been believed.

Eusebio Kino was born in Segno, in the Val di Non, a valley in Tirol (now in Italy), on Aug. 10, 1645. He distinguished himself in the study of mathematics, cartography, and astronomy in Germany and taught mathematics for a time at the University of Ingolstadt. He became a member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1665. His work as a missionary began in 1678, and he was assigned to Spain's colony in Mexico.

Kino arrived in Mexico City in the spring of 1681. After an abortive mission to Baja California in 1683, he began his longtime mission to the Pima Indians in Pimeria Alta, a district comprising present-day southern Arizona and the northern portion of Sonora State in Mexico.

In 1687, Father Kino established his first mission among the rural Indians of Sonora at Nuestra Senora de los Dolores. It became the headquarters for his explorations, as well as for the founding of other missions, including San Xavier del Bac (1700) near Tucson, Guevavi and Tumacacori (now a U.S. National Monument).

San Jose de Tumacacori Mission

In 1691, Father Kino made the first of about 40 expeditions into Arizona. In 1694, he was the first European to visit the Hohokam ruins of Casa Grande (now a national monument). He is also said to have explored the sources of the Rio Grande, the Colorado and Gila rivers. His explorations of the area around the mouth of the Colorado River in 1701 convinced him that Baja California was a peninsula, not an island. His 1705 map was the standard reference for the southwestern desert region for more than a century.

Father Kino helped the Pima Indians diversify their agriculture and aided them in their constant wars with the Apaches, while opposing Indian enslavement in the silver mines of northern Mexico. His Favores celestiales (1708) was translated into English as the two-volume Kino's Historical Memoir of Pimería Alta in 1919 (reissued 1948). Father Eusebio Kino died at Mission Magdalena in Sonora on March 15, 1711.

-- Bob Katz



Desert People & Cultures Index
Tumacacori National Monument

Casa Grande National Monument
Juan Bautista de Anza


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