SANTA ROSA DE LIMA.
For the past 85 years, the Santa Rosa de Lima Mission in Tucson’s Old Pascua Yaqui Village has been a spiritual and community anchor of the village. The Yaquis—whose term for themselves is Yoeme, or “The People”—have lived in Arizona since time immemorial, according to Yaqui historian Ernesto Quiroga Sandoval. A large influx of Yaquis into Arizona occurred in the late 1800s as Yaquis sought refuge from a campaign of persecution by the Mexican government.
Many of these founded Old Pascua Yaqui Village in 1903 in what was then the outskirts of Tucson. Rich in culture, history, and tradition, Pascua, like the other Yaqui communities in Arizona, continues to be populated almost entirely by members and descendants of the Yaqui tribe. (The tribe became federally recognized in 1978.)
In a process social scientists call syncretism, the Yaquis have melded their own ways and traditions with a very devout Catholicism. In the 40-day Yaqui Lenten-Easter ceremonies, the Easter drama—the persecution, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—is acted out silently by a disciplined corps of dancers dressed in colorful costumes and wearing elaborate masks.
In the Yaqui Deer Dance, highly trained men wearing a headdress depicting a deer’s head and mimicking the moves of a deer perform an ancient religious ceremony that combines Yaqui beliefs with Catholic theology. The deer dancer is a central figure in the Pascua Yaqui logo and Tribal symbol.
Even as the Yaquis maintain their ancient religious customs and traditions, churches such as Santa Rosa are central to Yaqui communities. Besides being a place of worship, churches are where neighbors visit with each other after services, often over coffee or a simple breakfast. Neighborhood meetings are held in church halls. Most churches have an annual fiesta where neighbors get together to eat, visit, and have fun as they raise funds for the church. Such is Santa Rosa.
Touché Romero, president of the Santa Rosa parish council notes that, “Our ancestors and family members built it when they were young.They built it for the community so we could have religion and things going on for the benefit of the community and the people of the neighborhood.”
An indication of the cultural and historical importance of Santa Rosa to the Pascua community is that when it was built, 85 years ago, a Time Capsule was embedded in it, memorializing the events of the times. A few months ago, over 200 Old Pascua residents and tribal leaders gathered for the opening of the time capsule. The capsule was replaced with another one, which will be opened in 85 years. Indeed, Pascua-Yaqui history literally is embedded in Santa Rosa.
Like the Yaquis who built it, Santa Rosa has a strong heart and has withstood the comings and goings of generations of Pascua residents, but its frame has taken a beating. Some improvements have been made to Santa Rosa over the years, but Santa Rosa’s age, coupled with the elements and other factors have contributed to the church being in dire need of major repairs and restoration. These have been prioritized into phases.
Phase I entails repairing the original adobe façade that is pulling apart, restoring the crumbling bell tower, drainage control, handicap accessibility and a new roof. Future phases will include heating and cooling issues and building meeting rooms and a rectory.
As it always does, the community has risen to the occasion. Besides investing much sweat equity in this beloved cultural, historical, and spiritual pillar of the barrio, the Pascua community has launched a fundraising drive to pay for the needed repairs and to make Santa Rosa friendlier to the elderly and disabled.
My wife Ceci and I are part of the Santa Rosa Restoration Committee. Our family has a decades-long history with Old Pascua. During my teen years, many of my friends lived in Pascua, and I spent as much time there as I did in my home neighborhood, Barrio Hollywood. Much of Ceci’s and my civil-rights, professional, and community work was centered in Pascua. As I did, our sons went to school and played ball with the Pascua kids. One of our sons was baptized at Santa Rosa.
The entire restoration is estimated to cost approximately $100,000. The estimated cost of Phase I is $20,000, of which the council has raised about $9,000. Part of the campaign is a Dinner-Dance scheduled for August 30. Because many of the Pascua residents are low-income and the committee did not want to price them out of the event, the cost has been kept very modest—$10 per person.
In engaging the community in the restoration project, Santa Rosa is going back to its roots. Santa Rosa was founded in 1930 when, in memory of her deceased daughter, community member Allie Simmonds donated a valuable diamond ring to be used to purchase land to build a church in Pascua. The gift was matched by a $1,000 contribution by the Diocese of Tucson.
If you want to contribute to the restoration project—and contributions are welcome!—make your checks out to the Santa Rosa De Lima Restoration Fund and mail to Santa Rosa de Lima Mission, 2015 N. Calle Central, Tucson Arizona 85705. Santa Rosa de Lima is a subsidiary of the Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Liturgical Ministry, which has an IRS 501 (c) (3) IRS Tax ID number: 860-455-556. c/s
Copyright 2014 by Sal Baldenegro. To contact Sal, write: email@example.com All photos copyrighted and courtesy of Cecilia Baldenegro and use with permission.