For several reasons, we begin and end our Tucson History & Libation Walking Tour at the Mercado located at West Congress & Avenida Convento. First, in the Mercado courtyard, there are many convenient services: bakeries; coffee shop; restaurants; and public restrooms. Second, long-term parking is FREE, at least for now, in the vacant lot across the street.
Third, the corner of Congress Street and Avenida Convento is the western terminus for Tucson's Modern Streetcar. You can purchase your streetcar day pass at the ticket vending machine here or any streetcar stop. Our walking tour involves hopping on and off the streetcar as it makes its way through Downtown. Tickets are $4 each.
Fourth, this is where Tucson began. In the 1692, Father Kino established a mission at Wa:k a Tohono O'odham village along Rio Santa Cruz, about 9 miles south of present-day Downtown Tucson. The historic mission we now know as San Xavier del Bac. Its beautiful church was not completed until 1797, more than 100 years after Father Kino established a mission here.
The next year, Kino headed down stream about 9 miles along the perennially flowing Santa Cruz and came upon another Tohono O'odham villiage the natives called T'chuk-shon, meaning "at the base of black mountain".
Here at T'chuk-shon, Kino found abundant agricultural fields with elaborate irrigation canals stemming from a plentiful underground spring at the base of what the Spanish, and later Mexicans, would call "Sentinel Peak" in the 18th & 19th centuries. In the 20th & 21st centuries Tucsonans called it "A" Mountain.
These American aborigines raised squash, beans, maize, and other crops. They supplemented their diet by hunting and gathering. Here Father Kino established a "visita", a small mission whose only priest would be one who would occasionally visit from San Xavier del Bac. Decades after Father Kino established the "visita" here, the community built the Convento and a chapel next to Rio Santa Cruz. The Convento was a large, fortified administrative building, not a convent. This was Mission San Agustin del Tucson.
Board The Streetcar To Begin Your Journey Back In Time
Board Streetcar across the street from the Mercado. Don't forget to purchase a ticket. Swipe your ticket when you board. Each stop has instructions and an illustration of the route. The Streetcar is handicap friendly. Typically, a streetcar arrives at each stop about every 10 to 15 minutes.