In 1681 Kino arrived in Mexico as a missionary, where he first served on the Baja California peninsula. He was then assigned in 1687 to assist Padre José de Aguilar in missionary efforts among the "Pimas Altas" (Pima people of northern Sonora and southern Arizona) at Cucurpe, Sonora.
Kino soon set up his new home base at Nuestra Señora de los Dolores, at the Pima Village of Cosari, and soon he was exploring the lands of the Pimas further to the north. Over the next quarter century he labored diligently and effectively among the native people of Sonora and Arizona. The missions he established were to become the backbone of Spanish settlements in the region. They include such famous names as San Ignacio, Magdalena, San Xavier del Bac, Cocóspera, Caborca, Tumacácori, and Tucson.
Kino's achievements and honors are many. He was the first to prove that California was not an island. He made peaceful coexistence between the Spanish and the natives of the region possible. He opened many new trails into the region. He was a tireless advocate for his charges and the region in which they lived. In recognition of his importance the state of Arizona honored his memory in 1961 by placing his statue in the National Hall of Statuary, as representative of the state.
After a life of selfless devotion and dedicated service, Kino passed away on 15 March 1711 in the village of Magdalena [de Kino], Sonora, Mexico. His grave was rediscovered in 1966 and remains a pilgrimage center for thousands of adherents to the faith he advocated.
Finally, a note about Kino's explorations in the Pinal Mountain region:
In 1697 Padre Kino first explored the southern fringes of what was then called Apachería--the lands of the Apaches. Leaving Dolores, Sonora, he entered into the Huachuca Mountains and spent a few days with his friend Chief Coro of the Sobaípuri Pimas at Quíburi (near what was later to become Tombstone, Arizona). He then followed the San Pedro River north to its junction with the Gila--where modern-day Winkelman is located. Recognizing that the mountains (Pinals) to the north were full of hostile Apaches, he declined to explore further north, but rather followed the Gila to the "Casa Grande" (Big House) ruin, near modern-day Coolidge, Arizona. Casa Grande was originally a Hohokam/Salado structure, but by Kino's time had been abandoned. Kino then went on to Tudacson (today's Sacaton of the Gila River Pima people), and then returned to Dolores.
After the expedition Kino desired to build a permanent mission near the Gila-San Pedro junction, but died before he was to able to achieve that dream.
More can be learned about Kino from the following books:
Polzer, Charles W. Kino Guide II. Tucson: Arizona State Museum, 1982.
Smith, Fay Jackson, John L. Kessell, and Francis J. Fox. Father Kino in Arizona. Phoenix: Arizona Historical Foundation, 1966.
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