The Adventures of Chavalina in the Desert, Pt. 1

Well, it’s Spring Break and I had about zero fun and exciting plans leading up to this week. To boot, I also pulled a muscle in my thigh last week, so I’ve run a total of about four miles in the last seven days. Time to find other ways to amuse myself.

1. Tucson Festival of Books

Yesterday, I went to the Tucson Festival of Books. Hard to believe this event is only in its fourth year and is already one of the country’s biggest book fairs, but then again what artsy person wouldn’t want to come to Tucson in March? The highlight of the event for me was seeing one of my favorite authors, Luis Alberto Urrea. In addition to being a great writer, a big supporter of education, and a one-time Tucsonan, he is also a lot of fun to hear speak. Most of his Saturday morning talk centered on his new book, Queen of America, which I finally purchased. I waited months to buy it at the festival especially so I could have him sign it. He told me I have a rock star’s name and I giggled like a little girl. Wooo. I also toured the tents a little, had a nice lunch, and saw the Kinetic King from America’s Got Talent. Overall, I give the book festival high marks, but potential attendees should be warned: It does get crowded, and some of the panel rooms are awfully small for the number of folks who come to hear the talks. Get there early if you want to see a popular author!

2. San Xavier del Bac

Yeah, it only took me 3.5 years to see this attraction, but at least I picked a good day. The mission is located on the Tohono O’odham San Xavier Reservation, and today there was a mass and a powwow going on, so it was extra crowded. The mission is showing its age a bit, and there are ongoing restoration projects, but it is well worth a visit. There are few places in the U.S. where you can stand inside an 18th century building and appreciate the history. The mission’s altarpiece features over 50 statues of religious figures that were crafted in Mexico and brought to the mission. The building itself was mostly constructed by Native American laborers, but the architecture shows Spanish and Moorish themes.

San Xavier del Bac

The chapel beside the mission.

I hope that folks will keep up the good work of restoring this place. Visitors can also take a short walk up the hill beside the mission, where there is a shrine and some great views of Tucson.

3. Tubac

I’ve never had much interest in visiting Tubac, so I’m not sure why it sounded to magical to me today, but it did. Truth be told, I wanted to go to Nogales but I didn’t want to go by myself. Tubac sounded like a place where I could find a lot of the same types of Mexican crafts, some art galleries, and even a Mexican restaurant that used to be in Nogales. Sort of like being in Mexico, in a sanitized white-person non-authentic way… Maybe?

I had a great lunch at Elvira’s, delicious chiles rellenos. I also noted that they had a great selection of tequilas and offer a $.50 tequila shot as a “welcome.” I’m guessing that this is a throwback to their days in Nogales, where many shops/booths/restaurants offer you free tequila shots to loosen you (and your wallet) up a little. Sadly, though, since I’m still on my personal prohibition, I passed on the low-cost alcohol. Food here is a bit on the expensive side ($18.00 for chile rellenos, rice and beans, and a side of chips and salsa), but it is delicious and filling. Bonus points for the stylish decor.

Tubac Galleries

I also liked the various galleries more than I thought I would. Many of the stores feature a similar selection of Mexican imports. Look in a few different places to find the best price on a particular item. Other stores are more high-end galleries with lots of Western and Mexican-inspired art including furniture, photos, jewelry, mixed-media, painting… anything you could imagine. Prices range quite a bit. I saw some lovely paintings that were close to $2000, but there was also more reasonably priced work. As an unabashed feminist I particularly loved the Feminine Mystique gallery, which featured work by many different female artists. Some paintings were priced as low as $30, making it one of the more affordable places I visited. My only purchase today was a cute baby outfit that will be a gift for a friend, but I hope someday to return. Maybe when I have money and can afford an $1800 painting of baby quails. Baby quails! Cutest things ever!

Plans for tomorrow: WIll be hiking in Sabino Canyon. Expect more pics.

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