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Posted Jun 21, 2013, 7:16 pm
With the construction of the streetcar, new construction and new businesses opening in Downtown, plenty of attention is paid to new ventures in the city center, such as Tap and Bottle, set to open next week.
But with all of the new developments and investment, Downtown retains its history and quirks. This part of Tucson is one of the oldest continually inhabited places in North America, if not the oldest. For more than 4,000 years, people have called the area around A Mountain home, and much of their legacy is still visible. Historic structures, festivals and rituals are woven throughout Downtown, which is the area from which the city that became Tucson emerged.
One such festival will take place next week, when folks from all over will gather in an attempt to bring forth the summer rains. The Día de San Juan Fiesta, celebrated every year on June 24, emerges from a legend from 1540, which says that Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, a Spanish conquistador, and others in the area faced a horrible drought. As the drought wore on, killing cattle and leaving the crops dry, he became desperate.
Vásquez de Coronado knelt down on the banks of the Santa Cruz River and prayed to St. John the Baptist, and promised that if the rains came, the saint would be celebrated each year on that date. According to the legend, it rained. This story is prevalent across many regions, with the name of the rivers and the praying man tailored to the locale. Nonetheless, people gather in Tucson every June 24 to encourage San Juan to bring the monsoon to take the edge off the 100-degree days.
Celebrations this year will take place Monday at Mercado San Agustin, 100 S. Avenida del Convento, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Admission will be free, and there will be abundant food, fun, crafts, kids' activities and music. A Mexican rodeo will feature Escaramuzas (a troupe of women who put on an amazing athletic performance on horseback), Charros riding along on their horses while performing complicated rope tricks, and live music will compliment folklorico dancers and mariachis in this celebration of our region's culture. The Día de San Juan Fiesta is welcoming to people of all faiths and no faith, and includes Catholic and Tohono O'odham blessings and good times for all.
If you can't make it Downtown on Monday evening to experience the history of the regions, you still have plenty of options. The Tucson Presidio offers a peek into the Tucson of the 1770's, and their Presidio Trail historical walking tour is perfect for an educational evening stroll. Of course, many beautiful and ancient-by-southwest-standards buildings dot the landscape across downtown, from the Hotel Congress and Rialto Theatre on the east end to the Fox Theatre and the Charles O. Brown house towards the west.
As downtown continues to grow and thrive, the places, culture and traditions that contribute to Tucson's authenticity and sense of place remain. Property and business owners embrace our history, and build upon it to create a Downtown that is pure Tucson.