The Portuguese American Club of Tucson


Tucson, Arizona's History

Tucson's roots are bedded deep in the past, so deep in fact that some historians believe it to be the oldest continually inhabited city in the United States. Archeologists have found evidence of Indian Civilizations dating back to at least 900 A.D. The recorded history of this picturesque desert city is colorful and dates back to 1539, when Mendoza, the Spanish Viceroy of Mexico, dispatched Fray Marcos de Niza in search of the Seven Cities of Cibola.

The latter's glowing report of his journey led to Don Francisco Vasquez Coronado's famous expedition and discovery of the area in 1540.

The original charter of the Old Pueblo was granted by the King of Spain in 1552. In the early 1600's Spanish Jesuits came up from Mexico to establish missions. The Papago Indians who inhabited the community when it was visited in 1692 by the Spanish missionary Father Eusebio Kino, called their village Stjukson ( Stook-shon) which has been translated to mean "Dark Spring" or "at the foot of the Black Hill." Father Kino founded Mission San Xavier del Bac in 1692. The Papago Indians call it "la Paloma del Desierto", which means "the White Dove of the Desert". During this period there was constant traffic between Mexico and Tucson as the empire- building Spaniards pushed their New World boundaries northward from Mexico City. Mines and ranches came into being at this time, in 1776. The Presidio of Tucson became a walled city. The onetime existence of a wall completely surrounding the community is the origin of Tucson's present nickname. "The Old Pueblo." In 1782, Tucson was part of the newly created Mexico and served as a military outpost until it became part of the United States with the Gadsden Purchase in December 1853. Tucson mustered a total of 68 American voters in 1862. Confederates from Texas marched unopposed into Tucson, but were routed three months later by the California Volunteers who raised the flag of the United States over the Old Pueblo.

Arizona was organized as a territory in 1863. A year later John Goodwin, the first governor, declared Tucson a municipality.

When the trans-continental railroad arrived in 1881, Tucson was still a sleepy Mexican-appearing village of a few hundred inhabitants. But, by the turn of the century, the Old Pueblo had become the business and supply center of a large territory, and was rapidly gaining renown as a health resort where Easterners came to relax and soak up the desert sunshine.

By 1909, Tucson had grown to 7,351 population and was the largest city in Arizona. The University of Arizona had been established in Tucson in 1895.

The Old Pueblo had started on it's upward swing.

By the end of the first half of the 20th Century, accelerated by the industry and population and with greater growth in sight, new residents and business continued to move into the area.

The population more than doubled between 1950 and 1960 as greater numbers of people availed themselves of the opportunity and attractive climate to be found in Tucson. Today Tucson's metropolitan area has a population of over 800,000.


All signs point to continued growth. However, in spite of Tucson's rapid growth it has been able to retain its southwestern charm.