February 20, 2012
Tuscon’s early residents were Mexican. The Barrio was where they lived, near a wonderful spot with natural springs. Travelers could water their horses, and like Old Mexico, women brought their clay jugs to the well for household water. The Elysian Gardens formed around the spring became the Barrio center, where people met their neighbors and established social contacts. We started at the edge of the Barrio where some crumbling old adobes await restoration in the Barrio.
It is easy to see how the adobes were built, with their over the door stiles, the hand-made bricks covered over with adobe mud. The adobe, in a hot climate, is a practical, cool building even now.
Some buildings retain the flavor of those times. Especially old businesses like this theatre. Remnants of painted signs on the side of buildings provides a glimpse of the past.
What’s left of the Barrio is mostly restored and beautiful. The bright colors remind me of the Painted Ladies of San Francisco and Methodist homes of Marthas Vineyard.
The area supports a predominantly Mexican community, still.
Restored and beautiful, they retain their distinct shape and purpose.
As you walk the neighborhood, you are as likely to see a section of great charm, as you are a make-shift fence.
Adobes are flat roofed and the water drains through pipes, wood or clay troughs.
If you must use a pipe to drain your roof, why not make it a thing of artistic beauty?
Like this decorative feature for the window bars.
A brightly painted doorway and steps.
I think this one says KEEP OUT! The entire gate is knives.
I preferred this happy little bird.
Many of the adobes still had courtyards. In some of the smallest places, a cool, and inviting retreat could be seen.
Painted murals and colorful decoration are common to Mexican culture.
This resident may not be rich, but he certainly retains his sense of humor. A collection of 13 doorknobs. We thoroughly walked, photographed and enjoyed the neighborhood and returned to what was once the center of the Barrio, what is left of the Elysian Gardens and the Little Eye Springs.
Taken from the history of the Barrio is the designation Barrio Libre:
“This designation was given by the Mexican residents to that quarter of the city lying among Meyer and adjacent streets, southward of the business portion of the city occupied by the Americans. It means Free Zone, and in earlier times was allowed to remain without legal restraints or the presence of a policeman. Here, the Mescalian could imbibe his fill, and either male or female could, in peaceful intoxication, sleep on the sidewalk or in the middle of the streets, with all their ancient rights respected. Fandangoes, monte, chicken fights, broils, and all the amusements of the lower class of Mexicans were, in this quarter, indulged in without restraint; and to this day much of the old-time regime prevails, although the encroachments of the American element indicate the ultimate doom of the customs in the Barrio Libre. It must be understood that these remarks apply only to the lower class of Mexicans and not to the cultured Mexican residents of the city, who, for intelligence and enterprise, are foremost among our people.”
This shrine near the gardens is called El Tiradito, the wishing shrine and is an historical monument. It is the only shrine dedicated to the sinner buried in unconsecrated ground and is fondly referred to as The Castaway.
We then repaired to the nearby El Minuto Cafe and had fabulous Mexican food.