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Franciscan desert pilgrimage


Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Except the Francés
Any of our friends in south west US know about the Tohono O'odham pilgrimage from (mostly) Arizona to the shrine of St Francis at Magdalena de Kino in Sonora, Mexico? It's been going since about 1707, when Jesuit missionaries converted some of the local population and established Santa María Magdalena. Apparently these pilgrims carry staffs and, rather than our abrazo to Santiago, kiss the head of a statue of San Francisco, ideally on his day (this Wednesday 4 October). The site is 90km from the Arizona border and many travel from Tucson and other places which would easily qualify for a compostela. The pilgrim staffs are sometimes decorated with ribbons showing how many times the bearer has made the journey (glad there are no such overt bragging symbols on our camino ...).

Anybody done this one? Suspect it's a bit hot for my thin northern blood.

There was a piece about the pilgrimage, and some challenges it faces, on BBC Radio 4 this morning (about 10 minutes into the programme)



Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino France's (2018)
This sounds like an interesting walk. I’m not a warm weather person but thinking Oct can’t be so bad in AZ?! Maybe a good warmup for the Camino. Thanks for the info
Camino(s) past & future
Spring 2016: Camino Frances, Finisterre and Muxia
April 2019: Frances, Salvador, Primitivo
I go to Tucson fairly frequently, often in October. It's usually quite hot. I will be there within a couple of weeks -- I check the weather regularly, and it's now in the upper 90s during the day, 60s at night. This continues throughout the 10 day forecast.

And of course, not a lot of shade along the route. But I would imagine, if this is an annual thing, that the organizers have planned for this kind of heat.

Hope this helps!

Holly Mitchem

Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2016, del Norte 2019
I have followed this route by car from Tucson to its terminus at the crypt of Fr. Eusebius Francisco Kino in Magdalena, Sonora, Mexico. It follows the highway most of the way and is a true religious pilgrimage done primarily by the Native peoples of the Pimería Alta to whom Fr. Kino ministered in the late 1600's and early 1700's. Somewhere during the course of this interesting history, the pilgrimage to Magdalena became conflated with the feast of St. Francis, a wonderful example of Catholic synchronicity in the colonial era. The purpose of my trip was to document the roadside shrines, which are marevelous, for a course I took on lay spiritual practices at the Franciscan School of Theology. The definitive, readable and engaging work on this pilgrimage and other devotional practices of this region of Northern Mexico and Southern Arizona is Beliefs and Holy Places: A Spiritual Geography of the Pimería Alta by James Griffiths, professor at the University of Arizona. I highly recommend this book if you are interested in learning more about the pilgrimage. The research I did for this course set me on the path to walking the Camino Frances last summer and also was instrumental in the development of my dissertation topic in art history and religion. Here are a couple of photos from along the route.


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