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The word Tubac comes from the Pima Indian language and is not easily defined. There are several Pima words that the name Tubac could come from. Tuba can mean “low” or “long;” the remaining “c” simply is an indicator that tuba is a descriptive word. Another possibility is to divide the word into two syllables as is commonly done today: tu-bac. The syllable tu means “black” and bac can indicate either a “cavity,” “depression,” or “pond.

This gave way to the tradition of Tubac meaning “dark water.” Another possibility is that the name comes from the Pima word tubaki which means cloud. We have then at least three possible meanings for the word Tubac: “low place,” “black or dark pond” and “cloud.” The first is the most likely to reflect the original meaning since most Pima Indian place names indicate the size and shape of geographical features, thus, describing the low lands along the Santa Cruz River.

As for the correct pronunciation, you can take your pick of two. In Spanish, it is pronounced too-bahk and the last syllable receives the emphasis. If you prefer an English pronunciation, say too-back and stress the first syllable. Tubac has had a long history as a prehistoric Hohokam village which was later occupied by the Pima (Tohono O’odham) and sporadically by the Apaches; a Spanish rancheria supporting Mission Tumacacori 3 miles to the south; a major Spanish Presidio which gave rise to Tubac, the first European settlement in Arizona; following the Mexican War of Independence, a small Mexican village in the state of Sonora, Mexico; a remote Mexican military post until the Gadsden Purchase; an American mining town with a population of over 1,000, making it the largest town in the territory; a hotbed for southern sympathizers, and a few months later, a Union Civil War Camp; a small agriculture and ranching community during the territorial period; and currently a thriving artists’ colony.

Mariachis in Tubac 1969

Research in Process. 

“The Mariachis of Tubac”, a postcard circa 1969 is on the desk of THS researcher, Nancy Valentine.  On the back of the postcard “These boys, all members of the same class in the Tubac Elementary School, roam the streets of Tubac during Fiesta time singing the new and the old songs of Mexico.  Here they are in front of the Santa Cruz Valley Art Association Galleries, one of the old adobe buildings of Tubac” (Pennington House).   Nancy has identified most including John Solares and Henry Jimenez.

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