Big Jim: The Lost Guadalupe mine

2013-11-29T00:00:00Z 2013-12-19T11:46:38Z Big Jim: The Lost Guadalupe mineJim Griffith Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

If you believe the stories, Tumacacori Mission was a hotbed of successful mining during the Colonial period. There’s the Tumacacori Mine, the Pimeria Alta Mine, the Alto Mine, the Mine of the Bats, the Mine with the Iron Door, the Ópata Mine (of which more in a later blog), and the Virgin of Guadalupe Mine.

The only problem is that there is no documentary evidence dating from the colonial period that any of these mines existed. Let’s look at the last mine on the list, the Virgin of Guadalupe mine.

According to the story, the mine had been worked by the Indians when Coronado seized it in 1540. Coronado established a mission named after the patron saint of Mexico. (The Virgin of Guadalupe did not gain national prominence until the 19th century.)

The mine is said to be 1800 varas from the San Ramon River, which is not on any map from any period whatsoever. A clue to its location is said to be the marking COD-TD on the underside of a black rock.

The evidence for this mine is contained in a manuscript, of which only copies remain, said to have been written in the 17th century by Micaela Walloria De Molina, an ex-nun from Madrid. The late Donald Garate, Park Historian at Tumacacori National Historical Park, who had many years of experience working with colonial documents, analyzed the form, spelling, and wording of the manuscripts. His conclusion was that they could not have been written during the colonial period, but instead probably dated from around 1900. Interestingly enough, a man living at the mission during that time was one of the early promoters of the Guadalupe Mine story. The document may well have been his work.

This information has not stopped the believers in the treasure. I have read on the Internet that Garate’s work was simply a scam designed to keep the treasure for the Federal Government. Once again, how do you prove that something doesn’t exist?

In A Border Runs Through It (Tucson 2011: Rio Nuevo Press, p.68) is a copy of a map purporting to lead one to the Guadalupe Mine. It is wonderfully vague, and the distances are measured in varas, which are somewhat equivalent to our yards. Now, assuming that the mine was not in the river valley but in the mountains west of the river, pacing out yards in that broken country would be an open-ended exercise at best.

And so the search goes on, regardless of factual documentation.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

About this blog

Jim Griffith is the former director of the Southwest Folklore Center at the University of Arizona, and co-founder of Tucson Meet Yourself. He’s also the author of seven books on the folklore and folklife of our region, most recently “A Border Runs Through It.” His books can be purchased at azstarnet.com/wildcatgear.

If you have questions or suggestions for Jim Griffith or this blog, e-mail bigjimgriffith@gmail.com

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