Kino, Father Eusebio

by Darryl Plummer

Eusebio Francisco Kino was a Jesuit missionary in Mexico during the age of colonization.  He arrived in Mexico City to begin his missionary work in 1681 at the age of thirty-four years old, and died in 1711, in Magdalena, Sonora, at sixty-five.[1]  Kino is best known for his extensive exploration and the first detailed records of Pimería Alta (Upper Land of the Piman Indians), which is an out-of-use name for the area that is now northern Sonora and Southern Arizona.[2]  However, Kino’s legacy in the region consists of more than a historical source; he expanded the borders of the known European world, made first contact with the region’s Native American tribes, and altered the Southwest in ways still visible today.  His importance is demonstrated by his statue that stands in Washington, D.C.’s Statuary Hall as one of Arizona’s two historical representatives to the nation.[3]

Bronze Statue of Eusebio Francisco Kino in the Washington D.C. Statuary Hall

Although he conducted mission work for Spain, Kino was born near Trent, in northern Italy, in 1645.[1]  He attended university in Germany and later joined the Jesuit Order after he recovered from a life threatening illness.[2]  Like many Jesuits, Kino was as much a scholar as a missionary and proved to be an immediate asset in Mexico City.  After first participating in a failed expedition to Baja California, he was sent to Pimería Alta, which was then beyond the rim of Spanish control, and made his home in Dolores, Sonora.[3]  From Dolores, he completed many expeditions northwards, establishing over twenty new missions and traveling over twenty thousand miles into unknown lands.[4]  In 1700, Kino discovered that Baja California was a peninsula, not an island as previously believed.  He made the first recorded visit to places like Quitobaquito Springs and the Camino Del Diablo, as well as making the first significant contact with O’odham people who occupied these sites.  His maps of terrain and tinajas (rock watering holes in the desert) in southern Arizona were used generations after his death.[5]

Kino’s expertise in cartography, linguistics, and astronomy, to name a few, provides an excellent record of the Spanish entrance into Pimería Alta, but as a missionary, he used his expertise to bring Christianity and increased prosperity to native peoples.[9]  Herbert Bolton called Kino “The cattle king of his day and region,” which is a reference to the beginning of the ranching industry that is still a staple of the Tohono O’odham livelihood and later became so controversial in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument during the twentieth century.  Kino, however, raised livestock solely to support the creation of new missions and feed his converts.[10]  The natives, by Kino’s account, took a great liking to him as well.  During the Piman rebellion of 1695, Kino remained unharmed in his Dolores chapel, and then went to Mexico City to cite Spanish cruelty rather than Piman savagery as the cause of the rebellion.[11]  His remains were rediscovered in 1966 in a chapel in Magdalena, Sonora, which can be visited along with the Father Kino Museum also located in Magdalena.[12]

Further Reading

Bolton, Herbert E. “The Black Robes of New Spain.” The Catholic Historical Review 21 (October, 1935): 257-282.

Bolton, Herbert E. “The Mission as a Frontier Institution in the Spanish-American Colonies.” The American Historical Review 23 (October, 1917): 42-61.

Ives, Ronald L. “Father Kino’s 1697 Entrada to the Casa Grande Ruin in Arizona: A Reconstruction.” Arizona and the West 15 (Winter, 1973): 345-370.

Ives, Ronald L. “Kino’s Route across Baja California.” Kiva 26 (April, 1961): 17-29.

Ives, Ronald L. “Navigation Methods of Eusebio Francisco Kino, S. J.” Arizona and the West 2 (Autumn 1960): 213-243.

Manje, Juan Mateo. Luz De Tierra Incógnita: Unknown Arizona and Sonora 1693-1721. Translated by Harry J. Karns and Associates. Tuscon: Arizona Silhouettes, 1954.

Medrano, Lourdes. “Father Kino’s Memory Politicized.” Arizona Daily Star, May, 2007.  Retrieved from http://www.banderasnews.com/0705/art-fatherkino.htm (April 27, 2012).

Smith, Fay Jackson, John L. Kessell, Francis J. Fox, S.J.  Father Kino in Arizona. Phoenix: Arizona Historical Foundation, 1966.


[1] Herbert Eugene Bolton, The Padre on Horseback (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1963), 19.

[2] Ibid., 21-22.

[3] Ibid., 51; Thomas J. Campbell, “Eusebio Kino 1644-1711,” The Catholic Historical Review 5 (January, 1920): 56, 363-64.

[4] Campbell, Eusebio Kino, 374.

[5] Campbell, Eusebio Kino, 371; Herbert Eugene Bolton, Rim of Christendom: A Biography of Eusebio Francisco Kino, Pacific Coast Pioneer, (New York: Russell and Russell, 1960), 401 and 413-4.

[1] John L. Kessel, Spain in the Southwest (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2003), 125, 198-89.

[2] Ernest J. Burrus, “Kino, Historian’s Historian,” Arizona and the West 4 (Summer, 1962): 146.

[3] “Architect of the Capitol,” Architect of the Capitol, http://www.aoc.gov/cc/art/nsh/ (accessed March 25, 2012).

[4] Herbert Eugene Bolton, The Padre on Horseback (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1963), 19.

[5] Ibid., 21-22.

[6] Ibid., 51; Thomas J. Campbell, “Eusebio Kino 1644-1711,” The Catholic Historical Review 5 (January, 1920): 56, 363-64.

[7] Campbell, Eusebio Kino, 374.

[8] Campbell, Eusebio Kino, 371; Herbert Eugene Bolton, Rim of Christendom: A Biography of Eusebio Francisco Kino, Pacific Coast Pioneer, (New York: Russell and Russell, 1960), 401 and 413-4.

[9] Burrus, Historian’s Historian, 146-7.

[10] Bolton, Padre on Horseback, 64-6.

[11] Kino, Eusebio Francisco, “Kino’s Historical Memoir of Pimeria Alta: A Contemporary Account of the Beginnings of California, Sonora, and Arizona,” Bolton, Herbert Eugene ed., (Cleveland: Arthur H. Clark Co., 1919) 1:Book IV.

[12] Bernard L. Fontana, “Bottles and History: The Case of Magdalena de Kino, Sonora, Mexico,” Historical Archaeology 2 (1968): 45.

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