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himmering like a distant mirage in the midday heat, Mission San Xavier del Bac is a graceful swirl of white rising up from the muted ochres and greens of the desert 9 miles south of Tucson, Arizona. On the reservation of the Tohono O'odham ("people of the desert"), the mission is also known by its nickname, the "White Dove of the Desert".

he mission was founded in 1700 by Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, and the present structure was built in 1783. It has fallen into disrepair numerous times in the past several hundred years, but is currently undergoing a renovation. It has recently survived the gross indignity of senseless vandalism. How anyone can deface such a transcendent desert vision is beyond me. The church has a very beautiful interior, but I was unable to photograph it due to an ongoing church service the day I visited.

small chapel to the side of the Mission holds numerous icons and statues, and well over a hundred votive candles. As a matter of fact, when you walk in you are hit with a wall of heat from the candles which is quite startling. It must be well over a hundred degrees in there.

beautiful diamond in the dust of the Arizona desert.

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