During 2005 and 2006, I wrote the monthly “Downtown Lowdown” section for the Downtown Tucsonan newspaper. Each month, the section featured several short articles about events, people, and projects in downtown Tucson. Here’s a sample of one of the articles.
El Nacimiento Celebrates the Holidays
Tucson’s distinctive character is the legacy of its diverse, multi-cultural history, and during the holidays the Tucson Museum of Art celebrates the region’s special heritage with El Nacimiento. The exhibit is a grand installation of a traditional Mexican nativity scene that is displayed each year in Casa Cordova, the city’s oldest standing residence.
For the past 28 years, Maria Luisa Tena has created the Art Museum’s El Nacimiento to honor her mother. When Tena was growing up in Guadalajara, Mexico, her mother made a Nacimiento each year that Tena says was even larger than the one in Casa Cordova. Almost every night, neighbors would stop by and ask to see the fantastic display. Tena’s mother continued the tradition each Christmas until her death. At that point, Tena began to build the display and was soon asked to bring it to the Art Museum.
The display is made up of more than 800 hand-painted, clay figurines, and it takes Tena and a helper more than a month to put it together. El Nacimiento combines symbols from Spanish Catholicism with scenes from Mexican life. It shows the story of the birth of Jesus with pilgrims venturing to Bethlehem and angels trumpeting the news. In addition to the nativity scene, there are several temples and biblical figures depicting other stories from Jesus’ life.
Interspersed throughout the religious setting are Mexican villagers shown in everyday activities. The detailed houses are complete with miniature utensils for cooking, while horses, cows, and ducks fill the tiny farms. Plants, glowing lights and flowing water finish the exhibit with a magical aura that fills an entire room within Casa Cordova.
El Nacimiento will be on display in Casa Cordova at the Tucson Museum of Art through March 31. It is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. The cost is $8 to view Casa Cordova and other homes in the museum’s historic block. Call 624-2333 for details. Continue reading full Dec. 2005 Downtown Lowdown…