(Above image reflects 1885 Phoenix during the lifetime of Jesus Otero).

The first Catholic priests arrived in Phoenix during the late 1870's. Their success can be attributed in great part to local prominent merchant Jesus Otero. He contributed greatly to the building and establishment of St. Mary's, Phoenix's first Catholic church. 


Jesus Otero arrived in Phoenix after Jack Swilling's efforts to colonize the location in 1868. (Barrios, 2008). He was an esteemed member of the emergent Phoenix community and known as a benevolent soul. (Cancilla, 2009). During the 1870's,  the home of Jesus Otero was used to hold Catholic mass for the visiting priests from Florence. Understanding the growing need for a more permanent location, Otero joined forces with Miguel Peralta and Carlos Perrazzo who made a joint donation of land to build Phoenix's first Catholic Church. Otero also helped plan the church. (Luckingham, 2009). The United States Federal Census of 1880 reports that Jesus Otero and his parents were all from Mexico. This does not automatically suggest that he was born across the modern U.S. / Mexico international border, as Arizona belonged to Mexico at the time of Jesus's birth around 1833. It is likely that Jesus was born on Arizona soil.

According to the city's website, "[t]he first Catholic priest came to Phoenix in 1872, but it was not until after 1881 that an adobe church building, the Sacred Heart of St. Louis at Third and Monroe streets, replaced the [Jesus] Otero home as a place for Catholics to worship." The actual name of Phoenix's first church is clarified on a plaque at the Basilica of St. Mary's that says, "St. Mary's is the oldest Catholic church in the Valley founded in 1881 and staffed by the Franciscan Friars since 1895. The Basilica sits over the site of the original adobe church. The present church was built in 1915, declared a National Historic Landmark in 1978, and designated a basilica in 1985 by Pope John Paul II." (For a view of the basilica plaque see below video on St. Mary's Basilica).  


Inside the modern Basilica of St. Mary's on the right wall as you face the altar is an ornate blue stained glass window inscribed to the memory of Jesus Otero. When you visit Phoenix, AZ and pass by the Basilica of St. Mary's, you are certain to hear the church bells ring. As they ring, remember the sacrifices made by Jesus Otero and those Mexican and Italian businessmen who were instrumental in giving Phoenix its' first Catholic Church.

(c) 2017  Diana Hinojosa DeLugan All rights reserved
Dyer, C. J, Byrnes Litho, and Label & Litho. Co Schmidt. Bird's eye view of Phoenix, Maricopa Co., Arizona. Phoenix, 1885. Map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <https://www.loc.gov/item/75693082/>.
Barrios, Frank. Mexicans in Phoenix. Arcadia Publishing. Phoenix: 2008, p.7.
Bradford, Luckingham. Minorities in Phoenix. A Profile of Mexican American, Chinese American, and African American Communities, 1860 - 1992. University of Arizona Press. Tucson: 1994, p.19. 
DeLugan, Diana. Bells of St. Mary's. Phoenix, 2014. Video. Retrieved from YouTube, <https://youtu.be/4AAvsI748Fc>.
Martinelli, Phylis Cancilla. Undermining Race: Ethnic Identities in Arizona's Copper Camps, 1880-1920. University of Arizona Press. Tucson: 2009, p.36.
Phoenix City Government. City of Phoenix History. Retrieved from the City of Phoenix History Web page, https://www.phoenix.gov/pio/city-publications/city-history.
U.S. Federal Government. "United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MH24-GXD : 12 August 2017), Jesus Otero, Phoenix, Maricopa, Arizona, United States; citing enumeration district ED 18, sheet 103B, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 0036; FHL microfilm 1,254,036.
UND68. St. Mary's Basilica, Phoenix, Arizona As Shown by Pastor Rev. Vince Mesi. Location Unkn, 2012. Video. Retrieved from YouTube, <https://youtu.be/Zob6MdfcxiQ>.
TAGS: #JesusOtero #Phoenix #StMarys #CatholicChurch #OteroFamilyHistory

Official blog of TheOteros.com where Arizona history is celebrated and made.

By Diana DeLugan

Bienvenidos to the new Otero Family History Blog where we will discuss all things related to the Otero Family of Tubac. If you have a question about Otero Family History, let me know. I'll be glad to research your question and publish the answer here so that everyone interested in this subject can benefit from your question. 

Since research began in 2009, it became quickly apparent that inconsistencies and errors existed in previously published media regarding Otero family history. When news has been reported about a subject for centuries, it is not uncommon for facts to be embellished or reported incorrectly due to lack of available information or misconstrued facts due to lost or destroyed documentation caused by the passage of time. This post is the first of what will be an ongoing effort to accurately report the history of the Oteros of Tubac, Arizona and learn more about southern Arizona's pioneer past. All mediums including print and video will be reviewed.  The purpose of this inquiry is not to criticize. Rather, it is to help educate and set the record straight so that anyone interested in Otero Family History and Southern Arizona History can become more informed about Arizona's pioneer past. 
The Otero family is proud of Don Torivio de Otero's legacy as Arizona's first European private owner of land, first private landowner to build an irrigation system and the first documented lay teacher during Hispanic Arizona periods. 

Like other Hispanic Arizona families, the Otero family survived drought and physical and legal attacks against its' land. Struggles endured by Hispanics in the American southwest are often forgotten, or voices muted as being inconsistent with modern perspectives related to Arizona history. The Otero family is an integral part of Arizona's Hispanic past. It is one of many important Hispanic families that helped make Arizona what it is today. A cursory look at Arizona's architecture, art, and street names of any Arizona city or town reflect remnants of our Spanish and Mexican past. The Otero Family History Blog celebrates our collective Arizona pioneer past.

History has been kind to the Otero Family of Tubac. Over the centuries, many notable Otero descendants have been memorialized in writing like Don Torivio de Otero, Atanacio Otero, Sabino Otero, Teofilo Otero, and Sister Clara (Gabriella) Otero. However, there is much more history to be discussed and celebrated.

Truth is our destination. If you have any information to help clarify a historical reference, person, or event related to southern Arizona History or Otero Family History, please contact us. Thank you in advance for your interest in Otero Family History. Remember, your comments are encouraged and always welcomed.

Image credit: (c) 2013 Diana DeLugan All rights reserved. Photo of "Where History Lives On" Arch at Tubac Golf Resort & Spa, former location of Otero Ranch. (c) 2017 Diana Delugan. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without written permission.