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El Nacimiento is a Tucson tradition

Rustic gate opens into a courtyard
Rustic gate opens into a courtyard
Kim Kloes

You most likely recall the familiar nativity scenes that once dominated peoples’ homes and yards during the Christmas holiday. Tucson has its very own nativity scene, housed in a section of the Tucson Museum of Art, simply named El Nacimiento.

Christmas in May
Kim Kloes

This traditional expression of the nativity originated in Colonial Mexico and is on display in the Old Pueblo November through June.

Located in what is possibly the oldest home in Tucson, La Casa Cordoba, the display has its own room within the structure. First, you must walk into the Tucson Museum of Art through the first outdoor courtyard, up a ramp and through a gate into a more rustic courtyard that feels like walking into another time.

The courtyard area, complete with plaques that explain what life was like in the late 1800s, has a ramada where people sought refuge during the hot, dry summers. There is a well that has a distinction of being labeled ‘the family well’. That was where they washed up. The city well was where the family obtained drinking water.

There’s even an old outhouse, completed with tennis shoe sitting right in the middle of the almost-filled-in-with-dirt commode.

Once you walk into La Casa Cordoba and turn to the left, there is initially sensory overload. There is so much color, pattern and stuff that screams at you from the tiny alcove behind the protective glass.

Once your eyes can settle in a bit, you start discerning the different scenes that range from the heavenly hosts blowing their horns to the teeny tiny cooking utensils used by the typical folk depicted in the miniature village. Each piece is a labor of love.

Maria Luisa Tena created, prepared and produced this display in honor of her mother. She and her family carried out this event which has resulted in the preservation of the traditional scenes.

The set grew year after year until it has become what you see today.

You must go through the Tucson Museum of Art to view the display. Check the Tucson Museum of Art website for further details on dates, times and prices.