La Capitilla is a reconstruction of the earliest religious structure on this site, according to the San Pedro Chapel web site.
Originally erected in 1915, a Carmelite father from Holy Family Parish in Tucson rode out to tend to the spiritual needs of the residents in El Fuerte.
The priest would stand inside the structure. The flock would stand outside under the mesquite trees and participate in services. The skeleton of one of the original trees is still in place on the site.
In 1997, an archaeological expedition found the original walls and packed dirt floor of the structure. Surviving members of the El Fuerte community added the oral histories of their memories of the place, the people they knew and loved and what had transpired there. The site has been recreated with extreme attention to detail.
With the building of the Chapel, this structure fell into disuse after 1920 and became rubble. Like other adobe structures in the area, it had melted back into the dust.
The Carmelites are about contemplation. It’s easy to stand in front of this tiny structure and hear the voices from the past joining together in community and cosmic harmony. Photos, candles and other mementos hug the walls in abundance and occasionally, fresh flowers are left at the site.
The Fort Lowell neighborhood has many delightful places to explore. Make sure you devote some time to the San Pedro Chapel and La Capitilla.