Arizona History

Your trip to Arizona will be more interesting if prior to your trip, you learn a bit about Arizona history. It is interesting to know that there are conflicts over the meaning of the state's name. The word "Arizona" actually has four Native American interpretations. In the language of the Aztecs, Arizuma means "silver bearing." Ali shonak and Ari-son are Pima Indian terms that mean "small spring." The Tohono O'odham Indians used the word Aleh-zone to denote a small spring.

Arizona history books tell us that its original inhabitants were the Hohokam Indians and the Anasazi. The Hohokam Indians have been credited with building canals in Central Arizona, in order to sustain their crops. Meanwhile, the Anasazi Indians made their home in the high plateaus of northwestern Arizona. The word "Anasazi" is Navajo for "those who lived before." Between 1100 and 1300 A.D., both the Anasazi and Hohokam tribes were at the height of their civilization. However, by 1400A.D, the tribes no longer existed. Their disappearance remains an unsolved mystery in Arizona history.

When the Spanish explorers arrived in the sixteenth century, they were in search of God, gold and glory. Legend tells us that during the Moorish invasion, seven bishops fled Spain and founded seven cities in the territory north of Mexico. Upon hearing these rumors, a Spanish Franciscan Friar by the name of Marcos de Niza came in search of these Seven Cities of Gold.

Arizona History
Arizona History

From 1810 to 1821, during the Mexican war of independence from Spain, Arizona came under Mexican control. Then, in 1848, in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Mexico relinquished control to the United States. In 1863, Arizona was organized as a separate territory. It attained statehood in 1912.

Given its history, it is not surprising that a number of Arizona traditions are based on its Native American and Latin cultural heritage. For example, in October, Dia de los Muertos celebrations are held in various Arizona locations. This Latin American celebration of the transformation of the dead to the afterlife has become a popular Arizona tradition.

If you travel through Phoenix or Tucson, you may see buildings that are plastered with brightly-colored murals. These murals are part of the Chicano Mural Movement, which is an organization that pays homage to the Mexican tradition of Muralism. Muralism began in the 1920s, when famous Mexican artists produced politically charged murals on public buildings. The Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 1970s brought Muralism to the Southwestern United States.

Even in looking at Arizona state facts, you can find references to its cultural heritage. The state gem is turquoise, which has been used for centuries in Native American jewelry. The list of Arizona state facts also informs us that the 13 rays of red and gold on the state flag not only represented the 13 original colonies: red and gold were the colors worn by the explores in search of the seven cities. Given that these cultures still thrive in Arizona, you will want to spend part of your trip exploring their traditions.

If you are interested in Hopi culture, the Hopi reservation in Northern Arizona occupies approximately 1.5 million acres of land. Their present-day location is the same as it has been for hundreds of generations. The Hopis reside in 12 self-governing villages. Hopi culture is characterized by religious celebrations and traditional dances. You are welcome to observe, but photography is prohibited.

Navajo culture is also fascinating. The tribe is famous for its sandpainting, which is performed as part of their healing ceremonies. Like all of the other Native American communities, Navajo culture is based on tribal law. If you are visiting the Navajo Nation, keep in mind that quiet hours are observed between 11:00 PM and 6:00 AM. Since teepees are strictly for religious purposes be respectful, and do not try to enter them.

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