Oral History Project Seeks “Tales from Tumamoc”

March 20, 2020
Researchers stand in front of a camper painted with desert scenes

What makes Tumamoc Hill special? UA scholars are asking the question and collecting the answers as part of Cuéntame Más: Tales From Tumamoc, a new oral history project now underway on Tumamoc Hill.

Today, just as it was 2,500 years ago, Tumamoc Hill is a gathering site, and individuals' experiences and stories weave together a rich history of community and place. Those stories are now being collected by University of Arizona scholars thanks to the launch of Cuéntame Más: Tales From Tumamoc, a new oral history project.

A mobile recording studio will offer a venue for longtime walkers or first-time visitors to share their perspectives of Tumamoc Hill. The Cúentame Más trailer, which features the photography of Tumamoc artist-in-residence Paul Mirocha, is located approximately halfway up the hill in the Desert Laboratory parking lot.

“It is essentially Story Corps for Tumamoc,” said Ben Wilder, director of Tumamoc Hill. “We want to hear what Tumamoc Hill means to you to better understand the unique connection between people and this place.”

The UA Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry and Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill collaborated on Cuéntame Más: Tales from Tumamoc, which opened its doors for the first time on March 12. On select days between now and April 7, the Cúentame Más trailer will be open for people to visit and have their stories preserved on audio. Interviewees can also have their portraits taken, if desired, by National Geographic photographer Bill Hatcher.

The resulting product will be a portrait with an excerpt of the interview as a brief caption. To see the images and stories, follow the Desert Lab and Confluencenter on Instagram at @confluencenter and @desert.laboratory.

“Just as Humans of New York is able to give you a sense of the vibrant culture of a city and intimate stories we all have, Tales From Tumamoc will capture the remarkable stories right here in the heart of our city,” said Javier Duran, director of the Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry.

The name “Tumamoc” is derived from the Tohono O’odham name for the hill Cemamagi Du'ag meaning “hill of the horned lizard.” Tumamoc is an 860-acre ecological preserve in the heart of Tucson managed by the UA and Pima County. It is the birthplace of ecology and arid land studies, earning it a U.S. National Historical Landmark designation.