Romero Ruins – Ghost Towns of Catalina State Park

December 1st, 2017 · No Comments

Romero Ruins
By Jane St. Clair

A Yaqui woman told me she likes to walk in Romero Ruins where the Hohokam lived hundreds of years ago. These ruins are the remains of prehistoric villages in Catalina State Park, just north of Tucson, Arizona. The Hohokam lived there between 500 and 1500 AD, and then disappeared. No one knows why. Their very name means “the people who have left.”

Anyway, she was walking in Romero Ruins when she picked up some bits of pottery. She took them home. Then for the next five nights, she could not sleep. When she finally did sleep, she had a bad dream. A strange man came to her and spoke in a strange language, yet she could understand him. The next day she knew she must return the pottery chards to Romero Ruins.

In the Yaqui tradition, you don’t just remove something from a place, not even a leaf, without giving back something of your own. You especially do not take a work of art like pottery because every work of art has part of the artist’s spirit/soul in it. You are respectful. You don’t mess with that.

The Yaqui believe even that even before the artist turns it into pottery, the clay itself is sacred, and the clay itself remembers who made it into a work of art.
I was thinking about these things when I last climbed the stairs to Romero Ruins. It is a beautiful spot, very high with beautiful views. I was thinking that it’s a great spot for villages because it is near two big washes and has beautiful panoramic views of mountains and sunsets.

About 300 Hohokam lived in walled villages on this 15-acre spot. They were farmers who knew how to irrigate the desert. They had two large ball courts, and probably played tournaments against nearby villages. Since they made seashell jewelry, archaeologists think they went to the Gulf of California to trade.

I get the feeling they were a happy people.

Walking around there gives you the spooky sense of times past and of the lives of those who came before us. But it’s not the scary-spooky you get in a cemetery, it’s more the sacred feeling of other times, other worlds. I understand why the Yaqui believe it is wrong to disturb even a bit of this place.

Romero Ruins also has what’s left of Francisco Romero’s Ranch. The prehistoric ruins are mixed up with the crumbling cobbles of his ranch.

One last story about Romero Ruins–

A hundred years ago, a rumor went around that the Spaniards left a vast treasure of gold buried in a mission called Circu out here.

There was no mission, and there was no gold, but there were many, many looters who walked around looking for both. They took pottery chards, jewelry and other Hohokam things.

I can’t help but wonder if those looters ever got bad dreams about strangers.

To plan your visit to Romero Ruins, check out the Catalina State Park’s website.

Tags: Arizona · Jane St. Clair · Tucson · Tucson Tourism