Arivaca, Arizona

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Arivaca (O'odham: Ali Wa:pk) is an unincorporated community in Pima County, Arizona, United States.[1] It is located 11 miles (18 km) north of the Mexican border and 35 miles (56 km) northwest of the port of entry at Nogales. The European-American history of the area dates back at least to 1695, although the community was not founded until 1878.[1] Arivaca has the ZIP code 85601.[2] The 85601 ZIP Code Tabulation Area had a population of 909 at the 2000 census.[3]

The Arivaca community lies on the north side of the Arivaca Creek valley at an elevation of 3,643 feet (1,110 m). The Las Guijas Mountains rise to the northwest and the foothills of the San Luis Mountains are to the south. A unit of the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge occupies the Arivaca Creek valley to the southeast of the town.[4]

Arivaca Road connects with I-19 at Amado about 23 miles (37 km) to the northeast and with Arizona State Route 286 some 12 miles (19 km) to the west in Altar Valley.[5]


Eighteenth century[edit]

The early history of Arivaca is obscure. It was probably a Pima or Tohono O'odham village, abandoned after the Pima Indian Revolt of 1751.[6] Spanish settlers developed small mines.

Nineteenth century[edit]

In 1833 a Mexican land grant of 8,677 acres (35.11 km2) was approved, which became La Aribac ranch, a Pima word for "small springs".[7] Charles Poston bought the ranch in 1856, and the reduction works for the Heintzelman Mine, at Cerro Colorado, were then erected at Arivaca. The Court of Private Land Claims eventually disallowed the Arivaca Land Grant.[8] The US Post Office was established April 10, 1878, with Noah W. Bernard as the first Postmaster;[6] still in operation at ZIP code 85601. Freighter and rancher Pedro Aguirre established a stage stop in Arivaca and the Buenos Aires Ranch. In 1879 he built a school in Arivaca. This school was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012, as the oldest standing schoolhouse in Arizona.

Early twentieth century[edit]

Arivaca was a camp for at least three United States Cavalry units during the 1910-20 Mexican Revolution: Troop B of the Connecticut National Guard/The First Company Governor's Horse Guards (1916), the Utah Cavalry (1917) and the 10th Cavalry (1917–20).

Recent history[edit]

Arivaca had a small population until the Trico Electric Cooperative power lines arrived in the valley in 1956. In 1972 the Arivaca Ranch sold 11,000 acres to a land developer who subdivided the property into 40-acre parcels. Four years later, the dirt Arivaca Road was paved.

In the 1980s and 1990s many new residents moved into the area, and a medical clinic, fire department, arts council, human resource office, community center and branch of Pima County Public Library were opened.

In 2012 the Arivaca Schoolhouse, the oldest standing schoolhouse in the state, was added to the National Register of Historic Places. A former nursing home was turned into the Arivaca Action Center with a focus on education, the arts, wellness, hospitality and sustainability. The AAC offers space for meetings, overnight guests, gardening, and physical therapy[citation needed].

Arivaca mining district[edit]

The historic Arivaca mining district consists of over 100 old mines in the Las Guijas Mountains northwest, the San Luis Mountains to the southwest and Cobre Ridge to the southeast of the town. Gold, silver, lead, copper and tungsten production has been recorded starting in Spanish colonial times and continuing intermittently through the 1950s.[9]

Border issues[edit]

In May 2007, Arivaca became a flash point for US immigration policy. Part of a travel corridor for a large volume of illegal migrant and drug smuggler traffic, Arivaca is at one end of Project 28, the test of SBInet. SBInet is the effort by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Boeing Corporation to secure US land borders using technology. It involves 98-foot (30 m) high towers with radar and cameras that send information to bases in Tucson and Sells, where directions are sent out to specially equipped Border Patrol vehicles about targets for apprehension. Project 28 is the effort to test this strategy on a 28-mile (45 km) stretch flanking the border on either side of Sasabe. There will[when?] be two towers on the Tohono O'Odham Nation west of the Baboquivari Mountains and 7 towers in the Altar Valley and southwest of Arivaca.[10] Arivaca is home to Arivaca Boys Ranch, where 30 troubled teenage boys reside and seek treatment. On May 30, 2009, Raul Flores and his 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia, were killed in a home-invasion in Arivaca by a group of anti-immigration activists.[11] The murderer was sentenced to death in early 2011.[12] As of 2014, there was a U.S. Border Patrol interior checkpoint being operated in the town, which was the subject of an ACLU of Arizona complaint, alleging both that the checkpoints are abusive and that agents unlawfully restricted the activities of protesters and photographers documenting their activities.[13]

Business community[edit]

In 2011 community members created Arivaca Alive, with a mission to develop programs and activities to increase the number of visitors to the community to support local businesses. Exposing visitors to the residents as part of a larger rebranding effort was an equally important goal. The group initiated First Saturdays in Arivaca with themed monthly events. In 2013 the group began a campaign branding Arivaca as a weekend destination built around the eco tourism attractions in the area including: birding, hiking, boating, gardening, and ghost town hunting. The organization sought to expand its reach to publicize other activities in the community throughout the year including: Fall Harvest Festival, Dia de los Muertos, Holiday Parade, Arivaca Home & Art Tour, Arivaca Film Festival, Chili Cookoff, Cinco de Mayo and Fourth of July Parade.

Local businesses in Arivaca include: Arivaca Mercantile, Arivaca Artists' Coop, La Gitana Cantina, Gadsden Coffee and Caffee Aribac, Sweet Peas Cafe, and Virginia's Rancherita Food Truck.


According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Arivaca has a semi-arid climate, abbreviated "BSk" on climate maps.[14]


  1. ^ a b Arivaca, Arizona Department of Commerce, 2007-08-10. Accessed 2007-09-07.
  2. ^ Zip Code Lookup
  3. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  4. ^ Arivaca, Arizona, 7.5 minute quad., USGS, 1996
  5. ^ Sells, Arizona-Sonora, 30x60 topographic quadrangle, USGS, 1994
  6. ^ a b Barnes, Will C.; Granger, Byrd (ed.) Arizona Place Names. 1997, University of Arizona Press, pp.25-26. Quoted at
  7. ^ Arivaca community profile
  8. ^ Barnes, Will C.; Granger, Byrd (ed.), Arizona's names : X marks the place. 1983, Falconer Pub. Co, pp. 20-30. Quoted at
  9. ^ Arivaca District on
  10. ^ Arivaca border issues/[dead link]
  11. ^ New Border Fear: Violence by a Rogue Militia New York Times, June 26, 2009
  12. ^ Arizona: Border Activist Sentenced to Death, New York Times, February 22, 2011
  13. ^
  14. ^ Climate Summary for Arivaca, Arizona

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 31°34′34″N 111°19′50″W / 31.57611°N 111.33056°W / 31.57611; -111.33056