Our History

Our History

Ancient Beginnings: The Hohokam Legacy

Around 300 B.C., a Native American group known today as the Hohokam (or Huhugam per their descendants, the O’odham) migrated to this area and began farming and living in semi-permanent dwellings. The Hohokam are the ancestors of the Tohono O’odham Nation, the Gila River Indian Community, the Ak-Chin Indian Community, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, and the Hia-Ced O’odham. Evidence of the Hohokam presence still lingers today in the sands of the desert and the rock outcrops that dot the area in various art forms chipped into the granite boulders, known as petroglyphs. The Hohokam cultural tradition in the desert is captivating and a vital aspect of Cocoraque’s story.

The Homesteading Era

Cocoraque Ranch was homesteaded in the 1890s by Oscar Robles, Sr.’s grandfather. Cocoraque is one of the oldest working cattle ranches in Southern Arizona and is located approximately 7 miles west of the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum. Today, the Cocoraque Ranch and Pavilion is much more than just an active cattle ranch.

Land Grants and Ownership

Cocoraque is located in the Avra Valley and is the last remnant of an extremely large Mexican land grant that extended from below the modern-day United States-Mexico border to a line somewhere north of the ranch’s buffer line. The original owner, Sr. Benito Robles, consolidated the holdings by mutual agreement with other Mexican landowners of Spanish descent in the region when the territory was still part of the United States of Mexico. Sr. Robles was one of the principal governing authorities in the region and was highly respected.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

After the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo between the USA and Mexico in 1848, the Arizona Territory was created. This caused difficulties with the title and ownership of land, making it challenging to ward off squatters. For instance, for a period of four years, Cocoraque Ranch was the site of Apache encampments until the U.S. Cavalry arrived.

The Arvizu Legacy

Jesus Arvizu, a Tucson native and third-generation cattle rancher whose ancestry originates from Nacosari and San Pedro de la Quierva, Sonora, Mexico, is the current owner and operator of the ranch. Mr. Arvizu is also an avid roper and the real deal cowboy, continuing the rich traditions of the ranch.

Historical Significance of the Land

The Tohono O’odham have lived in the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona and northern Mexico for centuries. Tohono O’odham means “desert people.” The Tohono O’odham tell how I’itoi, the Elder Brother, led their ancestors into an arid and beautiful land. Over many centuries, the O’odham learned from the land and used it to create their enduring cultural traditions. The ceremonies and stories that help define the Tohono O’odham as a unique people are intimately tied to the desert landscape of their homeland.

Hohokam Petroglyphs and Cultural Preservation

Stories of I’itoi are connected with the Huhugam, the ancient people that archaeologists call the Hohokam. Huhugam means something that has disappeared or has been used up; so the Huhugam are the people who have disappeared. Hohokam archaeological sites are respected, preserved, and revered by the O’odham people. The petroglyphs at Cocoraque Butte include a variety of images and span a long period, with some dating back over two thousand years. These petroglyphs provide excellent examples of the Hohokam art found in southern Arizona.

Collaborative Preservation Efforts

In recent years, Cocoraque Ranch has worked closely with the Tohono O’odham Nation to preserve and respect the cultural significance of the land. Field trips organized with Tohono O’odham tribal members have helped foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of the petroglyphs and other cultural features at Cocoraque Butte. The Tohono O’odham Cultural Preservation Committee has expressed strong support for the conservation and historic preservation of these lands.

A Living History

Today, Cocoraque Ranch continues to be a working cattle ranch while also serving as a venue for events and a place of historical significance. The ranch remains a testament to the enduring legacy of the Hohokam and Tohono O’odham peoples, as well as the pioneering spirit of the early settlers.

View the Full History Prepared by T. J. Ferguson for Arizona Open Lands Trust, July 22, 2008.