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St Patrick's Day in Tucson Arizona

Updated on March 15, 2013

Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day

When thinking about Irish and St. Patrick's Day celebrations Tucson, Arizona in the American southwest is certainly not the first place to come to mind.

After all, Tucson does not have a large Irish community like many eastern cities where the masses of Irish settled and is not located along the route of the original transcontinental railroad where many of the Irish laborers who built that railroad later settled.

However, since everyone is considered Irish on St. Patrick's Day, it is not necessary to have a large population of real Irish in order to join in the festivities. Everyone loves a good time and that alone is reason enough to celebrate a holiday like St. Patrick's Day regardless of one's ethnic heritage.

Hugo O'Conor

Hugo O'Conor - the Irishman who Founded Tucson, AZ
Hugo O'Conor - the Irishman who Founded Tucson, AZ | Source

The Irishman Who Founded Tucson

In the case of Tucson, the city is somewhat unique among American cities in that the man responsible for founding the city was an Irishman, one Hugo O'Conor. Of course Hugo is a Spanish, not an Irish name, but O'Conor is certainly Irish.

Unlike Eamon de Valera, the early Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and man responsible for Ireland's final break from British rule, who was born in the United States to an Irish mother and Spanish father, O'Conor was born to Irish parents in Ireland and was given the name Hugh.

Like many Irish down through the centuries, the young Hugh O'Conor was forced to flee Ireland in order to have the freedom to find success in his life.

Moving to Spain, O'Conor joined the Spanish army and rose quickly in the ranks. His skill and success in the army resulted in his being appointed by the King of Spain to implement the recommendations made in a report by another Army general to strengthen the northern defenses of Spain's North American territories from Texas to California.

Tucson was one of the sites established by O'Conor to be a key northern defense outpost.

While the Irish portion of the Tucson population is not as large as that of neighboring Phoenix let alone Eastern and Midwestern cities with large Irish enclaves, Tucson's roots were Irish from the start.

Many Come Out for Tucson's Annual St. Patrick's Day Parade

Every year, as St. Patrick's Day approaches the large red, white and blue A on Sentinel Peak (which is generally referred to by the locals as A Mountain because of the A) suddenly turns green thanks to the application of a fresh coat of new green paint applied by volunteers.

And on Copper St. a large green shamrock is painted on the pavement in front of Salpointe Catholic High School.

Then there is a always an annual St. Patrick's Day parade through the streets of Tucson and, in recent years a large festival in a local park.

Despite the area's historic Hispanic culture, its great climate has served to attract a diverse population representing many cultures. During the winter months this population increases noticeably and it is reasonable to assume that the number of Irish Americans in Tucson also increases.

As a result Tucson has many groups and organizations representing the varied cultures found in the city who, much to the delight of locals and visitors alike, sponsor festivals throughout the winter season celebrating their food and culture.

Statute of Founder Hugo O'Connor gazes toward the St. Patrick's Day Parade as it Makes its way through the area where he Built his Presidio

Statute of Tucson Founder Hugo O'Connor gazes toward the St. Patrick's Day Parade Route
Statute of Tucson Founder Hugo O'Connor gazes toward the St. Patrick's Day Parade Route | Source
Float with Irish Flag in Tucson Arizona's Annual St. Patrick's Day Parade
Float with Irish Flag in Tucson Arizona's Annual St. Patrick's Day Parade | Source

Parade Passes Through the Area Where the City Began

Hugo O'Conor built the Presidio or fort which became the start of the European settlement in Tucson and the parade passes through this historic area.

Two blocks away is the historic Manning House with its statute of Hugo O'Conor gazing toward the spot where his fort once stood. Standing next to his statute one can see the St. Patrick's Day parade passing in the distance.

While located in America's southwestern desert far from the eastern cities like Boston and New York with their history of Irish politicians and St. Patrick's Day Parades, Tucson's annual St. Patrick's Day Parade and other festivities celebrate the city's Irish roots that go back as far or further than its eastern brethren.

Model of USS Tucson SSN-770 Attack Submarine being driven through El Presidio Historic District in Tucson's Annual St. Patrick's Day Parade
Model of USS Tucson SSN-770 Attack Submarine being driven through El Presidio Historic District in Tucson's Annual St. Patrick's Day Parade | Source
Shamrocks marching in Tucson's St. Patrick's Day Parage
Shamrocks marching in Tucson's St. Patrick's Day Parage | Source

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    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      9 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      rmshdc - thanks for your comment. Come on over and visit as Tucson is a great place to visit and lots more to see.

      Thanks again.

    • rmshdc profile image

      rmshdc 

      9 years ago from Bangalore

      after reading, i fell in love with Tucson. Wish I could visit.

    • profile image

      bobmnu 

      9 years ago

      Another interesting piece fo American History. Thanks

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      9 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Who woulda thunk Tucson was founded by an Irishman? Wonders never cease!

    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      9 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Shirley - thanks for the heads up on the RSS feed. I was late for a dinner appointment and rushed off without including this. It's in now and Happy St Paddy's Day to you.

      Come on down to Tucson - this time of year we probably have as many Canadians as Irish enjoying our sunny weather.

    • Shirley Anderson profile image

      Shirley Anderson 

      9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Hi Again. You're live in the HubMob hub. Don't forget to add the HubMob RSS feed, and you're in business!

      Early Happy St. Paddy's Day!

    • Shirley Anderson profile image

      Shirley Anderson 

      9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Hi, Chuck. I'm a Canadian, but I LOVE Arizona!! I haven't been to Tucson yet, but it sounds great.

      By the way, I didn't find this hub in the HubMob forum. Did you put it through Princessa's request link? Do I need to add it?

    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      9 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      jkfrancis - thanks for reminding me about the shamrock at Stone and Pennington. I used to work on that corner but that was a number of years ago and haven't been downtown that much since. Ditto for the 4th Ave pubs - raising children tends to limit one's social life.

      Thanks again

    • jkfrancis profile image

      jkfrancis 

      9 years ago

      Also, there's the pubs on 4th Avenue that serve green beer, as do most bars. A large green shamrock is painted at the intersection of Stone and Pennington, downtown. Erin go braugh!

    • laringo profile image

      laringo 

      9 years ago from From Berkeley, California.

      Chuck, thanks for sharing some of the history of Tucson. I love it that so many cities in this country,whether or not they have a large Irish population have parades and hold events. That speaks volumes for the Irish culture.

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