Scottsdale, Arizona—and much of the American Southwest—would not be the same without its Mexican-Spanish heritage and culture. From its earliest days, Scottsdale enveloped a mélange of peoples and cultures, with Anglos coexisting alongside Pima and Apache peoples, Mexicans, and other adventurers who stumbled into the growing town. The cultural contours of Scottsdale owe a great debt to its Mexican settlers who added to the distinctive Southwestern flavor of the region. Indicative of their lasting imprint is Scottsdale’s first Catholic mission church, Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
Built in 1933 on the corner of First Street and Brown Avenue, this old adobe mission was the culmination of years of Mexican community-building in the Scottsdale area. Years of political and social unrest in Mexico, particularly the years surrounding the Mexican Revolution of 1910, brought thousands of Mexicans across the border, seeking new opportunities and a better life. Halfway across the globe, the advent of World War I and the high demand for Arizona’s fine but strong, long-staple Pima cotton created a steady stream of cotton work. After 1916, newspapers like the Arizona Republican reported that Scottsdale’s cotton fields were attracting wagonloads of Mexican workers each day. Many workers eventually sent for their families and set down roots, bringing their language, culture, and customs along with them.
Mexicans were builders, and within a short time, a barrio of bright, colorful pink- and blue-hued homes shot up in the area between Main and Second Streets, east of Brown Avenue. Following the church-building impulse already started by congregants of a Baptist Church in 1918 and a Methodist Church in 1929, Scottsdale’s Catholic parishioners sought a permanent home in the late 1920s. Hispanic leaders wanted a church to bind their community together through shared Catholic beliefs and traditions. Key church organizers included the Corral family who followed the trail of cotton work from Sonora to Scottsdale over a decade earlier. Emilio Corral, with his English-speaking brother Jesus, supervised the construction of the adobe-brick edifice.
Today, this adobe church is a lasting symbol of Scottsdale’s early Mexican-American’s sense of cultural pride and identity. Our Lady of Perpetual Help embraced with open arms Scottsdale’s Mexican families, children, elders, workers, leaders, and friends to the Catholic faith. Its builders and early congregants may have left their homeland, but they held on to their culture and traditions, crafting their own niche in the American frontier town of Scottsdale.