If you missed our members’ meeting on March 18th, you missed a great presentation by Rebecca Orozco, retired anthropology and history instructor from the University of Arizona and Cochise College. Not just because Becky is a phenomenal storyteller (which she is) but because the history of Camp Naco is fascinating.
The Cliff Notes version is that Camp Naco began in 1910 as a tent city built yards from the Mexican border to protect the railroad line that ran from Naco Arizona to the American-owned mines in Canoa Mexico. It was manned by the 9th and 10th Calvary of “Buffalo Soldiers”, a segregated unit of the US Army that served as peacekeepers on the border.
The camp made news in 1919 when it was added to a 1200 mile long chain of thirty-five military outposts established along the border in response to unrest caused by the Mexican Revolution. One of two camps constructed of adobe, Camp Naco is the only one that has survived.
But “survival” is a bit of a misnomer because it has fallen into decay in the 100 years since it was decommissioned by the Army. From arson to asbestos to economic boom and bust cycles plus the recent pandemic, these threats were addressed by a preservation focused community-based team whose membership included Becky.
The Camp’s more recent press has been very good, thanks largely to the efforts of the Naco Heritage Alliance, a dedicated group of volunteers who have fought a 20-year battle to save the existing structures that had fallen into decay. The Camp was placed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of “11 Most Endangered Historic Places for 2022” which allowed the City of Bisbee which now owns the Camp to aggressively pursue grant funding. The “hot off the press” news Becky shared with us is that the City of Bisbee has received over $8 million in funding from the State of Arizona and the Mellon Foundation to ensure the restoration will be continued.
Don’t you love a good story with a happy ending? We certainly do and, in fact, are in the early stages of planning a day trip so we can see Camp Naco for ourselves. Stay tuned for that news!