In 1572, the first Jesuit priests arrived in Mexico City where they established the Colegio Maximo of San Pedro and San Pablo some sixty years before Harvard University opened its doors. During the seventeenth century these priests moved northward from Mexico City in two columns, one on the west and one on the east side of the Sierra Madre Mountains of Northern Mexico. They gathered the natives in pueblos, taught them farming and stock-raising and tried their best to protect them from the exploitation of the Spanish civilians who wanted their labor in the mines and elsewhere. These priests acted as explorers, map-makers, historians and learned the native languages.
The best known Jesuit missionary in Sonora was Father Eusebio Kino, who established many mission churches and explored widely through northern Sonora and southern Arizona. (The town of Magdalena de Kino, just southwest of Cananea, is the final resting place of Father Kino. After his grave was discovered there in 1966. a 15-acre memorial plaza was constructed including a museum and a library.)