Arivaca, in southern Pima County about 11 miles north of Arizona’s border with Mexico, mapped by Father Eusebio Kino in1695, is in an area that contains some of the oldest mines in the United States. Arivaca, which is unincorporated, is about 56 miles southwest of Tucson. The post office was established in 1878. The locale may have been a Pima Indian village before natives revolted in 1751 against the Spanish, who were attracted by precious metals and excellent grazing land. Mines developed by the Spaniards were worked by Indians under the direction of Tumacacori Mission padres. In 1833, the Mexican government approved a petition by brothers Tomas and Ignacio Ortiz to raise cattle and horses on 8,677 acres of land that formed the Aribac Ranch. (“La Aribac” is an Indian word meaning “small springs.”) Although boundaries for the ranch were never certain, its rights were bought by the Sonora Exploring and Mining Company in1856. This company operated mines near Arivaca and Tubac. Also located on the ranch were reduction works for the Heintzelman Mine. Charles Poston, “the father of Arizona,” acquired the property in 1870 and later asked the U.S. government to confirm his right to 26,508 acres. The U.S. surveyor general recommended confirmation of 8,680 acres, but the U.S. Congress took no action. Poston's rights were obtained by the Arivaca Land and Cattle Company, which asked the U.S. Court of Private Land Claims to approve the land claim. The court refused, saying it was “impossible to identify...the land which was intended to be granted.” This decision was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court on March 24, 1902, and the land became part of the public domain.
Arivaca is now primarily a retirement and residential area. Many residents commute to Tucson and Green Valley, but there is some retail trade and service sector employment. Tourism contributes substantially to the local economy. Agriculture also plays a significant role in the economy. There are nine cattle ranches and a vegetable farm, as well as other livestock producers. The area has fine year-round for-age and grazing lands, along with an apple and pear orchard, and three large apiaries.
Arivaca is home to the oldest standing adobe schoolhouse in Arizona. Scattered throughout the surrounding scenic high desert are many places of interest including the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, the Arivaca Town site, Heintzelman Mine, the ghost town of Ruby, Oro Blanco in the Coronado National Forest, and Tumacacori Mission (30 miles southeast). Hunters come here annually for javelin, mule deer, whitetail and dove. For the fisherman, Arivaca Lake is well stocked with large-mouth bass, bluegill and catfish, as is the Pina Blanca Lake further south. Ample camping is Arivaca has a 10-acre community center, two tennis courts, two softball fields, and a new, full service library.