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From the earliest days, three segregated communities were established by mine workers: Sonora, Ray, and Barcelona. Sonora was founded first, around 1906 and was composed mostly of Mexican workers and their families recruited from the state of Sonora, Mexico, just to the south of Arizona.
Next was the company town of Ray, which was built in 1909 to provide housing largely for the Anglo miners.
In 1911 a third town was founded by Spanish miners and named “Barcelona” after the city in Spain. Large scale copper production began around 1911.
even though by the 1960s many of its residents were second generation American citizens. Sonora’s population reached a high of 6,000 in the 1920s. By the middle of the decade, Sonora's population had dwindled to 600 people.
Children attended Washington Elementary School or traveled to Ray for high school, and families attended St. Helen’s Catholic Church.
In 1951 the Sonora Copper Club was founded. This community center consolidated many of the town’s social events. The Juarez Theater showed English-landuage movies six evenings a week and Spanigh-language films on Saturday nights.
While Anglo and Hispanic residents and coworkers from Ray and Sonora mingled from the beginning, segregation officially ended in 1963 through the efforts of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers.
The Ray-Sonora Tigers baseball team is well-remembered as one of the best Arizona semi-professional baseball teams in the state’s history and was made up of both Anglo and Mexican-American players, some of whom were good enough to get a tryout with Major League Teams. The 1949-51 team was recently inducted into the Arizona Hispanic Sports Hall of Fame.
From their founding, Ray and Sonora were two distinct communities separated by a large hill, but geography changed as Kennecott commenced open-pit mining operations in 1950.
As one newspaperman reported in 1959, "gradually the pit expanded. The Old Man of the Mountain, the great stone face on the hill, between Sonora and Ray, disappeared one day in a thunder of dynamite.
Between 1955-when Kennecott committed entirely to open-pit mining-and eviction in 1965, the 1,468 primarily Anglo residents of Ray and 1,244 Mexican and Mexican American residents of Sonora knew they would have to move somewhere else.
After 1965, Sonoran's would have to take their sense of place with them, because there would be nothing to come back to. Thirty-five years later, Sonora was long gone but it was not forgotten. Although the towns of Ray, Barcelona and Sonora have been engulfed by the vast open-pit Ray mine, memories of tight-knit community life persist.
The original two St. Helen’s church buildings were destroyed..
First by a fire in 1932 and later by the expanding pit in 1951.
The third St. Helen’s Church, which was built in 1953, was loaded on a tractor-trailer truck in 1965 and towed 11 miles to Kearny.