Bonillas School—Origin of Name

Bonillas Magnet Elementary School, a part of the Tucson Unified School District, was named for Ignacio Bonillas in 1953. It's located at 4757 E. Winsett Street.

Ignacio Bonillas, for whom the school is named, was born an hour south of Nogales in Magdalena de Kino, Sonora in 1858. He moved to Tucson, which was then the territory capital, when he was 12 years old. Although neither of his parents were able to read, he applied himself and quickly learned both English and Spanish, going on to win both awards offered for the best students in Tucson.

Times were tough for the Bonillas family, with Ignacio often skipping school to do odd jobs. The school’s headmaster, John Spring, spoke with Governor Safford about Bonillas’ needs and Safford hired Bonillas to do work for him in return for taking care of the governor’s horses and doing household chores. Bonillas not only completed his schooling and became a local teacher, he went on to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study civil engineering.  Reports differ as to whether he graduated, but he took what he learned to become a mining engineer in Mexico.

Later he became the mayor of Nogales, Sonora, the Mexican Ambassador to the United States, and even made a run for President of Mexico.    


"Things, places named for locals in the Old Pueblo." Arizona Daily Star. April, 21, 1991, Page E1.

Turner, Jim. "Life in the Old Pueblo: Dedicated student is on Tucson's honor roll."  Arizona Daily Star. September 19, 2010 |

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