Friday, February 1, 2019

The El Paso Mission Trail

The El Paso Mission Trail is a recent, but nice, construct for tourist purposes. It starts (or ends) at the Ysleta Mission in El Paso, follows the Socorro Road southeast for 2.8 miles to the Socorro Mission, then follows the Socorro Road southeast for 5.7 miles to the Presidio Chapel of San Elizario. The construct is recent, but the missions themselves are old and worth visiting. 

Ysleta Mission:
In 1680, as a result of the Pueblo Revolt, the Tigua tribe was forced from their ancestral home in Isleta Pueblo, south of present-day Albuquerque, NM, and settled in Ysleta del Sur Pueblo (present-day El Paso, TX). The "Y" instead of "I" in Isleta and the "Sur" are to distinguish the new settlement from the old settlement. An adobe structure was built in 1682 with the patron saint Saint Anthony. Flooding from the Rio Grande River caused relocation of the mission several times and in 1829 it was completely washed away in a flood and the Rio Grande changed course so that where the building once was was now in Texas instead of Mexico (the same also applies to the two churches below). In 1897 it was remodeled and the gable and beehive bell tower were added. A massive fire in 1907 required reconstruction in 1908. It is built in the New Mexican style which is linear, boxlike and with simple exterior decoration.
Ysleta Mission

Front door. 
When we visited in December 2018 it was closed, despite everything we read indicating it would be open. We took some photos of the outside and continued on.

Socorro Mission:
The Socorro Mission was established by the Franciscans in 1682 and named Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion del Socorro. It is in the small town of Socorro, southeast of El Paso. It was built to serve Spaniard and Indian (Piro, Tano and Jemez - different than Tigua that formed Ysleta) families  forced from their homes in New Mexico by the Pueblo Revolt. In fact, it took its name from Socorro, New Mexico which is where the Piro Indians lived before the Pueblo Revolt. The present structure was built in 1840 and replaced a structure destroyed in 1829 by the same flooding of the Rio Grande that destroyed the Ysleta Mission. I'm not sure that history reveals what other structures occurred between 1682 and 1829. It is built of adobe covered with stucco. The painted and decorated beams in the current structure are from the previous structure. St. Michael is the patron saint.
Socorro Mission
The Mission from the representation of Calvary. 
Mission from the cemetery.
View from the entrance.
Looking toward the entrance.
Beams from the prior mission.
Light shade with the Mission on it.
St. Michael, the patron saint. 
Mary and Jesus. 
Socorro was my favorite of the three, partly because it had a large cemetery and a representation of Calvary nearby. 

Presidio Chapel of San Elizario:
The Presidio Chapel was built in 1877 in the central square of San Elizario, southwest of El Paso and south of Socorro. A presidio is an outpost for military personnel. The chapel prior to this one was built on the same site in 1790 to service the presidio built to protect travelers along the Camino Real (Royal Highway) which went from Mexico City to Santa Fe. San Elizario is a corruption of the name San Elceario. the French patron saint of soldiers. It provided protection to Ysleta and Socorro Missions. In 1821 Mexico declared its independence from Spain and the military presence at the presidio was reduced. The 1829 flood that destroyed the other two missions destroyed this chapel as well. U.S. troops were assigned to the presidio in 1850 and during the later Civil War, California volunteers were stationed there to prevent re-occupation of the area by Confederate forces. The bell tower was constructed some time after 1877. The interior of the chapel was destroyed in 1935 and subsequently rebuilt.
San Elizario.

Front door.

The main altar, looking from near the entrance. 
I loved the different groupings of angels.

Ceiling above the altar.
Tiled ceiling.
The Virgin Mary, in the image of Guadalupe, with a darker skin.
It is made of plastered adobe walls and painted. When we visited it may have been closed, but we found an unlocked side door and were able to visit the chapel. 


  1. I really loved the cemetery of the Socorro Mission. I think that was my favorite part of the three missions.

  2. The Socorro mission reminds me of the San Gabriel mission in California. It is interesting to me to see the difference between what happened to the missions in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas