When you talk about old Spanish Missions in Texas, most people think about The Alamo, The Mission trail in San Antonio or the Goliad Missions however the very first missions in Texas were established in El Paso. A tour of the El Paso Mission Trail can reveal some beautiful artwork and history.
The Ysleta Mission is the oldest Mission in Texas, originally established in 1613 in what is now New Mexico, the mission was relocated to El Paso in 1680 during the Pueblo Revolt by the Tigua Indians. In 1682 a permanent mission was established and today the mission is considered the second oldest continually active parish in the United States.
The Tigua Indians are the oldest permanent settlers in Texas and in the 1960’s the State of Texas and the Federal Government recognized the tribe as a sovereign nation. The Tiguas are the only Pueblo tribe in Texas and only one of three tribes in the state. Known as The Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, the Tigua Indian land consists of approxomatly 2,700 acres of land around El Paso and the tribe also owns the Chilicote Ranch totaling 70,461.28 acres. The ranch is located in Presidio and Jeff Davis Counties of Texas.
Socorro Mission is the second oldest mission in the state and was completed in 1691. The current mission was built in 1843 after the original was damaged in floods in 1740 and 1829. The mission has the original hand carved cottonwood and cypress support beams from the first structure.
Adjacent to the Socorro Mission is a modern day church that was built to hold the growing congregation. Inside the church you will find a Vatican authorized replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta that he carved out f marble in 1499. It is also the only work in where he signed his name. While the original is located behind glass in St Peters Basilica in Rome, this one can be viewed up close. Donated by a family in California it is one of 112 Vatican authorized replicas taken from a cast of the original. Funded by the Stewart family at a cost of $300,000, the statue draws people from all over.
San Elizario Chapel
San Elizario Chapel and Presidio was stabled in 1789 to defend the Spanish frontier against foreign powers and Indian raids. In 1829 a flood destroyed the chapel and a new one was built in the 1840’s.
The chapel continues to be used as an active church.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission
The first mission to be established in the area known as Paso Del Norte, current day El Paso, is Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission located in Juarez, Mexico.
You have to remember there were no state or national boundaries at the time and in this region of Texas the Rio Grande River which separates the two nations has moved over time and in some places, is only a few feet wide.
The original hand carved beams and wood work can be seen throughout the Mission and show how skilled the craftsmen of the day were.
All of the missions can be visited and are open to the public with exception of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Juarez, Mexico, which is only open for special occasions. Your first stop on the mission trail should be the Mission Trail tourist office.
Mission Valley Visitors Information Center:
9065 Alameda Ave. El Paso Texas 79907
9am – 4pm (M-F); 9am – 3pm (Sat/Sun)
Phone: (915) 851-9997