El Paso, Texas, is often considered a drive-through city on the way to someplace else, and it must be because people aren’t really aware of its special treasures. Well, I aim to enlighten them, and one of the best reasons to stop and spend some time in El Paso is the El Paso Mission Trail. It’s a fascinating way to explore El Paso’s rich culture!
Hit the road with me and see what it’s all about!
What is the El Paso Mission Trail?
The El Paso Mission Trail (on Socorro Road) is a 9-mile historic route that runs between two of the oldest continuously operated missions in the United States (Ysleta and Soccoro) and the San Elizario Presidio Chapel. It’s also a section of the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro from Mexico to Santa Fe.
The three historic missions pre-date the California missions by 90 years, and an interesting fact about them is that the churches (Ysleta Mission, Socorro Mission, and San Elizario Chapel) used to be south of the Rio Grande in Mexico, but since the river has changed its course over the years, they are now in the U.S.
Mission Valley Visitor Center
9065 Alameda Ave.
Start your excursion here by watching a short overview film about the Mission Trail, asking any questions you may have and picking up a trail map. Stop and look closely at the mud bricks used to build the missions. They were made with a combination of dirt, water, and estiércol (manure).
Be sure to check open hours for each of the mission trail stops, so you can plan your route accordingly.
131 S. Zaragosa Rd.
The Ysleta Mission is considered the first and oldest mission established in the State of Texas, and although fire and flood have ravaged it through the years, continual rebuilding has allowed the mission to remain an active parish through the present day.
Tigua Indians built the mission following the Pueblo Revolt when forced to flee from their Isleta, New Mexico pueblo and resettle. It was also called the San Antonio mission after their patron saint, San Antonio de Padua.
Tigua Indian Cultural Center
305 Yaya Lane
The Tigua Indian Cultural Center celebrates the rich culture of the Tigua Indians through history, art and dance in various exhibits and events. On weekends, there are social dance demonstrations in the courtyard, and on Saturdays, visitors can watch bread baking and taste fresh samples. There is also a wonderful collection of artifacts inside the building and a gift shop.
328 S. Nevarez Rd.
The Socorro Mission was built by Piro Indians after the Pueblo Revolt, and the exterior design represents a thunderbird while the interior is in the shape of a cross.
When you enter, be sure to look up and see the motif on the thick wooden ceiling beams (vigas). The x’s and o’s symbolize the four directions of the wind, and the center circle represents the family structure.
The vigas are Texas state historical artifacts and were recovered from the original structure after a flood destroyed it. The smaller cross-hatched beams are called latigas.
San Elizario Presidio Chapel
1556 San Elizario Rd.
San Elizario was built as a military presidio and as a chapel. Take the Chapel of San Elizario walking tour, which will take you to many interesting historic stops in this old village, including the old jail where Billy the Kid broke in to bust out a friend.
Allow at least a half day to visit the mission churches on the El Paso Mission Trail. There are also many shops and authentic Mexican restaurants along the way that you may enjoy. For more destination info, check out visitelpaso.com/
Have you visited the El Paso Mission Trail? Did you have a favorite stop?