Each April historic San Elizario, not Plymouth Rock, celebrates America’s first Thanksgiving, The event commemorates a mass celebrated in 1598 by explorer Don Juan de Oñate when his expedition crossed the Rio Grande near here and claimed this land for Spain. During the Spanish colonial era, trade caravans passed enroute between Santa Fe and Mexico City along the route now called the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail. San Elizario welcomed 1840s gold seekers and traders trekking between El Paso and San Antonio on the Military Road. An 1820s flood destroyed the chapel of an old Spanish presidio. San Elceario Catholic Church was rebuilt in 1877 and still overlooks a picturesque plaza which also features an 1850s home called Los Portales. Once a school and now a museum, the adobe structure interprets local history, including the Salt War. In the aftermath of that bloody dispute over salt rights, the state removed the county seat to El Paso, and San Elizario declined. The town’s historic jail once held Salt War detainees, as well as a bandit sprung loose by his cohort, famous outlaw Billy the Kid.
Visitors to the historic district can use their smartphones to access a self-guided walking tour using quick-response (QR) codes found at each of 17 stops along the route. This area is also a state cultural district designated by the Texas Commission on the Arts. Explore all they have to offer on your next visit!