San Elizario, located fifteen miles southeast of downtown El Paso, is a site rich with history, serving as landing spot for Spanish explorer Juan de Oñate and the survivors of his ill-fated journey of 1598 across the Chihuahuan Desert. Once known as the Hacienda de los Tiburcios, developed around a 1789 Spanish presidio, San Elizario occupied Mexican territory until the 1840s. The community has since belonged to Texas after the Rio Grande changed its course during a significant flood and its altered channel was finalized as the international border.
Much of the community’s robust four hundred year history can be explored at the Los Portales Tourist Museum and Visitor Center, located in the heart of San Elizario. Los Portales, one of the most historical buildings in the community, was built to provide a residence for local landowner Gregario Nacenieno Garcia in the early 1850s. In addition to farming and ranching, Garcia served as Captain of the Texas Rangers in 1870 and as El Paso County Judge in 1877. In the 1880s, Garcia donated the home to the San Elizario community for use as a school. The handsome territorial-style building is constructed of adobe walls with cottonwood rafters, saplings, and thatch. The structure features milled wood details and the classic porch, or portal, providing inspiration for its name – Los Portales. Today, the building serves as a museum, and information center for the surrounding Historic District.
Los Portales Tourist Museum and Information Center