Twenty-two miles to the southeast of downtown El Paso sits San Elizario, a small border town with a history spanning more than 400 years. In 1598, Don Juan de Oñate passed through along the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (the Royal Road of the Interior), a now historic trail that connected Mexico City with Santa Fe, New Mexico the then northern capital of New Spain. The area became part of the hacienda system established by the Spanish until it was abandoned in 1787. In 1789, Spain built a presidio and mission at San Elizario to protect its land interests from France, and the community was second only to El Paso in size and importance at the time. It remained a part of Mexico until it was ceded to the United States in 1848 as part of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
Today, this semi-rural farming community remains an important element in the region's rich heritage. The irrigation canals that feed the surrounding farms in many cases follow the alignments of the original acequias, and Glorieta Road leading out of San Elizario toward El Paso follows the El Camino Real. The town center, a National Register Historic District, is roughly bounded by the original presidio site, and includes the San Elizario Presidio Chapel. It is also the start of El Paso’s Mission Trail. Stop in Los Portales to pick up a walking tour brochure of the historic district. Originally built in the 1850s as a home, it now serves as the town’s museum and information center. In its three-block core you can learn about San Elizario’s deep history and explore buildings constructed as early as 1830, many of them still in use today.
While steeped in history, the community is reinventing itself as a vibrant artist colony, with more than 20 working artist studios, including those of Amado Peña, Bert Saldaña, and Alberto Escamilla. Art as business is a concept not lost in this small community. The Mission Trail Art Market operates the third Sunday of the month May through November, and First Friday Art walks are monthly happenings in San Elizario.
Watch the videos below to learn more about Spanish Settlement of Texas and the Los Caminos Reales. These videos were produced for inclusion in the Hispanic Texans mobile tour, more information about which may be found on our Hispanic heritage page at the following link: http://texastimetravel.com/travel-themes/main-hispanic-heritage
San Elizario Historic District