There is a nine-mile stretch across time in El Paso County’s Mission Valley. The historic Mission Trail is named for the three missions that date back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: Ysleta Mission, Socorro Mission and San Elizario Chapel, which are the oldest churches in the state of Texas. All three parishes still congregate for Mass to this day.
However, it’s not just a liturgical trail. Mission Trail is home to museums,a myriad of state and national landmarks, art galleries, award-winning restaurants and a host of other attractions that inspire frequent visitation.
- The Ysleta Mission is the oldest active mission in the state of Texas, and it should definitely be your first stop on the trail. Native Puebloan peoples aided by Spanish colonists founded Ysleta in 1660 as a place of dedicated servitude and refuge. In 1682, the Puebloan parish built the mission’s original adobe building, which they later consecrated as La Misión de Corpus Christi de San Antonio de la Ysleta del Sur in 1691. But after two massive floods, land sovereignty shifts between Spanish, Mexican and American rule, and a devastating chemical fire, the mission’s building and namesake had undergone several changes. The current mission, Nuestra Señora del Monte Carmelo, was built in 1908.
- The Socorro Mission came about shortly after Ysleta, having officially been founded during a special initiating Mass in October 1680. The mission erected their first permanent structure in 1691 and consecrated the parish as Nuestra Senora de limpia Concepción de los Piros del Socorro del Sur. While the Ysleta Mission was attended by Tigua Native Americans, Socorro is tied to the Piro natives for whom the mission was named. Like Ysleta, the Socorro mission was destroyed by massive flooding in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The parishioners were able to salvage pieces from the original building called vigas, decorated beams painted with traditional tribe design work. These beams and other features were installed in the mission’s current building, now called La Purísima Concepción del Socorro, which was completed in 1843.
- The final mission on Mission Trail is the San Elceario Mission, which is more commonly known as the San Elizario Presidio and Chapel. Though the chapel duly serves religious purposes today, it was originally constructed in 1789 by the Spanish for use as a fort, or presidio, to house Mexican troops. Confederate soldiers also occupied the fort during the Civil War. The fort included a post chapel on its grounds, which, like the other missions, was destroyed in the flood of 1829. When Mexico won independence from Spain, the site’s military functions became unimportant. Hence, the present-day San Elizario Chapel opened in 1882. Today, all three missions operate as a part of the Catholic Diocese of El Paso.