Saturday, 28 July 2012

El Paso Mission Trail

On a road trip through southern Texas and on into New Mexico, I visited the Mission Trail in El Paso.

All I knew about El Paso was that 1970's (?) song by Marty Robbins, which is about his Mexican girlfriend Felina and about him killing a "handsome young stranger" in El Paso - a tale of jealousy I guess. I also thought it could be bit of a dodgy place as it's a border town and news of shootings there and just across the border in Cuidad Juarez are not uncommon. There had been two reported a week or so before I set off on the trip.....

But El Paso itself was fine - busy, large, dusty - as you'd expect a desert city to be - and the night I stayed there a sandstorm was raging so an evening walk in the blustery warm air came with additional eye grit. 

There are 3 Missions, all of them in varying states of repair. The first, San Elizario, was having a serious make over, so could only be viewed from outside.

San Elizario Mission
In the small park opposite the Mission I spotted a Mexican snoozing with his head down on his chest. He was wearing a poncho and huge sombrero and I was about to quietly take his photo when he got up and strolled over to the nearby tourist office where a crowd of people were waiting. He wasn't a "real" Mexican at all but the tour guide, and he proceeded to stand in the middle of the park and give his talk.

The second of the three Missions, Socorro, wasn't open, but there was an interesting contrast between its appearance and that of the first visited. This one was much plainer and simpler.

Socorro Mission

The final Mission - Ysleta - is still used for active worship and is well-preserved. Inside you can see the original wooden-beamed roof and there were a few people quietly at prayer.

Ysleta Mission
The bell housing is visible and not at all like European bell towers. You can go right up to it and touch it. Inside the church it was cool and I particularly liked the glowing colours of this coloured glass window.

All three Missions are in a very Mexican area in El Paso - the shops and gas stations all have signs in Spanish, but as El Paso is still just in the US, they all speak English too.

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