The Spanish expansion into the southern states is forever part of US history and the great number of existing missions and presidios are a permanent legacy, which with a little effort can be found and visited in all of the border states, including Florida.
As the build of the van is progressing, I’m adding more trips to my repertoire, because traveling is becoming more comfortable. This led me to the San Xavier del Bac Mission near Tucson AZ and the San Elizario Chapel and historic district near El Paso TX.
San Xavier near Tucson is basically a short stop with ample free parking, where several interesting things will draw youe attention. First there is the Mission Chapel, a fairly large church with a still active congregation. The first thing you’ll see is that one of the two towers is unfinished; that was done on purpose, to avoid paying taxes to the Spanish crown. When you enter the chapel, you’ll notice the elaborately painted walls, but you’ll be amazed by the ornate altars at the other end of the church. Don’t forget to visit the small chapel to the left of the main entrance, where you can have a quiet moment of your own. Look around every corner for the beautiful and intricate architectural details of all the buildings and walls.
While not part of the mission, on the east side is a small hill with a cross on top that offers a great view of the chapel and the surrounding area. And if you’re lucky, on the field south of there and next to the parking area, you find local girls playing the Pima stick and ball game for women.
San Xavier del Bac, Tucson AZ: 32.106879, -111.007969
San Xavier del Bac Mission Photo Gallery
About 350 miles further to the East, I find myself in San Elizario, just south of El Paso TX. Another Mission Chapel here, that was part of the Spanish expansion into New Mexico during the 1500’s and 1600’s. While this small church is less impressive, many more historic buildings (often build with the stones of the Presidio walls) are preserved and a signed walking tour will guide you through there. The church has an active community, so a Sunday morning is likely not the best time to visit, like I did.
Again, with a sharp eye, you’ll find fascinating architectural details om almost every building, that shows the craftmanship that lacks in contemporary buildings.
On Main street I found several small art galleries and had a short talk/interview with Robert Dozal, a local El Paso painter who runs his own art gallery here. We had an interesting conversation that you can view here in its entirety.
San Elizario, El Paso TX: 31.585142, -106.273042
Robert Dozal Art Gallery in San Elizario: 31.586640, -106.273333
San Elizario Mission Photo Gallery