Visit El Paso's historical highlights.
By Ashley M. Biggers
Arriving in 1581, Spanish explorers established the future location of El Paso and Cuidad Juárez as El Paso del Norte (the Pass of the North). At the conclusion of the Mexican–American War, the flowing Rio Grande was set as the international boundary. El Paso became part of the United States in 1848; it remains at an intersection of two countries and three states. The sprawling metropolis bears little resemblance to what it was hundreds of years ago; however, several destinations chronicle its storied history.
1. Mission Trail
The eight-mile Mission Trail travels to three of the oldest churches in the United States along El Paso's far east side. All built during the 1600–1700s, they appear on the National Register of Historic Places and testify to the faith of early Spanish and Native American settlers. The destinations include the Presidio Chapel of San Elizario, once part of a Spanish presidio; the 1691 Nuestra Señora de la Concepción del Socorro, or Socorro Mission, one of Texas' oldest missions; and the 1682 La Misión de Corpus Christi de San Antonio de la Ysleta del Sur, or Ysleta Mission, the oldest continuously active parish in Texas. visitelpasomissiontrail.com
2. El Paso Museum of History
Outside the El Paso Museum of History, the city's history comes to life on DIGIE, which is like an interactive scrapbook for the city's past. Inside, the museum exhibits tell the border region's multicultural and multinational history. history.elpasotexas.gov; digie.org
3. Concordia Cemetery
More than 60,000 early El Paso residents are buried at Concordia Cemetery, a Texas State Historic Site. Here, graves of gunfighters and Texas Rangers, Buffalo soldiers, Civil War Veterans, early Mormon pioneers, and Chinese citizens reflect the city's distinctive past. concordiacemetery.org
4. Viva! El Paso
The region's history is retold in dance and song during Viva! El Paso, a musical extravaganza running most summers since 1978. A cast of 50 performers celebrate four centuries of history and four cultures against backdrop of McKelligon Canyon from mid-June through July. vivaelpaso.org
El Paso has a dramatic military history, told in part at the National Border Patrol Museum, the only of its kind in the United States. The museums at Fort Bliss — one of the country's largest military installations and home to the Army's 1st Armored Division — also depict the area's military story with several installations, including the Fort Bliss & Old Ironside Museum. The Combined Arms Heritage Park features 11 historic vehicles and artifacts, including a World War II-era V2 German rocket. The 50,000-squarefoot museum documents the fort's history, which dates to 1849, and the 1st Armored Division's missions. The base also honors African-American regiments garrisoned at the base with a Buffalo Soldiers' Monument.
Before You Go
Fort Bliss has two Visitor Control Centers open to public entry: Chaffee and Buffalo Soldiers. All visitors must receive a 30-day pass at one before continuing onto the base. To receive a pass, adults must present a valid Real ID. Apply for a pass at the office prior to approaching the gate. The museums are open Monday through Friday, but they are closed on federal holidays.