Monday, April 20, 2015

El Paso Murals and Missions

April 7 - 13, 2015:

The Rio Grande River, it's still under there somewhere.  This is an iPhone photo and sad to say that it equals or outperforms my $1,500 SLR camera on occasion

On the road again traveling to places I've never been, sound familiar ?  It was a mostly a boring ride on Route 54 south across the Basin except for those evil wind gusts.  It was about 70 miles, passing through only one decrepit old town, Orogrande, advertising a mine tour.
We crossed the state line into Texas and arrived at Mission Trail Mobile Home and RV Park in El Paso, Texas in early afternoon.  

The Mission Trail MH & RV Park is in an old industrial section of El Paso and a pretty rough looking RV site, but is close to downtown attractions, the Mission Trail, has full hookups with a cheap weekly rate.  I would say that most RV campers would not want to stay here.  I must admit that passing my credit card through the iron bars at the RV park office window was a little bizarre !

A nearby auto repair shop sign can't be missed, but
needs considerable maintenance.  Not exactly a good
advertisement for their quality of service ?

The Blue Room was not nearly as interesting on the inside,
I didn't get the giant gum ball machine in the corner

The Sunday swap meet across the street at the
Bronco dance Hall was crazy

The history of this area is complex due to the various cultures and countries that have occupied it over the past four centuries.
In 1598 Spanish nobleman Don Juan de Onate with 500 colonists and 7,000 head of livestock crossed the desert of northern Chihuahua and arrived at the Rio Grande River in the vicinity of San Elizario.  On April 28th they celebrated Thanksgiving with the local Indians which the locals here consider the "real" 1st Thanksgiving as it was 23 years before the Pilgrims in Massachusetts.  On May 4th the Manso Indians helped the colonists cross the river at the "Passo" or river ford which Onate named "El Paso del Rio del Norde" or The Ford of the River to the North, now Americanized to El Paso.  The area was also called Magoffinsville and later Franklin until the Civil war and then in 1873 the city of El Paso was incorporated.

I was sort of surprised by the great architecture and many historic buildings in downtown El Paso.  The majority of the better ones were designed by a Henry C. Trost who was "The man" in El Paso when it came to architecture.  We toured El Paso Street from Main Street to the Mexican border fence, with not much reason to go over the border, everything Mexican was right there.  The women's clothing stores are too funny with all the mannequins outside fitted with tight jeans and turned so that the bubble butts are displayed.  There is much to see and do in El Paso, seems to be no end to scenic old buildings, signs and murals.  

O. T. Bassett Tower was beautiful, designed by H.C. Trost

Fray Garcia de San Francisco founded
El Paso del Norte which is present day
Ciudad Juarez in 1659 

The Kress department store is now closed, but hopefully
will be restored, it's a classic

El Paso County Court House

Impressive art deco US Court House built in 1936

We saw an advertisement for the El Paso Saddleblanket store (this is the way they spell it) and had to go there.  It was huge but all of the blankets that we could afford or use in the RV were made in India.  We didn't even bother looking at the good stuff.  They also had a showroom full of Western furniture, very interesting stuff, but not suitable for the RV.  

Look nice but all made in India

I went to the Tricky Falls Theater in downtown El Paso in the evening for a show.  It's a beautiful old theater built which has been renovated inside specifically for music events with hi-tech sound and light equipment.  The opener band from Philadelphia, "Hop Along" was dreadful.  I actually do not care much about a pretty voice when it comes to rock or indie type bands, but the vocalist had a voice that was painful.  The drummer's best quality seemed to be how he could play with his hair totally covering his face and then fling it back every once in a while for effect.  The headliner, "The War against Drugs" (another stupid band name) was much better, they might even be good, but the the volume was so overly amplified that you couldn't hear any individual player or understand the lyrics.  It was a packed house, 90% college age and a good venue although I think they cater mostly to the Monster Rock crowd. Midway in the performance an amplifier on stage burned up and was removed smoking from the stage.  Sorry, but this was mostly noise pollution.

Old school light show effects

We spent a day touring the Mission Trail starting with the Mission Ysleta which is the oldest continuously active Mission in Texas and the second oldest in the United States.  The community of Ysleta is also the oldest town in Texas.  Next was the Mission Socorro, a few miles away that is the second oldest in Texas, founded in 1680.  These two Missions both came into being following the Pueblo revolt in 1680.  Next was a visit to the Rio Vista Historical district where a poor Farm operated from 1914 to 1964.  Finally we visited the Presidio Chapel San Elizario originally built in 1684 and the nearby Los Portables Museum and historic district.  Everywhere you go in Mew Mexico there is something about Billy the Kid.  In San Elizario the Kid broke into the jail to free a friend.

Mission Ysleta

Lady of Guadalupe shrine in the Mission
Mission Scorro

Wonderful painted ceiling rafters and willow roof

Presidio Chapel San Elizerio


Beautiful ceiling tiles

Rio Vista poor farm gate

Los Portables Museum

Friday we took a ride on Rim Road which becomes "Scenic Drive" along the southern edge of the Franklin Mountains.  The road goes up quite high for a vast panoramic view of El Paso and Juarez, Mexico.  The neighborhoods along Rim Road are definitely the high rent district but the view is mostly of unattractive urban sprawl.

View from the scenic drive overlooking El Paso and Mexico

Also did a tour of the El Paso Museum of Art which had many European old masters from the 1600-1700's on display, we were impressed ! Also practically next door is the El Paso Museum of History with beautiful exhibits on the complex, colorful and often brutal transformation of this area from the native indians to the Spanish, the Mexicans and then the American presence.

Museum cultural display

Art Museum gallery

Many religious retablos here

There is no end to colorful shops, signs and murals in Paso, I'm somewhat overwhelmed.  The city of El Paso has an excellent App with various walking and driving tours, attractions, dining, recreation,etc to aid the tourist.  I did the El Seguendo Barrio mural tour on Saturday along with some added unofficial street art and /or gang related stuff in the industrial area.  I then roamed around a few other downtown areas and finished at the Chamizal National Memorial.  I had never heard of this Memorial before but it was and is a big deal here.  The International boundary was originally established as the Rio Grande River. The problem is that in the old days before the Elephant Butte Dam was built, it was not unusual for the river to change course during flooding.  On one of it's rampages it moved about a mile which resulted in a boundary dispute with about 5,000 people caught in the middle between countries.  This dispute went on for almost 100 years until finally resolved peacefully by a transfer of property on both sides and getting the river stabilized into a fixed channel in 1963.

Chamizal National Memorial visitors Center mural

Classic mural and store in front of historic
St. Ignatus Church built in 1905

Mural in warehouse area

Segundo Barrio mural

Mural depicting AIDS outbreak in the neighborhood

El Corrido del Segundo Barrio mural

Mata's Grocery mural

Goldies Bar is closed these days

Another mural on warehouse

A couple of observations; Why the fascination or appreciation for big butt's and why are there working pay phones all over town and why am I in the Pepe and Luis Cantina having a beer with a show called "Mountain Madness" on the TV about a bunch of hillbillies in West Virginia ? 

Working pay phones all over town

Big butt's are in style these days

Next stop is Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas,

Twinkles and Slick

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