Ursula, David Williams, and I made our way inside the Mother’s Day festivities area headed over to the Socorro Mission. On the outside it may not look nearly as impressive as Presidio San Elizario, but looks can be deceiving. Here’s the inside:
As you can see it contains an incredible wood-beamed ceiling inside the thick adobe walls (note the windows for a hint at how thick). Adobe construction is a fascinating feature of the early Southwest. In dry areas such as El Paso, which averages around nine inches of precipitation a year, it is very durable if reasonable care is used to preclude erosion of the outer surface coating. The real advantage though is the thermal mass of the thick walls, which keeps occupants cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
After our tour of Mission Socorro we continued west to the small community of Ysleta. The mission is actually located on Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, home of the Tigua Indian Tribe. The official name of this charming domed mission is La Mision de Corpus Christi de San Antonio de la Ysleta del Sur, which translates to The Mission of the Body of Christ of Saint Anthony of the Ysleta of the South.
Now you’re wondering what the heck the “Ysleta of the South” means. That refers to the exodus of the Ysleta peoples (Isleta in New Mexico’s Albuquerque area) following the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Is this area rich in history, or what?
So, you see, El Paso’s Tigua (pronounced “Tiwa”) are actually Ysletas who are related to the Isleta and Sandia Pueblos of Northern New Mexico. Together, these three factions make up the Southern Tiwa-speaking peoples, which are an offshoot of the Tanoan Language tribes. And the Tanoan Language tribes include the Taos Pueblo, Kiowa, Jemenez (Towa), and Tewa. That’s a pretty complicated family tree that originally stretched from present-day Arizona through New Mexico and into Texas and Oklahoma back before us European illegal immigrants invaded and disrupted the whole shebang.
Mission Ysleta is the oldest of the three missions along El Paso’s Mission Trail. The Tiguas flooded into this area in 1680 after they were displaced by the Pueblo Revolt, but the first mass was conducted here twenty years prior — in 1660. Subsequent churches built here were destroyed by flooding in 1740 and 1829. The present structure was completed in 1851 and a domed tower (not the one you see here) added in 1897. In 1907 the church was almost destroyed by fire, and it was after this rebuilding that the current silver dome was added.
Here’s one last look at the domed bell tower: