Borderland Treasures: Exploring the Socorro Mission

El Paso News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The Socorro Mission tells the story of a Native American tribe through its architecture and art.

The mission, properly named Nuestra Señora de la Limpia Concepción de los Piros Del Sur, was established in 1680. In that year, the great Pueblo Revolt took place in northern New Mexico.

Pueblo tribes devised a plan to overthrown Spaniards and expel them from their lands.

Magda Mauriera, a volunteer and tour guide, said there were simultaneous uprisings in the pueblos in the area.

The Piros came from Socorro, New Mexico in the aftermath of the rebellion because they had sided with the Spaniards and placed themselves under their protection.

“That group of surviving Spaniards fled and brought a group from the Southernmost tribes,” Mauriera said. “The Tigua from Ysleta and the Piro from Socorro.”

The mission at Socorro Del Sur was located just south of the Rio Grande, and was established 341 years ago. First with a makeshift church, then a permanent church that was completed by 1691.

There were 60 Piro families and 15 Spanish families living there at the time, according to Mauriera.

The church was destroyed in 1740 by a raging flood.

“This particular church is destroyed by natural disasters,” said Gary Williams with the El Paso Community Foundation.

The church was destroyed by another great flood in 1829 and it was rebuilt once more.

“In both instances, it’s rebuilt using the natural earth,” Williams said. “It has existed close to the river since 1843.”

The Piro-inspired design of the building was said to represent a bird in flight. The structure is made of adobe bricks, fashioned from mud, sand and straw. There are not too many windows on the outside walls. Williams said it was done purposely to protect its inhabitants.

The interior of the nave is breathtaking with vigas that are considered to be some of the oldest relics in the state. The wooden beams were recycled from the first and second churches.

The oldest date to the 1690s, according to historians.

Each is carved with symbolism, including a circle representing the sun.

“We have a metaphor going on above us,” Mauriera said. “We have dancing, chanting and drumming. We have a native ritual going on above us.”

The mission is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Texas Landmark.

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