History of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo
Travel Down the Mission Trail
Enduring Mission Legacy  
Spiritual Heritage  
Ysleta Mission  
Socorro Mission  
San Elizario Presidial Chapel  
Our Lady of Guadalupe
San Lorenzo Mission  
Senecú Mission  
Scholars' Bookshelf
Missions Bibliography
Ysleta Bibliography
Roster of El Paso Area Tribal Leaders
Native American Water Use Chronology
Tigua Military History
Early Accounts & Bibliography
Tigua Participation at Texas State Fair
Travel Links & More
Ysleta Land Grant Chronology
Acknowledgments / Resources
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our Lady of Guadalupe
 Cd. Juárez, Mexico

How To Get There and Tours

Tourists can easily visit old Guadalupe Mission in Cd. Juárez, Mexico. Guided mission tours are available from El Paso or tourists may cross the Santa Fe Bridge in El Paso, Texas by vehicle or make a 20-minute walk to the old mission. Tours are also available at the old mission (see Church Office in the Lower Level). The old mission is on the left as you approach the square and the larger edifice to the right, which may appear old, is the Cathedral, a recent structure. This old mission is worth visiting! The Cathedral to the right of the old mission was completed in 1954.


Historical Introduction


The Pass of the North (modern-day Cd. Juárez, Chihuahua and El Paso, Texas) was an ideal location for a Franciscan Mission. It was strategically located on the famous river ford on El Camino Real (The Royal Road) that linked Mexico City to Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Spaniards were aware that a settlement at this location would serve as a way station for tired travelers on the Camino Real. 


Manso and Suma Indians

The Pass was occupied by the Manso Indians who lived in scattered rancherías or encampments. Since prehistoric times, the Indians frequented the river crossing where ancient trails converged.

The Pass was situated in a verdant valley endowed with rich resources - water, fertile soil, bosques (timber), and game. The Manso practiced limited agriculture, which was augmented by hunting and gathering. The Suma Indians, their neighbors, were hunters and gatherers, whose territory extended far to the west across the desert plains to modern Casa Grandes (Chihuahua, Mexico).

During the early 1600's, the Mansos repeatedly requested that missionaries live among them to teach them Christianity. They frequently traded with the Spanish caravans along the Camino Real.

Several early and unsuccessful attempts were made to convert the Manso Indians at the Pass of the North. In the mid-1650's, Fray García, resident priest at Socorro Mission, New Mexico, accompanied by several padres to the Pass, where they established a mission among the neighboring Manso and Suma Indians. Fray García left them to their missionary duties and returned to New Mexico.

This effort was short-lived when the Mansos attempted to kill friars. The news of this threat soon reached the provincial capital in Santa Fe, and a military escort was dispatched to the Pass and the Franciscans hastily abandoned their fledgling mission and returned north to Santa Fe.


Fray García Builds a Spacious Mission

In 1659, Fray García de San Francisco, still determined to establish a permanent mission among the Mansos, traveled south from New Mexico with several priests to the Pass. He founded Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission (Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe), which originally was a simple structure of mud, rock and reeds with a large cross.

In 1662, the energetic friar, fellow religious and the neophytes began to build a permanent mission, which was completed four years later. The site selected was an elevated rocky shelf about a half of a league from the river, which was protected from spring floods. It was situated on the right bank of the Río del Norte (Rio Grande) and about a league from the river.


Miracle Grove of Pine Trees

Legend has it, that just before they began constructing the spacious church, Fray García called his new parishioners together for prayer. They prayed for a successful and efficient undertaking, and that the resources to build the new structure would be readily available. Fray García needed large timber from the distant Guadalupe Mountains to strengthen the structure, especially as support beams. But the mountains were nearly 100 miles to the east, across deserts and hills that were frequented by Apache raiders. The members of Fray Garcia's Manso Indian congregation were soon astonished to discover a miracle - a large grove of tall, supple pine trees only a league and  a half from the building site. 

On April 2, 1662, he laid the mission's cornerstone and foundation. The new church was dedicated on January 15, 1668 (the second Sunday after Epiphany). The event was celebrated by baptizing one-hundred Indians, one door for the men and the other for the women and they were then united in marriage in the center of the newly constructed church. That evening the event was celebrated with a special mass; at its conclusion flaming rockets streaked across the night sky to the astonishment of the Indians. The Guadalupe Mission has survived floods, Indian rebellions, war and revolutions. It is the mother mission of the El Paso missions.

Guadalupe Mission is noted for its architectural simplicity, and for its stunning interior -the beautifully carved beams (vigas) with pinecone and floral designs. The altar is stunning as is the choir loft and pulpit. Hidden away in nitch in the right transit is a beam from old missions, which was discovered during its restoration some decades ago. The beam bears the name of proud artisan who assisted in the building of this beautiful mission.

Feast Day

The main feast day is observed on December 12th, the Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe and begins with a mass followed by matachin dances in front of the church and festivities. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the feast included many activities including religious processions, bull fights, social dances, and cards games.


Founder's Day

Ciudad Juárez annually honors December 8th, when the city was founded. On that date in 1659, Fray García built his first mission, the modest little church, which later became the charming and beautiful Misión de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. A large bronze statue of the founder is located near the entrance of the old mission, and a smaller bronze of the founder is situated at the entrance. The latter sculpture is a small-scale model of the monument, Fray García de San Francisco, Founder of the Pass of the North, 1659, that is located in Pioneer Plaza in downtown El Paso. In that statue, Fray García holds the mission's carved, lintel beam which bears the name and the date of the mission which today serves the faithful and is a testament to an enduring faith.


16th of September & Cinco de Mayo

Other major celebrations in Cd. Juárez include 16th of September (Mexican Independence Day) and Cinco de Mayo (5th of May) that honors the Mexican victory in Pueblo, Mexico that forced French occupation forces to flee from the city. These events include fiestas and parades and other special events such as concerts, music and dancing.

Sites of Interest

Plaza de Armas - Old Municipal Building:

Behind Guadalupe Mission is the Plaza de Armas, or old municipal building, which houses an art gallery operated by the city. A large block is anchored on the floor of the interior patio to block the entry of wagons. The interior walls are adorned with beautiful murals depicting the town's dramatic history from Cabeza de Vaca (1536), to Fray Garcia's new mission (1668) to the 1864 entry of President Benito Juárez, which today is the town's proud namesake. The old, brick Aduanas Building (Customhouse) is in walking distance and now serves as an attractive museum that is a "must see".

The old municipal building, located behind the mission, contains beautiful murals of the region’s history as well as a gallery. Nearby, is the City Museum, which includes historical and cultural exhibits. Two traditional markets are in the downtown area – the food and produce market just across from the mission, and the arts and crafts market some five blocks to the southwest.


El Museo Histórico de Cd. Juárez, (Ex-Aduana Building or Customs House):

The old, brick Ex-Aduana Building (Customs House) is in walking distance from Guadaupe. It is located on Avenida 16 de Septiembre y Avenida Juárez in downtown Cd. Juárez. Admission is free. It is open Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Telephone 612-4707; 612-2969

The old Customs house now serves as an attractive museum that is a "must see". The Museo Histórico is definitely worth a visit because it houses a quality museum that contains prehistoric objects, art, and historic exhibits including the vehicle used by President Francisco Madero, the great president who was martyred in 1912 during the Mexican Revolution. The Aduanas Building, situated near the railroad tracks, is itself a survivor of that revolution and today its exterior, like a proud war veteran, proudly bears pock-marks from stray bullets and cannon fire of the city's tumultuous revolutionary past.


El Museo de Arqueología de Chamizal (The Chamizal Archeaological Museum):

The Museo de Arqueología de Chamizal is located east of the old mission and is accessible by private vehicle or city bus. The address: Carlos Pellicer No. 1, Parque Publico El Chamiza. Next the Puente or Bridge of the Americas/Cordova Bridge, in Cd. Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. Telephone: 611-1048. Admission is free. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m -5 p.m.

The Museo de Arqueología de Chamizal features the "Cultures of the North" which includes pre-Columbian artifacts from the Casas Grande Culture as well as paintings and sculpture from well-known artists with local and international reputations.

The Museo de Arqueología de Chamizal is situated in a beautiful park surrounded by trees. The museum, maintained by the Republic of Mexico, shares a special, international kinship with the Chamizal Museum that is located almost directly across the river in El Paso, Texas. The latter is operated by the U.S. Park Service. Both museums and parks were founded in recognition of  friendship between the two countries and honor the adjusted international boundary which was mutually agreed to in 1964 when the United States relinquished some acreage to Mexico, and thereby settled an old boundary dispute. Both museums and parks also share a common history because the Chamizal Barrio (neighborhood) was an ancient Manso Indian community. The Mansos were the first Americans of the Pass of the North.


Museo de Arte e Historia de INBA de Ciudad Juárez:

El Museo de Arte e Historia (city museum of art and history) is located in the Pronaf Zone, and is accessible by private vehicle and city bus. Address: Avenida Lincoln y Coyocán, Zona (32310), Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. Telephone: 616-7414 or 613-1708. The Juárez Museum of Art as well as the National Institute of Fine Arts features Mexican art from various historical periods and contemporary art. Admission is $1. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.