By Pink Rivera
SAN ELIZARIO, TX – There’s only one place in El Paso County where a family can see work by hundreds of artists, visit a veteran’s museum, get a homemade empanada at a café, see a live band at a restaurant that’s right next to the jail that once housed Billy the Kid, then walk a few blocks down the street to a community garden.
This is the San Elizario Historic district, also known as “San Eli,” home to the only art district in the county, located about 10 miles east of the city limits.
“We started this madness out here in 2009 with the Main Street Gallery and things just quickly grew,” said Al Borrego, a self-taught artist who invests most of his time promoting San Elizario and all the artists. “I take pride in my community and I think with the history and talent out here, it’s the perfect place for something like this.”
There are over 100 artists exhibiting their artwork in about 40 galleries, with more venues on the way. The artworks range from traditional acrylic and oil paintings, to iron and woodwork as well as sculptures, stained glass and jewelry.
Artists include Alberto Escamilla, Maria Branch, Stephanie Conroy, Bob Mack, Bert Saldana and others. Visitors won’t be able to miss the life-size statues by sculptor Guadalupe Jacquez Calderon along Main Street.
“This really is a place where you can find everything,” said Borrego.
With the Old El Paso County Jail in the center of it all, fans of live performances can enjoy the Pistoleros de San Elizario with their “Billy the Kid Breakout Reenactment,” complete with authentic costumes and props.
Borrego has continued to add galleries and restore buildings in the hope of bringing more culture and artists to San Eli.
“We have to maintain the integrity of the buildings and we enjoy the guidelines of being in a historic site,” Borrego said. “It’s like stepping into a different time period.”
With events like Art Markets held every third Sunday of the month and Art Walks held every first Friday of the month, new artists and vendors get a chance to meet the public.
“This is my first time out here,” said artist Adrian Rivera. “I’m always looking for places to show my art and I like it out here so far.”
San Eli is home to 17 historical sites but there are also new sites. One of the latest additions is the Hacienda de la Viña Bed and Breakfast, located on the old Butterfield stagecoach stop, which has reservations for nearly the entire month.
November marks the district’s festive “Native American Month.” Which will include this year’s first ever “Celebration of our Culture” event on November 11. It will feature historic presentations by the Pueblo, Navajo, Apache and Taino Native Americans.
Onions and potatoes can’t grow side by side in a garden. Maya Sanchez and her gang are learning this and much more as they help their community by growing a sustainable ecosystem. The San Elizario Community Garden is located at 12339 Socorro Rd. right across from the fire station.
“I inherited this land from my grandfather who was a farmer and was always talking about how things used to be different,” Sanchez said. “Initially the goal is to grow these healthy veggies and fruits for our families. And eventually…