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Updated: Jul 19, 2022

El Paso is a beautiful multicultural city nestled in the western-most part of Texas. Although the city of El Paso was first incorporated in 1873, its historical origins can be traced back to the 1659 founding by the Franciscans of El Paso del Norte (now Ciudad Juarez, Mexico) and the 1682 founding of the Ysleta mission. With four centuries of accumulated history, El Paso can rightly claim to be one of the oldest settlements in the United States. The collections in these museums are a testament to that heritage and El Paso's bi-national identity. They will capture the interest of the intellectually curious visitor who wishes to immerse themselves in the culture of the American Southwest. In no particular order, here are five of the museums you must visit in El Paso, Texas:

1. El Paso Museum of Archaeology:

In addition to its historical patrimony, the El Paso area also plays a vital role in our understanding of North American prehistory. The archeological record in the region goes back to some 14,000 years to the Paleo-Indian hunters of ice age megafauna such as the mastodon and mammoth. The museum itself is divided into a north and a south gallery. The North Gallery houses several Southwestern and Mexican artifacts such as basketry, ceramics, textiles, stone tools, and other ornaments. The South Gallery features several large-scale models of local daily life from the paleolithic to the modern age. The museum has a particular focus on the Casas Grandes culture and has one of the largest collections of Paquimé pottery on display.

Wednesday - Saturday | 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM

2. El Paso Museum of Art:

To those interested in the art world, a visit to El Paso should include a tour of the El Paso Museum of Art. As you walk into the museum lobby, you will be greeted by the larger-than-life fiberglass sculpture, Sodbuster, San Isidro by the late trailblazing sculptor, Luis Jimenez. The museum boasts an extensive and varied collection of paintings from several countries. The permanent collections are well worth seeing, and EPMA consistently presents beautiful temporary exhibitions, often representative of the local culture and heritage.

The Spanish-Colonial/Mexican collection is robust in devotional paintings from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century called retablos. The American collection has many essential works from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, mainly still-lifes, figure paintings, and landscapes. It must be said, however, that portraiture is the true highlight of the American collection. Among the portraits are works painted by some of the more prominent artists of the early American Republic. These were men who personally knew and painted the Founding Fathers. One particularly noteworthy example is Gilbert Stuart's famous portrait of George Washington. Stuart had the distinction of being the only American-born artist Washington ever posed for.

Lastly, and without a doubt, the European collection is the museum's crowning glory. The works on display present the visitor with an overview of five hundred years of the artistic achievements of Western Civilisation, from the Middle Ages to the Century of Light. Late medieval and renaissance works by Italian masters are an essential part of the collection. Fourteenth and early-fifteenth-century artists include the Genoan Nicolò da Voltri and early masters of the Sienese school such as Martino di Bartolomeo, Giovanni di Paolo, the Master of Osservanza, and Sano di Pietro. Florence and Venice are also represented in figures such as Jacopo del Sellaio, the Crivelli brothers, Vincenzo di Biagio, and Lorenzo Lotto. The Baroque and Rococo periods feature Spanish, Flemish, and French artists such as Francisco de Zurbarán, Anthony van Dyck and Hyacinthe Rigaud.

One Arts Festival Plaza

El Paso, TX 79901

(915) 212-0300

Sun – Tue | Closed

Wed – Sat | 10 AM - 6 PM

3. El Paso Museum of History:

Originally known as The Cavalry Museum when it opened its doors in 1974, the El Paso Museum of History has since broadened its scope to encompass the whole history of the region from the founding of El Paso del Norte to the present day. The museum's permanent exhibition strives to place the story of El Paso within its environmental context, emphasizing the influence of the Chihuahuan desert and the dependence of agriculture on the Rio Grande Valley, and how it shaped the history of the region. Items of Spanish colonial origin include an eighteenth-century mission door from the Ysleta Mission made of cedar wood and a chestnut-wood chest imported to San Elizario directly from Spain. The museum also features an interactive element with several touchscreens that allow the visitor to access many historical images submitted by the community.

510 N. Santa Fe St.

El Paso, Texas 79901


Wednesday Saturday | 10 AM - 6 PM

Closed City Holidays

4. El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center:

The Holocaust museum was founded in 1994 by survivor Henry Kellen. Born in Lodz, Poland, in 1915, Kellen was living in Kaunas, Lithuania, when the German army overran the country in 1941. He and the rest of the local Jewish people were forcibly herded into the Kovno ghetto, where Mr. Kellen married his wife, Julia. Of the 30,000 prisoners, there would be only 4,000 survivors. Kellen, his wife, and his nephew escaped the ghetto in 1944 and were sheltered by a Lithuanian farmer, Andrius Urbanas, until the Red Army liberated the country from the Germans. No other members of Mr. Kellen's family survived the war. Kellen came to the United States in 1946. He remained largely quiet about his experiences until after his retirement in the mid-eighties. Out of a sense of obligation and fearing a rise of holocaust denialism in the country, he began to collect Holocaust related artifacts and educational material, thus paving the way for the modern-day museum. Henry Kellen passed away July 3, 2014, two days shy of his ninety-ninth birthday. The museum's permanent exhibit provides a chronological account of the history of the Holocaust, beginning with a portrait of European Jewry before the rise of the National Socialists, the rise of Hitlerism in Germany and the establishment of the Nuremberg Laws, the beginning of the war, the rounding of Jews into ghettos, the formulation of the Final Solution and the construction of the extermination camps, and concludes with the post-war aftermath.

715 N. Oregon

El Paso, TX 79902

(915) 351-0048

Tuesday Friday | 9 AM 5 PM

Saturday | 1 PM 5 PM

Sunday | By Appointment Only

5. Magoffin Homestead:

The Magoffin Home is a legacy of the rough and tumble days of the Wild West in El Paso. Built in 1875 by the prominent local figure and City Mayor Joseph Magoffin, the adobe building combined elements of Spanish architecture with neoclassical features such as pediments. Joseph Magoffin was born in 1836 in Chihuahua, Mexico to James Wiley Magoffin and María Gertrudis Valdés-Magoffin. His father was a trader on the Santa Fe-Chihuahua trail, and his mother was a Mexican woman of Spanish descent. His grandfather Beriah Magoffin was an immigrant from County Down, Ireland, and the family was Roman Catholic. When the war between the States broke out, Magoffin volunteered to fight against Union forces under General Sibley. After the war, he served as Justice of the Peace, county commissioner, alderman, and mayor. In total, Magoffin's family would live in the house for some 109 years, after which the building would come under the care of the State and city governments. Members of the Magoffin clan were avid collectors of art and often traveled overseas. The house reflects characteristics of Victorian sensibility with a Texan twang; English furniture, German vases, and French statuary, all confined between the four walls of a house that combined elements of Anglo-American and Spanish-Mexican architecture.

1120 Magoffin Ave.

(Visitors Center is at 1117 Magoffin Ave.)

El Paso, Texas 79901

(915) 533-5147

Tuesday – Saturday | 9 AM – 4 PM

...and while you're here.

Make sure to stop by Flor de Barro Gallery. Flor de Barro is a unique gallery space featuring over 200 works by contemporary and folk Mexican artists. The gallery is family-owned and operated. While you're there, request a free tour to immerse yourself in the art and history this gallery offers. From works by the great painter and print-maker Rufino Tamayo to the fine ceramics of Mata Ortiz, you will surely find something you will love.

6721 Westwind Dr. El Paso, Texas 79912

Thursday - Saturday | 1 PM - 7 PM

Sunday | 11 AM - 5 PM (complimentary mimosas offered)

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Nestled in a home-turned-gallery in West El Paso, located at 6721 Westwind Dr., Flor de Barro Gallery holds a celebration for Mexican art and culture. Flor de Barro means flower made of clay, a fitting metaphor for an artist's ability to create beauty from simple materials, just as flowers spring from dirt.

Mexican pottery and art at Flor de Barro Gallery in El Paso, Texas.
Inside look at Flor de Barro Gallery.

Flor de Barro was born out of a local family's generational love, respect for art, and eagerness to show the world what Mexico is all about. The owners handpick every piece exhibited at the gallery, and all of their collection is handmade by Mexican artists. The gallery's art collection boasts over 200 works, a mix of modern and traditional, from many renowned artists. A fraction of the notable artists represented by Flor de Barro are Master Potter Juan Quezada Celado from Mata Ortiz, Master Artisan Jesús Guerrero Santos (whose work has been commissioned by the Vatican several times), and the famous 20th-century painter and printmaker Rufino Tamayo.

Wixarika (Huichol) Beaded Deer. Background lithography by Set
Wixarika (Huichol) Beaded Deer.

At Flor de Barro, pieces from all over Mexico can be found, Wixarika (commonly known as Huichol) yarn paintings and beaded works, trees of life from Puebla, and hammered copper by Sergio Velazquez from Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacán. Out of the hundreds of pieces exhibited in this spacious gallery, Mata Ortiz pottery holds a special place in the heart of Flor de Barro. As a humble town of only 1500 people, Mata Ortiz has earned a reputation as a prime Mexican hub for pottery and artistic innovation.

Juan Quezada Celado holding one of his older pieces at Flor de Barro Gallery (El Paso, Tx)
Juan Quezada at Flor de Barro Gallery

The story of a young boy born in poverty, now known as Master Juan Quezada, his hardships and a serendipitous encounter with anthropologist Spencer MacCallum, gave birth to the Renaissance of Mata Ortiz. Consequently, this led to the string of award-winning artists that were born and raised in the town. Quezada's story is a unique tale of perseverance and raw talent. When he was only 14, facing extreme poverty, he dropped out of school to support his family. During one of his working days collecting firewood in the mountains, Quezada discovered a burial site in a cave containing pre-Columbian pottery of the Mimbres and Casas Grandes cultures. This discovery ultimately became his main inspiration to create art. Without art education or experts in these cultures, he figured out and developed the process to produce clay pots. His initial pieces sold for close to $5 to American tourists and merchants. Coincidentally, they were discovered by Spencer MacCallum, an anthropologist who saw incredible potential in Quezada, and financially supported him until he was able to create museum-quality pieces. They later ensued on a USA tour which secured Quezada's name in Mexican art history.

Mata Ortiz Potter Laura Bugarini working on a piece at Flor de Barro Gallery
Mata Ortiz Potter Laura Bugarini and Andrea Calleros, co-founder of Flor de Barro Gallery.

The story of Juan Quezada does not just end with him. He took it upon himself to teach his technique to his family and friends, which spread like wildfire through the town. Today there are over 600 people who earn all or part of their income from the pottery. Quezada's work has been displayed in museums and galleries all over the world. In 1999 he was awarded the National Prize for Arts and Sciences, an award given to the likes of Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco.

Flor de Barro aims to be more than just a shop, but a cultural meeting point where the community can learn about Mexico and its cultural potpourri. Flor de Barro hopes to foster curiosity and excitement for our neighboring country, which tends to be overshadowed by its negative facets. According to Andrea Calleros, co-founder of Flor de Barro, "Mexico is right across the border, and many tend to forget and overlook the beauty it holds; we are here to remind people of it."

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