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San Elizario Art Market: A deep dive into an ocean of artists

Held every third Sunday of the month from April to November, is the San Elizario Art Market where many recognized painters can display their work. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

While it was credited as the ‘Best Historic Small Town’ by USA Today readers, many seem to overlook San Elizario, Texas. Passing Main Street, visitors can learn about history dating back to the 1500s through Los Portales Museum and the Old County Jail.  Additionally, held on every third Sunday of the month from April to November, is the San Elizario Art Market where many recognized painters can display their work.   

Among these painters are Bert Saldaña, Alberto Escamilla, Erica Zamora Murrill, Gaspar Enriquez, Antonio Castro and more, many of whom have been awarded or recognized locally or nationally. The variation of the artist’s styles, methods and pieces are drastic, giving each store on Placita Madrid on Main Street a refreshing experience.  

July 16 marked the fourth art market of the year, where a live reenactment of the Billy the Kid scandal was performed. Al Borrego led the reenactment by telling a brief history of San Elizario. Visitors fail to realize how historic the streets were, until Borrego describes how much happened on the roads they were standing on.  

Borrego mentioned San Elizario’s history from historic events such as ‘La Toma’ as well as the story of the chapel. Following the debrief of San Elizario was a reenactment of how Billy the Kid famously broke into the old county jail, where visitors stood almost 100 feet away from where it happened. The audience was able to participate in the reenactment as a lynch mob.  

In attendance was San Elizario’s Mayor Isela Reyes who participated as she screamed at ‘Billy,’ “He stole my chickens!” What startled many in the audience was the sound of gunshots coming from toy guns, giving a realistic experience.  

Many artists reside within Placita Madrid. Whether it is up and coming artists or nationally recognized ones, the San Elizario Art Market allowed them to display their favorite pieces. Ilsa Ybarra is a resident of San Elizario who recently joined the Art Market with her recycled pieces. Soda cans, 6-packs of beers or bottle caps allowed Ybarra to make pieces similar to Milagros, but bigger.  

“I can use any aluminum can, it’s unique, its different,” Ybarra said. “Using cans gives me an authentic way to make these.”  

Further along Main Street, visitors can learn about artists with a lifetime worth of dedication to painting. Saldaña Gallery and Studio holds southwestern art by Bert Saldaña. Saldaña’s paintings aim to ‘capture the beauty of indigenous people of the southwest’ as written in his biography. Some of his pieces have been award winning in multiple El Paso art shows, such as ‘Aztec Rose’ which won third place in the 2019 Sun Bowl Art Exhibit. Saldaña urges for people to visit San Elizario.  

“Please come to San Elizario,” Saldaña said. “San Elizario fits my genre, which is why I am here.”  

Opposed to going into bigger settings, many of these artists feel comfortable within the old country town of San Elizario to showcase their pieces. 

Alberto Escamilla is another artist who takes comfort in San Elizario to paint. Escamillo Fine Art Gallery is a store in Placita Madrid where visitors can view these painters in action.  

Escamilla mentions how his passion for painting can never grow old, although he has been painting for over 40 years.  

“I do what I love,” Escamilla said. “There’s beauty in everything.”  

As Escamilla paints in an impressionistic style, he interprets his work as beauty of scenery viewed in day-to-day life. 

To visit San Elizario is to emerge yourself in a new part of history. Although the buildings date back to the 18th century, the citizens of San Elizario still don’t allow for this area to grow old. The effort to bring attention to the Main Road is often overlooked by people in the El Paso region. Realization of how important this town is comes when you learn the history of each of the artists residing in it.  

Culture and passion are heavily emphasized within the San Elizario Art Market. Whether it be indigenous or Chicano, the air is thick with everyone’s pride towards their pieces. Each artist has roots in San Elizario, which makes the town very special to them. Looking deeper into this seemingly small town, visitors can find artists who are passionate about their pieces and roots.  

Sofia Sierra is a contributor and may be reached at [email protected]

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About the Contributor
Sofia Sierra
Sofia Sierra, Web/Copy Editor
Sofia is a junior studying multimedia journalism with a minor in creative writing. She is the web and copy editor at The Prospector. After graduation, she hopes to work outside of El Paso to continue to grow as a writer.
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