Centennial Museum gecko logo

Desert Diary


February 22, the birth date of George Washington—let's step back into history and compare events concerning the U.S. colonies and the Spanish Southwest.

In 1776, the patriots proclaimed their Declaration of Independence against Great Britain while the Apache continued to resist the takeover of their lands by the Spanish. The King of Spain, concerned with losses of settlers and military personal, appointed a commandant general and gave him powers to protect the interests of the crown.

Three years later, some of Spain's resources were diverted from her western endeavors when she joined France and the Americans against England. However it was the Peace Treaty of Versailles of 1783 between England and the U.S. that ceded to the new nation all English lands from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River. From the Mississippi westward, Spain retained sovereignty.

Here at the Pass of the North in 1789, just 6 weeks before George Washington was elected the first President of the United States, Spanish orders were issued to relocate the Presidio of San Elizario 40 miles upriver to the present location to increase security in this region.
pen and ink

Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Florence E. Schwein, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.

map of the Paso del Norte region

Map of the Paso del Norte Region showing the Presidio of San Elizario (San Elzeario on the map) and the Hacienda de los Tiburcios, to which the presidio was moved. Map by Jose Cisneros, © Texas Western Press, used by permission.



Hendricks, R., and W. H. Timmons. 1998. San Elizario: Spanish Presidio to Texas County Seat. Texas Western Press, El Paso, 157 pp.

Martinez, Oscar J. 1999. The Pass of The North. El Paso Community Foundation, El Paso, 24 pp.