Guadalupe El Torero Church

As I travel Texas backroads, I find myself irresistibly drawn to abandoned places — old and dilapidated structures slowly being erased by time. Not long ago I came across a photograph of an abandoned adobe style church taken in the fading light of day. The photo captivated me. I knew I had to find this place and go there to see it for myself.
El Torero Church Side ViewWith a little research I learned that the old church building is located along FM 1017, the road that connects San Manuel−Linn and San Isidro. This is in the heart of rugged South Texas ranch country. Many of the ranch owners in the area can trace their respective lineages back to the days of the Spanish Land Grants. These families have stewarded these lands for generations.
El Torero FrontThe old church, known as Guadalupe El Torero, was built between 1918 and 1920 in a place called San Luisito, a town that no longer exists. In those days, the only option for families was to travel ten miles one way by horse and buggy to worship at the old San Isidro Catholic Church. That was a long way to travel. So, the original El Torero Church was constructed in San Luisito behind the home of Juan and Luisa Bazan.
El Torero Back ViewOn January 5, 1924, Juan Cavazos purchased ten acres of land that was part of the San Ramon Land Grant that had originally been granted to Julian Farias. Juan gave a tithe of the land to the church under the pastorate of Father Gustavo Gollbach. A few years later, the original church building was moved to this new and permanent location and the entry tower bearing the cross was added.
El Torero InteriorA woman named Sylvia Perez Kotzur, who lives about a mile from the old church, attended services at El Torero when she was a child. She remembers that it had “a celestial blue trim and benches and wood plank floors.” She also recalled looking out the windows and watching the cattle grazing during Mass.
El Torero Side DoorI could not find any information about when the final service was held at El Torero. Whatever day that might have been, that became the first day that would lead to years of neglect — years that eventually took their toll on the building that Kotzur remembers as being “small and cute.”
IMG_0906When I walked through the weeds and into the old building, it was easy to envision what it must have looked like in its day. I could still see traces of the blue paint that Kotzur recalled. It was, however, sad to see a place that had once been so special to local residents in this condition.
El Torero SignThe good news is that Kotzur and other area residents started a fundraising campaign to build a new church. The old structure is beyond repair and must be torn down. The new structure will be built on the same footprint as the old church.
El Torero SteepleKudos to everyone involved in giving new life to El Torero Church. I hope that the new structure will bear some resemblance to the old church. I can’t wait to see the new house of worship and hope it will stand as an enduring symbol of faith in this rugged place for generations to come.

2 thoughts on “Guadalupe El Torero Church

  1. Omar, thank you for your interest in these lovely old places of worship, and thank you for sharing their pictures and stories with us. How wonderful that someone has taken up the project of renovating (rebuilding?) this historic church. It’s sad that the original structure must be torn down, but maybe they can at least salvage that beautiful old bell tower.

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