near Mission (Hidalgo County)

La Lomita Chapel.  Credit: Anthony Acosta (Flickr).

La Lomita Chapel is located near the Rio Grande and is a significant example of the vernacular architecture of the United States and Mexico border. La Lomita, or “Little Hill,” was built in 1899 and later restored in 1937 and again in 1976 as part of the community’s Bicentennial celebration.  It is just 16 feet wide and 30 feet long with a tiny belfry. The City of Mission was named as a goodwill gesture of townspeople to honor the old mission chapel. It was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1964 and is part of the La Lomita Historic District, entered in the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.  The historic marker application was sought in order to recognize its ongoing importance as “a shrine for the religious and history-minded who would honor those … who carved it literally out of the Wilderness.”

La Lomita Chapel is representative of the many historically, culturally and architecturally significant places that will be directly or indirectly impacted by the construction of a new barrier along the border.  Because of the location of La Lomita on the river side of a levee, plans to construct a wall along the levee would isolate the chapel from the community it serves, its namesake town of Mission, and the many tourists who visit it regularly.  All along the Rio Grande, from old Fort Brown in Brownsville to Chihuahuita in El Paso, border security barriers are radically altering the historic character of places constructed along the border that have had a strong bi-national character for over a century.

The protection of historic resources with fair, reasonable and meaningful efforts to mitigate the impact of new construction should be required.  Documentation of existing resources, physical protection and archaeological investigations should be undertaken so the rich history of our border is neither erased nor shut off from those for whom these places have held and will hold such deep meaning for many generations past, present and future.