July 13, 2022 717 PM
MARFA — This Friday, the Friends of the Ruidosa Church are hosting a special night of music, drinks and conversation to spread the word about the organization’s progress restoring a historic adobe church along the River Road. Historian David Keller will open with a short talk on the history of the church, and then local bluegrass outfit Calamity Creek String Band will play the night away with libations provided by Cactus Liquors and Sans Honneur.
The Ruidosa Church, formerly known as El Corazon Sagrado de la Iglesia de Jesus (Sacred Heart of the Church of Jesus), is located near the crossroads of FM170 and Pinto Canyon Road. It was built around 1915 and stopped holding services in the 1950s as the local population declined.
The church is just a stone’s throw from the “forgotten reach” of the Rio Grande, which dried up in the first half of the 20th century after the Elephant Butte Dam was built. The agricultural economies of a long string of border towns disappeared along with the river. While the local population has dwindled to a handful of people and a couple of AirBnBs, the church remains.
The church’s distinctive center arch is thought to be the largest in Texas — a testament to the creative and technical skills of the hardworking border people who built it. In the 1980s, the church caught the attention of Pinto Canyon local Donald Judd, who wanted to save it from being demolished by the Diocese of El Paso.
Judd’s vision of restoring the church never materialized, but a new crop of Big Bend residents have taken up the charge in recent years. Back in October, the group hosted a big reunion at the site for local residents and have held a number of adobe workshops and educational presentations in the months since.
Boardmember Clara Bensen is hoping the event this Friday will open up the group’s efforts to North County folks who don’t want to make the trek to Ruidosa. “There’s a lot of people who want to be involved with what we’re doing, but it’s not always accessible. We wanted to do some events that are easier for people to get to,” she explained.
For folks who want to visit the site in person, the group is planning to host another community adobe workshop after the weather cools down in the fall. The group is hoping to announce the date of that workshop at Friday’s event.
Bensen sees the effort to restore the church as a symbol of a larger effort to preserve the border’s culture through an era of massive change. “We’re talking about the church as a regional resource. There’s a lot of families that are connected to Ruidosa all over the region and beyond,” she said. “It’s an incredible building, and we’re treating it as a site for preserving the memory of this border town.”
A Night for Ruidosa Church will be held from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at the Crowley Theater, which is located at 98 South Austin Street in Marfa. For more information about the organization or to make a donation, visit ruidosachurch.org.