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Story+Gallery: Northeast El Paso’s unique ‘Sugar House’ a Must-See

When I was born back in 1970, El Paso was smaller -way smaller. Now, with all the growth in our city, I am sad to admit there are just places I have yet to see.

For example, living in the Lower Valley,  I don’t often find myself venturing further than Fred Wilson Drive in Northeast El Paso. That neighborhood is foreign territory to me; El Paso is just too big…bigger than it was when I was a child.

Now along with the size, El Paso has some great architecture: the Kress Building, Mt. Sinai Temple, the O.T. Bassett Tower – just to name a few. Yet, on one of my few trips north of Fred Wilson, I discovered a house that is dedicated to the City of El Paso, and deserves to be on that list.

The house I am talking about is on the corner of Leavell and St. Charles, and I had never seen it before.  According to Rufino Loya, owner of this remarkable property, his home illustrates the mosaic that is Mexico.

One day, when I was coming home from Chaparral, I caught just a glimpse of this house out of the corner of my eye. What I saw, for only the briefest of moments, was a giant painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Sadly, with a busy life, I really didn’t think anything of it again. A couple days later, I was back in Chaparral. By the time I started to head home, it was dark. That’s when I saw the house again. This time, it was lit up.

At that point I decided to get off the North-South Freeway, and check it out.

Mr. Loya says he started decorating his house back in 1973. It is, he says, in the style of Spanish art as you would see in Zacatecas, Mexico. All of it started with one piece, an angel standing atop an arch in his front yard. “I liked it, so I made another piece,” he says.

The house is definitely from another time, another style. Walking around the house, I could not help but feel like I was standing inside a church that was built for the whole world, open to the whole world.

The art is reminds me of some of the Churches I have seen while on holiday in Mexico, and took me back to a more peaceful, simpler time of life.

Mr. Loya said that the overall style of the home is that of Mexico. Each of the thirty-two states, he says, has their own customs, and styles: food, dress, way of speaking, music. Yet, in his work, Mr. Loya has managed to combine them all into a visual gift to El Paso.

When I asked him, why he does it, why he made his home an artistic masterpiece, he said just that, that he wanted to give something to the city. Something they would appreciate, and marvel.

And people do enjoy it.

Several times a week, Mr. Loya says that there are visitors to his home. Some stop and pray before the picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe, or St. Frances. Others stop to pray before the statue of Jesus in front of the house.

It truly is a place that will make you stop, and take a moment out of your day for something that is bigger than all of us.

Next time you are out in the Northeast, why not stop by. Or, take a trip over on the weekend.

This house is really worth seeing in person.

Story & Gallery by Steven Cottingham – Special to the Herald-Post

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