Rufino Loya, a retired Levi Strauss employee from El Paso, Texas, promised his wife that he’d build her something beautiful, and the result is an incredibly detailed set of cement decorations around his house, which has earned the name Casa de Azucar or the Sugar House.
He began the project in 1973, and started chiseling small and intricate patterns out of cement in the area surrounding his house. Soon he was hooked. For the next 25 years, he spent hundreds of hours carving the designs with great precision and uniformity, and then painting them, transforming his house into a work of art.
A lot of the pieces maintain a religious theme as Loya was inspired by the Catholic churches of his native Mexico. One of these is a stunning altarpiece at the entrance to his house. It took over 300 hours to create the elaborate shrine. Flowers, leaves, and other motifs from nature find a place in some of his carvings, which are primarily white or in pastel shades of blue and pink. Several pineapples, which in Mexico are a symbol of hospitality, also dot the confection-like decorations.
Another striking portion of the art that can be seen on three sides of the compound is a piece created for the 350th anniversary of the village of El Paso, the precursor to today’s metropolitan center.
The striking house is just off highway 54, and visitors who have stopped to see it up close have reported that sometimes the man himself is around to explain the significance of each section of his labor of love.