Tigua Pueblo Welcome Sign

Welcome sign for the Tigua cultural center in Ysleta del Sur, Texas.

In 1680, The Tigua people first came to Ysleta del Sur, Texas. They are Pueblo, originally from the Chaco Canyon area of New Mexico. Spanish colonizers and missionaries searched for gold in the New Mexican desert and sought to convert those native to the area to their Catholic faith. After almost a decade of contact with the Europeans, the Tigua adopted Catholicism and mostly lost their native language to Spanish. Almost 300 years later, descendants of the original Tigua population sought the help of El Paso attorney Tom Diamond in a legal case to prove to the state of Texas as well as the United States that they were indeed Native Americans. Previous ethnographic research conducted by anthropologists and historians references notions held by El Pasoans of the death of Tigua culture as Tribal members became “Mexicanized” through contact or intermarriage with neighboring Hispanic populations. Many residents of Texas grapple with multicultural identities; for the Tigua, there is the added challenge that outsiders have struggled to conceptualize Tigua, or any Indigenous culture, as compatible with another. The Tigua consider themselves to be Indigenous, but are not averse to elements of Spanish influence that have taken root in their cultural identity. For outsiders, this influence erased the Tigua culture. Both Tigua and non-Indigenous groups do not conceptualize the current state of Tigua identity as bicultural, but for two different reasons. For the non-Indigenous, the incompatibility of Native and white culture forced an either/or characterization of cultural identity; whereas for the Tigua, the historical need to preserve, practice, and defend their Indigenous heritage skews perception towards Indigenous identity while still allowing for outside influences.