Tigua Perspectives of Culture

Tigua Congregation at Ysleta Mission

Ysleta Mission and the Tigua congregation outside

Selections from an Interview with Danny Archuleta

Selection from an interview with Danny Archuleta from the William J Wright Collection at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History which discusses aspects of Tigua religious culture

Contact with Spanish missionaries and miners in the colonial era had a transformative impact on Tigua culture. The Tigua people incorporated Catholicism into their Indigenous religion and descendants still practice the faith today. The most important holiday for the Tigua people is the Feast of St. Anthony, a yearly celebration to honor the community's patron saint. Reflecting on a photograph of a procession outside the Ysleta Mission, one Tigua man observes that “these are all elements that have come together, that depict the lifestyle of our people. The dancing, the songs, the church, catholicism. The traditional clothing. The leadership, the responsibility, the patience. This is what makes up our people, here at Ysleta del Sur Pueblo.” The religion is so entrenched in the culture that it is seen more as authentic Tiguan, and less as foreign influence.

Selections from an Interview with Rose

Selection from an interview with Rose from the William J Wright Collection at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History which discusses a contrast between Protestant Christianity and Tigua tradition

There is a stark contrast between the melding of Indigenous religion with Catholicism and the clash between Indigenous religion and Protestantism. While traditional dances are performed at Catholic holidays, those Tigua who chose to switch churches tend to abandon these cultural practices. One Tigua man who joined a protestant church “has to separate his Christian faith from the Indian belief. He can’t intermix them like the catholics do.” This compartmentalization splits identity into two.

While communities who immigrated to Texas from other countries often grapple with mixed or biculutral identities, or choose to adopt one and abandon the other, the Tigua of Ysleta del Sur see themselves as purely Indigenous. Elders look to children who learn about the history and traditions of their ancestors. One Tigua man observes: “I think he appreciates who he is and he is very proud of who he is. He is Indian.”

Selection from an Interview with Rosa Hogin Hernandez

Selection from an interview with Rosa Hogin Hernandez from the William J Wright Collection at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History featuring a discussion on intentionally obscuring one's Indigenous identity

So-called "Indian boarding schools" in the 17-20th centuries sought to assimilate Native American children across the western United States, including the pueblo communities of New Mexico. White people wanted to decimate Indigenous cultures which they believed were incompatible with their own. Decades later, racism against Indigenous people in the country continued. A combination of factors including Catholic influence on Tigua culture and intermariage with Hispanic populations in El Paso led many people, Tigua and non-Tigua alike, to forget that the Tribe existed. “A lot of people just said we looked like Mexicans, we would rather be recognized as Mexican, they are not ridiculed like the Indians are,” notes a member of the Tigua community. Some parents choose to not share their heritage with their children as a means of protection from ridicule.  

Recently, there has been a push to embrace one’s Tigua identity. In the legal battles that ensued in the 1960s, the Tigua struggled to prove their indigeneity. They were pushed into a position where they had to adopt an “us v. them” mentality, but instead of the offensive white perspective of the boarding schools, this stance was born out of necessity and defense. Tigua culture is taught in schools in El Paso, children learn traditional dances and songs, and some community members are even trying to revitalize the Tigua language that was lost to Spanish and later English.

Tigua Perspectives of Culture