Present Day Challenges

The Tigua cultural landscape has shifted significantly over the past 100 years. On the outskirts of El Paso, a community lived impoverished. When they were incorporated into the city, new taxes threatened to financially destroy them. Few in the community knew they were descendants of the Pueblo communities from New Mexico, but did not advertise this identity broadly because of years of racism from Mexican and Anglo communities in West Texas. When claiming an Indigenous identity on a federal level offered the only chance of surviving new taxes, the community rallied to unify and embrace their Tigua roots. No one foresaw the economic boom that would occur later that century. 

In establishing their status as federally-recognized Native Americans, the Tigua people encountered an opportunity to commoditize their identity and culture as a source of profit. In addition to the historical museum and restaurant located in Ysleta del Sur, Tribal members performed their dances and wore stereotypical Indigenous clothing that they recognize as not authentic. In 1993, the Tigua community opened Speaking Rock Casino, which revenued over one million dollars in just the first year. 

A clash formed among the Tigua community. Some traditionalists believed that the new methods of earning money for the Tribe sacrificed the sanctity of 600 years of tradition. Other, usually younger Tiguas who also happened to hold the majority of Tribal Council seats, forgave the inauthenticity as a means to support their community. Having a secure income was a stark difference from only 30 years prior when the Tribe lived in poverty. The casino and tourism industry provided the opportunity for Tigua children who graduated from high school to attend college, and community housing initiatives provided shelter to many who needed it. 

The division between the two Tigua camps continued to grow. In a dramatic show of how contentious the disagreement became, many people who challenged the Tribal Council and their decision to support the casino were banished from the Tribe, ostensibly because of their opposing viewpoints on the issue. 

In 2003, the casino closed, but the division that formed between two opinions on culture and tradition still lingers in Ysleta del Sur.