Building Ysleta del Sur
The Tigua Indians have always been faithful to San Antonio (Saint Anthony), the original patron saint of Isleta Pueblo (the mother pueblo situated near modern-day Albuquerque). The mission has had many names through the centuries, but the Tigua have always recognized San Antonio. During the Spanish period, Ysleta del Sur Pueblo was also known as Corpus Christi de los Tihuas (original name given by the Spaniards), Sacramento de la Ysleta and San Antonio de la Ysleta. The present-day mission is dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, but the Tigua still honor San Antonio, who occupies an exterior niche above the mission’s entrance.
Saint Anthony, Tigua Patron (left of Main Altar, Ysleta Mission)
Old Ysleta Pueblo included compact, multi-stories houses made from adobe brick. The adobe bricks, containing clay, mud, and sand, were mixed with water and straw, and were shaped by hand and placed into wooden molds to dry in the sun. Other building materials included stone and chinked longs and wall beams (vigas in Spanish). Wood was harvested from nearby river thickets (bosques in Spanish) and from the distant mountains. Huts for storage and temporary living facilities (jacales in Spanish) were built from sticks and cane and plastered with mud.
The Indian pueblo was located just across the plaza from the mission church. In front of the church was the tribal cemetery. The old pueblo included two ceremonial chambers (Tus-la) and today there is one Tus-la shared by the Indian people.
The first pueblo and mission were built around 1682 and were moved and rebuilt over the years. The relocations were necessary on several occasions when the river flooded and destroyed the original buildings. Everyone, children, women and men, helped make the adobe bricks for pueblo and the mission church.
Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Prospers
Manuel Ortega with Family, c. 1880 (The boy wears miniature chaleco or tribal war jacket) Old Ysleta Pueblo, Courtesy of El Paso Library
The Tigua Indians of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo were industrious farmers. They raised wheat, corn and grapes and cattle and horses. They traded these products, hand made pottery, baskets, and rope throughout the region - north to New Mexico and south to Chihuahua, Mexico. They hunted in the Hueco Mountains, east to the Guadalupe Mountains, and south to Sierra Blanca. They hunted and gathered throughout the region and fished from the Rio Grande. In the spring of the year, Tigua hunters ventured east across the Pecos River into the plains to hunt buffalo. Tigua families traveled with horses and ox carts 80-miles east the Guadalupe Salt Beds where they gathered salt for its sacred properties, to preserve and enrich their food and to trade.
El Paso Area Salt Trails Map (1849-1880)
Created by Nicholas P. Houser & Perry I. Quinto
Houser, copyright reserved
In the 1700’s, Ysleta del Sur Pueblo was a rich and prosperous Indian community. In August 1773, a Spanish traveler recorded the following about the community:
“…in the same direction follows the mission of La Isleta and a large number of laborious, civilized, and industrious Indians…”
|Old Ysleta del Sur, c.1880, Nestora Piarote, |
Tigua Potter, Foreground (oval dome of Ysleta Mission in left background)
Courtesy of El Paso Public Library
Dr. Jessie Walter Fewkes, American Ethnologist, visited Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in October 1901. By that time the Tigua had lost possession of the old Pueblo as result of the illegal 1871 incorporation. José Tolino Piarote, the Tribal Cacique (Chief), gave Fewkes the following description of the old Pueblo:
“The site of the old pueblo adjoins this cemetery, from which it is now separated by a street (Old Pueblo Road). The cacique remembers that formerly Indian houses were arranged on that site in rectangular form about a plaza, each building being a small one-story habitation made of upright logs chinked and plastered with adobe, forming a type of building called by the Mexican jacal. --- (Chief) Piarote lives in an adobe house standing not far from what was once a corner of the former pueblo, and other houses in the neighborhood belong to Indians who likewise have dwellings and tracts of land scattered in all directions from the church” (Fewkes, 1902).
Nestora Piarote, c. 1880
Before Alderete-Candelaria House,
Old Ysleta Pueblo
|Nestora Piarote, c. 1880|
Next to Beehive Oven, Old Ysleta Pueblo