History of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo
Travel Down the Mission Trail
Scholars' Bookshelf
Missions Bibliography
Ysleta Bibliography
Roster of El Paso Area Tribal Leaders
Native American Water Use Chronology
Tigua Military History
Early Accounts & Bibliography
Tigua Participation at Texas State Fair
Dallas Exposition
Hueco Tanks Mountain Memorial  
Texas Centennial Sponsors the Arts  
Travel Links & More
Ysleta Land Grant Chronology
Acknowledgments / Resources
Dallas Exposition

Tigua Indian Travel to the Dallas Exposition

On June 10, 1936, thirty-four Tigua Indians traveled by bus to the Dallas to celebrate the centennial. Cleofás Calleros, local historian and social worker, organized the participation of the Tigua Indians at the exposition.

The Ford Motor Company may have provided transportation from El Paso to Dallas. A new Ford bus, a trailer pulled by a truck, transported tribal delegation to the exposition. The side panels of the bus were decorated with a portrait of an Indian in headdress and the large letters: "Tigua Indians Ysleta, Texas" The El Paso caravan included the Tigua Indians and the Negro Chorus. They stopped en route in Abilene, San Antonio and small towns to promote El Paso’s centennial. They disseminated centennial ribbons and other El Paso promotional materials. Cleofás Calleros described the trip as follows:

The Ysleta Indians, 34 in number and in my charge, accompanied by Assistants Angel H. Valenzuela, Jr., and Eduardo Ordonez, left Ysleta at 3 p.m. June 10. The El Paso Pioneer Negro Chorus, in charge of Mr. Leslie Reed, left El Paso at 2 p.m. June 10. Both groups traveled together in a new V-8 Ford bus and two private cars. We reached Dallas at 7 p.m. June 11.”

Tigua arrival in Dallas at the 1936 Texas Centennial

The Texas Centennial Exposition opened in Dallas on Saturday, June 6, 1936 and closed on Sunday, November 29. The Tigua tribal delegation participated in a three-day program (June 12 to 14) at the exposition. The Texas Centennial celebrated El Paso Day on June 12th. Jack Chaney and Dorrance Roderick served respectively as the general chairman and program chairman for that event.

El Paso Day - President Roosevelt Made Honorary Tigua Chief

On June 12, 1936, the Texas Centennial Exposition celebrated El Paso Day. It was also called "The President's Day." President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered a 30-minute speech at the Cotton Bowl Stadium.

Apparently El Paso officials poorly coordinated the community’s presence at this event. The city council approved the purchase of a $60 dollar Mexican sombrero to be presented to President Roosevelt, but the presentation was not made. Although well stocked, only a few El Paso centennial promotional badges and ribbons were distributed at the exposition.

Most visiting El Pasoans, including members of the Tipica Orchestra and the Texas Chorus, were unaware of the Tigua presentation to President Roosevelt at the Cotton Bowl and therefore were not present at the event. At 9:30 a.m., the Negro Chorus and the Tigua Indians entered the arena grounds. The centennial coordinators were unaware that they were on the agenda. It was mistakenly announced that the Alabama Indians were to make a special presentation to the president. The Tigua were probably misidentified as Alabama-Coushatta Indians from east Texas. Cleofás Calleros recalled that the Tigua and the Negro Chorus were the only civilians on the arena grounds where hundreds of secret service men, marshals, rangers, soldiers and marines mingled:

“A few minutes prior to the President’s arrival, Mayor Sherman and his wife came in, and I asked the mayor that he and wife join our group after the President’s address for the presentation of the Indian program, which they did. At the request of Cacique Damasio Colmenero, I was given the honor of presenting the President with the headdress and naming him Honorary Cacique of the Tigua Indians of Ysleta. The cacique presented the President with a pair of moccasins; squaw Isabel Granillo presented Mr. Roosevelt with an Indian molcajete. Governor Allred presented us to the President and Mrs. Roosevelt. A few minutes prior, the radio announcer announced that Indians from Alabama were to honor the President. This was a mistake of the announcer and could not be corrected in time. Sixty-five thousand spectators looked on.”

It was an exceptionally hot day at the Cotton Bowl and several hundred children in the “world’s largest choir” suffered from heat stroke. Later that day, The El Paso delegations, comprising the Tigua dancers, the Texas Chorus, the Negro Chorus, and the Tipica Orchestra performed at the amphitheater. Mayor Sherman, Mr. Harwell and Mrs. Calleros addressed the audience about El Paso’s rich history.

On June 14, the Tigua dancers opened the National Folk Festival, an event that celebrated the state's cultural diversity. The evening program included a performance at the Gulf Petroleum Building with the Tigua and the Tipica Orchestra that was national broadcast on the radio.

El Paso Centennial Subjects

In 1935, many articles appeared in the media promoting El Paso’s contributions to the Texas Centennial. Every Sunday (February - April), KTSM radio station aired a dramatic series entitled "The Builders of El Paso." Radio actors portrayed major historical figures - Cabeza de Vaca, Simeon Hart, James Wiley Magoffin, Solomon Schutz and others. The characters reflected area’s multicultural heritage.

Valley Missions Promoted

El Paso civic leaders believed that centennial activities would stimulate the local economy and spur employment. A local publisher produced a regional travel guide in an attractive magazine format that celebrated the state centennial.

In the summer of 1935, the Herald Newspaper proclaimed that El Paso's missions had been neglected. The members of the chamber of commerce were convinced that the historic missions, if properly promoted, would benefit tourism as had been realized in California by popularizing the Pacific Coast missions. The El Paso missions were vigorously promoted, but money was lacking for essential investment to restore of historic edifices and for major enhancements to the tourism infrastructure. This centennial effort established a foundation for future mission promotion and restoration projects.

On August 24, 1935, an editorial entitled "Capitalizing on Missions" suggested that El Paso’s centenary should highlight the missions:

"...the ancient missions at Ysleta, Socorro, San Elizario; the town of Ysleta, recognizably the oldest European settlement in Texas: the oldest farm in continuous cultivation in the United States". -- "...capitalizing on our missions ought to be one of the principal phases of El Paso's Centennial participation has met with quick response and approval from both church and centennial circles."

Wallace Perry, El Paso’s centennial commission representative, was a strong advocate of the area missions. In 1935, he attempted to acquire funding to promote the missions: "...it seems to me that, either with Centennial funds - if we can get a large enough allocation - or with part Centennial funds and part federal work relief, we ought to be able to dress up both missions and grounds for the Centennial-year visitors."

A small-scale replica of the Socorro Mission was exhibited at the fair. The paper reported that: "Gay midway crowds visit Socorro Church replica." It was reported that relics from the Ysleta and Socorro missions would be displayed at the fair, including what was purported to be an ancient ivory crucifix from the Socorro Mission.

Father Gerard Decorme, historian and resident priest at Ysleta Mission, was commissioned by Bishop A.J. Schuler to write a history of the Lower Valley Mission. His studies contributed to the history of the Tigua and the neighboring tribes of the region. During the next three decades, the interest created by the centennial would generate research and publications.