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YSLETA, TX

YSLETA, TEXAS. Ysleta, now part of the city of El Paso, is perhaps the oldest town in Texas. It was one of several agricultural communities started on the Rio Grande by Spaniards and Indians after the Pueblo Revolt in New Mexico in 1680. The Tigua Indians, who were brought from their pueblo at Isleta, New Mexico, in 1680 and 1682, have occupied the area continuously since. The new Ysleta del Sur ("little island of the south") was located a league and a half east of Guadalupe Mission at the site of present Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. The first Mass in the area was celebrated near Ysleta on October 12, 1680. By 1691 a temporary church was replaced by an adobe building that was washed away by a flood in 1740 and rebuilt four years later on higher ground. The roof and bell tower were damaged by fire in 1907. The mission's name has been changed several times, most recently to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Between 1829 and 1831 the Rio Grande cut a new channel, which placed Ysleta on an island formed by the old and new channels. When the deepest channel became the international boundary in 1848, Ysleta became part of the United States (see LA ISLA, and BOUNDARIES). The population of Ysleta numbered 560 (429 Indians and 131 others) in 1760, 731 in 1841, 1,200 in 1858, 1,500 in 1880, about 2,000 in 1930, and 8,550 in 1960. Henry L. Dexter became the town's first mayor in 1859. This city government did not survive, however, nor did one that operated in the early 1870s. An election in 1880 approved incorporation, and in 1889 the town council declared Ysleta a city. After a stormy period of squabbles over water supply, land grants, limited resources, and other issues, the town government dissolved in 1895.

By an election in 1873 Ysleta replaced San Elizario as the El Paso county seat. But the coming of the railroads in 1881 changed the population center of the county, and in 1883 a strongly disputed election made El Paso the county seat. A bridge was built across the Rio Grande in 1929 linking Ysleta with Zaragosa, Chihuahua. This crossing point has been increasingly important in recent years, since the introduction of numerous maquiladoras in the area. In 1955 El Paso annexed Ysleta, although residents of the smaller town had voted against the move. The annexation was upheld by the United States Supreme Court. Ysleta Independent School District, under a 1953 law, was allowed to retain its identity. The Tiguas, who helped the United States military as scouts during the Indian wars, were finally recognized as a tribe by the state of Texas in 1967 and by the United States Congress in 1968. As a result, they have established a housing area and various business enterprises on their reservation in the oldest part of Ysleta. See also CORPUS CHRISTI DE LA ISLETA MISSION.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Joseph Leach, "Of Time and the Tiguas," Password, Winter 1985. Leon C. Metz, Turning Points in El Paso (El Paso: Mangan, 1985). W. H. Timmons, El Paso: A Borderlands History (El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1990). W. H. Timmons, ed., Four Centuries at the Pass (El Paso: Guynes Printing, 1980).

Nancy Hamilton

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Nancy Hamilton, "YSLETA, TX," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hny06), accessed July 12, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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