Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo prepares for the Feast of St. Anthony

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The Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo, or Tigua Indians, are preparing for one of their most important holidays this weekend, the feast day of their patron, St. Anthony.

The Feast of St. Anthony

St. Anthony is a key figure for the Tiguas of the Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo and has been a celebrated figure for longer than three centuries. The Feast of St. Anthony has been incorporated into other Native American traditions that can be traced back as far as the 1200s.

This year’s observance, which kicks off on Friday, will bear the same traditional liturgies and observance as in past years — a memorial important to the Tiguas and intriguing to the general public.

Rick Quezada, the Tigua war captain, said the Feast of St. Anthony observance is a day-long event that begins with a Mass at the Ysleta Mission and ends with a feast of traditional Tigua foods.

“This is probably the most observed religious ceremony that is recognized by the pueblo,” Quezada said. “I guess St. Anthony is kind of compared to a creation story figure in our people.”

St. Anthony helps the lost, hungry, or those in need of spiritual guidance

St. Anthony became a key figure for the Tiguas because he is known for helping people when they are lost, hungry, or in need of spiritual guidance, Quezada said. Before adopting St. Anthony as their patron saint, the Tiguas performed traditional corn dances in Colorado prior to migrating to the Albuquerque area.

Since Spanish conquistadors and the priests who traveled with them introduced Catholicism to the region, the corn dance, a symbol of bounty, has been combined with the Catholic feast day of St. Anthony.

A willow whipping is part of the St. Anthony ceremony

For the Tiguas, that means they celebrate with a traditional, private Mass, then a whipping with willow branches. The whipping represents a cleansing of the sins and people making good on their spiritual promises, Quezada said.

“The people praying for promises from St. Anthony, they get whipped at the door of the church,” he said.

Following a procession around the mission with a statue of St. Anthony, Tiguas then head to the Tusla, or meeting grounds, for a traditional feast.

The lunch includes a red chili stew with a type of meatball, Indian bread soup, Indian bread, and traditional biscocho cookies.

“It’s very fascinating,” Quezada said.

Make plans

What: Tigua Feast of St. Anthony observance.

When, where: begins at about 8 a.m. Friday (June 13, 2008) at the Ysleta Mission, 131 S. Zaragoza.

Cost: Free.

More Information: 859-1962.

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This article first appeared in the El Paso Times. Lower Valley reporter Darren Meritz may be reached at [email protected] times.com or 546-6137.