Native American Heritage Month: The Intersection of Cultures - YWCA El Paso Del Norte Region
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Native American Heritage Month: The Intersection of Cultures

Categories: News

Guest Blog Post: Serenity Gaskin

When people think of El Paso, they think of the border, and how this city lies between two different worlds. If you make this assumption, you are not wrong, but El Paso has many more different worlds that you may never know if you aren’t looking for them.

Many El Pasoans live in this city rich with culture, but only associate El Paso with its predominantly Hispanic community. I myself am Hispanic, but also Native American. Within this beautiful city also lives the Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo, otherwise known as the Tiguas. If you go to Ysleta, you can visit our cultural center, where we bare a little piece of ourselves. You can even watch the social dancers, and feel the beat of the drum, breathing in the vibrations, as you watch as the dancers resonate each step with the music. You can taste our traditional bread, and go into our museum, and see pictures of my ancestors who came before me. I am blessed to be a part of two cultures who intertwine beautifully within my city.

If you live in Ysleta, or have visited the historic missions in our city, you have likely seen or been inside the Ysleta mission. This mission was originally built by the Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo. Our community has been, and is still very active within our city. In June, we hold the Saint Anthony Feast, and dance in order to honor to Saint Anthony. Everyone plays a part, whether it be dancing, cooking, or simply supporting. At events like this, you feel the community that is our tribe.

Daisy Almanza, Serenity Gaskin, and Achaya Lara

Many family members on my Native American side dance in order to heal and feel connected to their ancestors. Dance is something that is strong and gives people the ability to express themselves without words. On my Hispanic side of the family, it is common to dance to heal as well. Being able to view both cultures from an inside point of view gives account to more of the beauty that is present within both.

Another annual event that occurs within my tribe is our pow-wow. It is always breathtaking to view all of the dancers. This year, two of my aunts danced within the pow-wow. Watching them felt unreal, and I hope to be able to dance amongst my family in the pow-wow someday too. Aside from all the different dancers who compete in the different categories, you can also view the social dancers perform during our pow-wow. For a year, I was a social dancer as well. I learned the history of my tribe, and was able to learn traditional dances that connected me to past generations.

Just as the Hispanic culture has been in El Paso for generations, the Native American culture has been here for generations as well. However, despite how many ways the cultures in El Paso intertwine, there is much room to grow in terms of acceptance of cultures aside from Hispanic ones. I believe it is important to expose ourselves to different cultures, and learn about what we share with those who differ from our own culture. Similarly, if you belong to more than one culture, it is important to not be ashamed of yourself. I never want any Native American or Hispanic person to feel displaced or afraid to show their culture, so I show both of mine in hopes it helps people be more understanding for the next generation.

Serenity Gaskin is a recent Early College high school graduate, and current Honors student at UT-El Paso, pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Education, with aspirations to attend law school and emphasize in Educational Law. Gaskin hopes to drive cultural inclusion in her future classroom so the next generation of students learn to embrace each other’s differences with love and respect.