The community of Ysleta, Texas, was settled between October 9 and October 12, 1680, when Spanish conquistadors, Franciscan clerics and Tigua Indians took refuge along the southern bank of the Rio Grande. This is the oldest European settlement in the area that is the present-day U.S. state of Texas. These people were fleeing the Pueblo Revolt in New Mexico.
Antonio de Otermín, the Spanish Governor, placed Fray Francisco de Ayeta as administrator of the refuge camp of those fleeing Popé's rebellion. The refuge camp and mission was placed about 3 miles south of the Rio Grande at the time. The Rio Grande was prone to both flooding and silt deposit. This caused it to switch courses during flood season as the old course would tend to be blocked with sand bars. The course changes would destroy settlements, but also left a nutrient-rich flat land. The area at the time was well suited to agriculture using the water from the river. The river would tend to return to a path along a hard sand ridge about two to three miles north of the present border.
The settlement and associated mission moved several times over the next few hundred years. In 1691 the original refuge mission was replaced by an adobe structure. A flood in 1740 washed away that mission. It was rebuilt on higher ground four years later. The Tigua of Ysleta were among the most faithful Christian converts in the area and the Spanish were keen to keep the settlement healthy and vibrant. In the period between 1829 and 1831 the river moved much further south than usual. In 1836 the new country of Texas claimed the new channel of the Rio Grande as the boundary. In 1848, with the ratification of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Ysleta was ceded to the United States.
The neighboring community and county seat of San Elizario was a center of Hispanic influence in an increasing Anglo- dominated post-Civil War period. In 1873 Ysleta made a bid to become county seat, but the elections were ignored or inconclusive until 1878 after the Salt War period. In response, the people of Ysleta incorporated as a Texas city in 1880. There were internal disputes as to whether the tax burden was worth the status as a city. There was also much opposition from the growing community of El Paso as to whether an "Indian" city should be the county seat. The railroad did not come to Ysleta, and in a strongly disputed election in which counted votes were nearly three times the number of voters, the county seat was moved to El Paso in 1883. The town government dissolved in 1895.
A fire in 1907 damaged the mission. In 1916, the Rio Grande was dammed and the area was heavily irrigated. The resulting rise in the water table brought salt to the surface and the land became suitable for only salt-tolerant crops such as cotton.
In the 1960s, Tom Diamond sued on the behalf of the Tiwa (known as the Tigua tribe in Spanish). The state of Texas was reluctant to recognize any Native American tribes, but in 1967 the Tiguas were formed legally as the Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo. The tribe opened the very successful Speaking Rock casino but after major lobbying efforts by Jack Abramoff the casino was shut down.