- (Photo: SEGHS)
- (Photo: Jose Cisneros/SEGHS)
For most Americans, the first Thanksgiving brings to mind images of pilgrims and Indians, a fierce winter, and hopeful British settlers coming to America to found a "New England."
Today, across the country, schools and communities reenact events featuring black-clad Europeans with funny hats, generic Native Americans with feathers, and food items like turkey and pumpkin pie.
Yet the first Thanksgiving may have taken place years earlier in a much warmer climate with a completely different cast of characters.
Some have argued that the real first Thanksgiving in America happened not in 1621 in Massachusetts but rather in 1598 in Texas. It was there, near to what is now San Elizario, that Conquistador leader Don Juan De Oñate gave thanks for the progress of a settlement expedition.
Al Borrego, artist and spokesman for the San Elizario Genealogical and Historical Society, told The Christian Post about the historical event.
"Oñate, colonizer of New Mexico, entered what is now the United States, near San Elizario, Texas on April 20, 1598 at the banks of the Rio Bravo," said Borrego.
"They built a church with a nave large enough to hold the expedition (over 500) held a mass followed by the 'Toma' (official taking possession of the territory the river drained into) followed by a feast and celebration and even a comedy in the afternoon."
The San Eliazario celebration had all the key trappings of a Thanksgiving, right down to the local indigenous population joining in the meal.
In the present day, the people of San Eliazario observe the occasion with reenactments of the arrival of the Conquistador party and their giving of thanks.
While occurring 23 years after San Eliazario, the Plymouth Rock Thanksgiving is often considered the "First Thanksgiving" in North America. The pilgrims' dinner in what became colonial Massachusetts has been widely celebrated with plays, paintings, and its own place in the national consciousness of America.
So why has San Elizario not been given the honors that the Plymouth Rock celebration has received over the years? Borrego told CP that he believed this was because of the region not becoming part of the United States until long after America's independence, whereas Massachusetts was there from the onset.
"We like November Thanksgiving," said Borrego, who noted that one of the perks of living in San Eliazario was that "we get to celebrate twice!"