Posted By RichC on November 27, 2014
I couldn’t believe it, but Katelyn and Drew have picked out and set up a real Christmas tree already. I know she is probably anxious for Christmas, but before a tree before Thanksgiving seems a little crazy … but then it is Minnesota?
Christmas aside, it is time to celebrate Thanksgiving … like they did in 1598 in El Paso, Texas. Yes Texas. It seems according to some that in 1598, a few years before the pilgrims in 1621, the first Thanksgiving celebration was in El Paso, Texas. I read a little questionable history about the Spanish explorer Juan de Oñate who may have celebrated the “first Thanksgiving in North America” (although it might be a Texas bias claim?)
It’s an interesting thought though that the Spanish may have “had a thanksgiving” and were breaking bread with the Indians of the area.
Juan de Oñate was a member of a distinguished family that had loyally worked for the Spanish crown. His father had discovered and developed rich mines in Zacatecas, Mexico. Oñate, himself, had opened the mines of San Luis Potosí and performed many other services for the Spanish king. But he wanted to carve an unquestioned place in history by leading an important expedition into unexplored land.
He was granted land in the northern Rio Grande Valley among the Pueblo Indians by the viceroy of New Spain. The viceroy moved to a new post, however, and his successor was slow to grant Oñate permission to begin his expedition. Finally, in 1597, approval came. To reach his new holdings, Oñate chose to bypass the traditional route that followed the Rio Conchos in present-day Mexico to the Rio Grande and then northward along the Rio Grande into New Mexico. In the summer of 1597, Oñate sent Vicente de Zaldívar to blaze a wagon trail from Santa Barbara in southern Chihuahua, along which could be found adequate water supplies. Zaldívar underwent many hardships, including capture by Indians, in carrying out his instructions. No mention of the hardships was made, however, when he made his report to Oñate. (The trail blazed by Zaldívar has become the route of the modern highway between Chihuahua City and El Paso.)
By early March 1598, Oñate’s expedition of 500 people, including soldiers, colonists, wives and children and 7,000 head of livestock, was ready to cross the treacherous Chihuahuan Desert. Almost from the beginning of the 50-day march, nature challenged the Spaniards. First, seven consecutive days of rain made travel miserable. Then the hardship was reversed, and the travelers suffered greatly from the dry weather. On one occasion, a chance rain shower saved the parched colonists.
Finally, for the last five days of the march before reaching the Rio Grande, the expedition ran out of both food and water, forcing the men, women and children to seek roots and other scarce desert vegetation to eat. Both animals and humans almost went mad with thirst before the party reached water. Two horses drank until their stomachs burst, and two others drowned in the river in their haste to consume as much water as possible.
The Rio Grande was the salvation of the expedition, however. After recuperating for 10 days, Oñate ordered a day of thanksgiving for the survival of the expedition. Included in the event was a feast, supplied with game by the Spaniards and with fish by the natives of the region. A mass was said by the Franciscan missionaries traveling with the expedition.