First Thanksgiving, El Paso, Texas, 1598

Thanksgiving Texas 1598First Thanksgiving, El Paso, Texas, 1598

One settler wrote about their Thanksgiving festival:

On 30 April 1598, day of the Ascension of our Lord, at this Rio del Norte, Governor Don Juan de Oñate took possession of all the kingdoms and provinces of New Mexico, in the name of King Felipe II, our lord, in the presence of Juan Pérez de Donis, royal notary and secretary of the jurisdiction and expedition. 

There was a sermon, a great ecclesiastical and secular celebration, a great salute and rejoicing, and in the afternoon, a comedy.  The royal standard was blessed and placed in charge of Francisco de Sosa Peñalosa, the royal ensign.

New Mexico Possession Certified by Notary

Other accounts say the Franciscans celebrated mass, and Father Martinez delivered a sermon.  Then in a natural park, in a grove of cottonwood trees, Oñate read in a firm voice, the official act of possession from a long document, that was certified by the royal notary, making it a legal claim.  It was witnessed by the priests and Oñate’s senior officers.

La Toma and Holy Cross

The army observed, drawn in formation on horseback, all suited in polished armor.  When their commander and governor was done speaking,  they fired musket shots into the air, while trumpets blew, and settlers cheered.  Oñate then signed and sealed the official act, known as La Toma, while the royal ensign lifted and waved the royal banner.  Oñate personally nailed a holy cross  and the royal standard to a tree, kneeled, and said a prayer.  The site is known as the Robledo Campsite.

First Thanksgiving, with Mansos Indians Near El Paso, 1598

At a village near El Paso, near current day San Elizario, the expedition invited the local Indians, named Mansos, to be their guests at a feast of Thanksgiving for their safe passage across the Chihuahuan Desert.  The last 4 days on the desert were without water.  They ate cactus, roots and weeds to survive.  They celebrated and ate fish, duck, geese and deer.

This First Thanksgiving, near El Paso in 1598, was over 20 years before the Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving in 1621 at Plymouth Colony.  Before the English arrived at Jamestown Colony, Virginia, in 1607, the Spanish had already established hundreds of settlements in the New World.

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