EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — If you thought that the first Thanksgiving took place in 1621 with the Plymouth colonist and Wampanoag Native Americans feasting together, you’ll be surprised to learn that the El Paso area played host to a Thanksgiving between colonists and Native Americans more than 20 years earlier.
The Spanish expedition of Juan de Onate with the Manso Native Americans has a special place right here in the El Paso area. On April 30, 1598, the Onate expedition reached a location in El Paso’s Lower Valley, somewhere between Socorro and Fabens, leading to a celebratory feast.
El Paso historian Fred Morales said that the Mission Trail Association commemorates that 1598 Thanksgiving in San Elizario right after Easter.
“Our Thanksgiving feast involved several hundred people: the Spanish Army that Juan de Onate brought, along with the priest and the Manso Indians,” he said.
Although today’s Thanksgiving feast consists of turkey and stuffing, the dishes were a bit different in the 1500s.
“They feasted the entire Spanish army with eating geese, duck and fish, primarily with the Manso Indians,” Morales said. “Onate had found a group of trees and had built a chapel there and Fray Alonso Martinez read a mass sermon. Some were converted into Christianity.”
The 1598 Thanksgiving isn’t the only one on record. Morales said there were nine other confirmed feasts before 1621.
“Interesting to research the many Thanksgiving feasts that occurred in the United States of America … they all had events that led to the creation of celebrating of feasting,” said Morales.