BY SARAH VRBA Wide Open Country
They say that everything is bigger in Texas, maybe even its history.
The old Thanksgiving tale always includes some starving Puritan colonists, helpful Native Americans and New England lore. But El Paso, Texas might have played host to the first Thanksgiving celebration.
Depending on who you ask, this gut-busting American tradition might have really happened back in 1598 (not 1621 like we’ve always been told).
The story goes that Spanish loyalist Juan de Oñate went on a fame- and land-seeking trek north from Mexico in 1598. He followed the Rio Grande with a group of about 500 and ended up in modern-day El Paso.
The expedition, including women and children, went without supplies for a number of days. So when they hit water, a few helpful Native American hands and a place to rest you can imagine the jubilant relief.
Oñate said a mass, a prayer of thanks and claimed the land for the Spanish crown, of course.
El Paso residents have been reenacting this little-known nugget of Texas history since 1989 and they don’t plan on stopping.
The Texas society Daughters of the American Colonists also claim an original right to Thanksgiving in Texas. They claim the famous Coronado expedition held a mass and had a drink of thanks in the Texas Panhandle in 1541.
Apparently, New England has plenty of competition on her hands for the title of best Thanksgiving origin story.