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Marking a special day out here, in the far western reaches of Texas, reaching back over the centuries to recall a day of celebration and thanks? near the end of a long and arduous journey.

Marking a time when a band of European settlers were seeking new opportunities in a new land. It was a venture that did not pass quickly or easily, there were delays of all sorts – some natural, and others political. Even by the standards of that time, centuries ago, the journey challenged the bodies and the souls of all – men, women, and children – yet they persevered until they reached the gateway to their destination. There, on the banks of the waters, they paused to celebrate, and give thanks.

There was a religious observance there, on the banks, along with political proclamations and the performance of a play written by one of the European settlers. And there was a great feast, with food provided by the new arrival, and by the local indigenous peoples who had lived there for uncounted years. It was a a event of sharing, to which all were welcome … an all-too-short time of hospitality between the two groups.

“We were happy that our trials were over,” one participant recalled, “as happy as were the passengers in the Ark when they saw the dove returning with the olive branch in his beak, bringing tidings that the deluge had subsided.”

The time? April 30, 1598. The place? The banks of the Rio del Norte (more commonly known today as the Rio Grande), which would someday become the community of San Elizario, near the city of El Paso, Texas. The new arrivals to this part of the New World? A group of 500 Spaniards that included soldiers and priests, colonists with their wives and children, and livestock – all led by Don Juan de O?ate.

Out here, we call it the First Thanksgiving. Needless to say, there is some debate. There are plenty of claimants to that title in various locations around the country (including that observance by a band of English Puritans in Plymouth, Massachusetts), but they all came years – some, even decades – after O?ate’s celebration.

Me? I’ll mark Thanksgiving in November, along with almost everyone else … though the meal I put out that day will probably include green chile in the cornbread stuffing, and tamales on the platter next to the turkey …

?Damos gracias!

There's a saying around here, something like, "I wasn't born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could!" That's me. I'm a 'dang Yankee from back-east' who settled in the Lone Star State after some extended stays in the eastern U.S., and New Mexico. I worked as an archaeologist for a few years before dusting off my second major in English, and embarking on a 25-year career in journalism. Since then, I've embraced the dark side of the force, and now work in PR for a community college in Midland, Texas.

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