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.
More than 100 costumed participants re-enacted the celebration in the 1989 re-creation performed at the Chamizal National Memorial, a few miles from where the original observance took place. Tigua Indians of El Paso played the parts of the natives of the region who met Oñate at the Rio Grande.
San Elizario held a fiesta to note that the actual celebration by Oñate's expedition took place near the city, and a historical marker telling of the observance was unveiled.
With El Paso's entry into the Thanksgiving sweepstakes, Texas now has two observances in what's becoming a crowded field of locales vying for attention as the site of the first Thanksgiving.
There's no doubt that today's Thanksgiving tradition is New England born and bred. It's not a single tradition, however, but a combination of traditions, according to one researcher. Randall Mason, a researcher for Plimoth Plantation Inc., which operates a model 17th century village at Plymouth, Mass., says today's celebration is a cross between a British harvest festival and a special day of religious thanksgiving, both originally observed by pilgrims in New England.