Many of history’s expeditions in the United States passed through what is now known as the El Paso Mission Trail. The largest and most famous of the expeditions was that of Juan de Oñate who reached the south banks of the Rio Grande in April 1598.
On April 30, 1598, the hungry and thirsty travelers celebrated a Thanksgiving Mass and feast to celebrate the survival of their expedition. The feast included game by the Spaniards and fish by the natives of the region. This significant date is considered to be the “First Thanksgiving” celebrated in the present-day United States.
During the feast, Oñate read “La Toma” (taking possession) which declared the land that was drained by the river to be the possession of King Phillip II of Spain. This marked the beginning of Spanish colonization in the American Southwest.