AS families all across the USA are gathering today to celebrate Thanksgiving, one of the biggest holidays in the American calendar, new information points to Spanish sailors and explorers being the first to mark the occasion.
The Museum of Natural History in Florida has said that the accepted notion of English pilgrims beginning the tradition in 1621 is actually untrue, and that it was the Spanish who kicked things off 50 years earlier in 1565 in Florida.
Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez de Aviles along with some 800 soldiers and sailors are now revealed to have been the first to go to a special Thanksgiving mass and then sit down with Native Americans in the area for a Thanksgiving meal.
Researcher Kathleen Deagan at the Florida University has revealed the Spanish involvement and she said that there wasn´t a turkey in sight at the feast. The local Timucuan people are thought to have shared ‘corn, fresh fish, berries or beans’ at the meal and there may well have been Caribbean offerings, which Menendez collected in Puerto Rico on the way to Florida.
After losing great numbers of his fleet on the crossing from Spain, Menendez wanted to hold a mass of thanksgiving and the feast which took place afterwards is, according to Deagan, the first true Thanksgiving.
Gifford Waters of the Florida Museum said that the Anglicisation of the US has played a part in overlooking the Spanish genesis of the holiday.
“The fact is, the first colony was a melting pot and the cultural interactions of the many groups of people in the colony were much more like the US is today than the British colonies ever were.”
“I think the true story of the first Thanksgiving is especially important, since there is a growing Hispanic population in the US and the role of the Spanish colony in La Florida is often neglected in the classroom,” Waters added.