LatinaLista — It’s a chapter in history that historians have known about since 1965 but nobody likes to rock the boat especially when that boat is the esteemed Mayflower.
In 1965, historian Michael Gannon revealed that 56 years before the Pilgrim’s Thanksgiving at Plymouth Rock, there was one held at St. Augustine, Florida between a group of Spanish conquistadores and the Timucua Indians.
The Spaniards were led by a conquistador named Pedro Menendez de Avila.
Pedro Menendez de AvilÃ©s
At that true first Thanksgiving, it wasn’t turkey that was main dish of the meal but something near and dear in all Latino diets — frijoles! Actually, bean soup to be more exact.
Yet, if this bit of history has been known since 1965, why hasn’t it been taught in schools and to new generations of U.S. citizens?
Why haven’t the history books been rewritten to include this important fact?
Why didn’t more of us know about it?
The easy answer is people don’t like to upset tradition.
Yet, because we can thank the English for writing much of our history — from their perspective — we are now faced with cleaning it up to set the record straight.
There’s no doubt going to be a faction of conservatives in the country who would rather turn a blind eye to any kind of historical footnote acknowledging the greater part Spanish-speakers had in the founding of this country and celebrating the first Thanksgiving.
Though St. Augustine has always been touted as the oldest settlement in the “New World,” it always got shuffled to the bottom of the “early settlements” deck with Plymouth Rock or Jamestown taking precedence over it.
Some are trying to change this grossly inaccurate perspective of history.
Hispanic members of the State Board of Education announced an initiative on November 11 at the University of Texas-Brownsville- Texas Southmost College (UTB-TSC) campus to require Texas’ public school curriculum to properly acknowledge the contributions Hispanics, women and native Americans.
State board members Mary Helen Berlanga of Corpus Christi, Rene NuÃ±ez of El Paso and Rick Agosto of San Antonio, will join historians, history professors and other experts at a 10 a.m. news conference in the courtyard of the Education and Business Complex at UTB-TSC to announce plans to push for an inclusive Texas curriculum.
The problem is well documented, said Julio Noboa, an assistant professor of history at the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College who helped organize the event, and whose book, “Leaving Latinos out of History: Teaching U.S. History in Texas” documents the extent to which Hispanics have been ignored.
“One of the most shocking omissions is that in all of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills curriculum for U.S. history, the term Hispanic, Latino, Mexican or Mexican American is never mentioned,” Noboa said.
To purposely ignore the Latino and Native American roles in the early settlement of the United States serves no other purpose than a racially motivated intention to keep the history of this country Anglo and male.
Luckily, those people who believe that the truth needs to be shared with everyone are taking matters into their own hands.
Robyn Gioia is a fifth grade elementary school teacher and a children’ book author. Her newest book Pilgrim: America’s REAL First Thanksgiving recounts the story of Pedro MenÃ©ndez de AvilÃ©s and the country’s first Thansgiving.
Robyn feels it’s important to set the historical record straight and that there’ no better place to start than in our nation’s classrooms.
It’s especially important for the self-esteem of Latino children for whom many still feel like outsiders when it comes to learning about the history of the country.
“…for most people, time is short and history is long,” said Dr. de la Teja, a Cuban-American who is also president of the Texas State Historical Association…
For Dr. de la Teja, Hispanic children need to see themselves as part of the mainstream if they are to participate and contribute to it. They need to feel they’re a part of our story.
In addition, “the lessons of citizenship, patriotism, and community-building are ideas we need to convey in terms relevant to them,” he said.
What better way to learn those lessons than from role models who are part of the historical record?
It’s time to rewrite history — with the truth.