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Historians Agree: Spanish was Language of Choice at First Thanksgiving. So Why Don’t We Know?

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 Avilés
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 Nuñez 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 Menéndez de Avilés 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.

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  • Horace
    November 21, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    Perhaps, Marisa, it was because the Spanish having abandoned Florida and the Founding Fathers having established a successful English heritage dominated democracy promulgated a Christian society whose traditions included giving thanks to God. Don’t worry, once Hispanics become dominant in the U.S., they can rewrite tradition and history according to their own liking. One thing you can’t change however, it is that it is that democracy that the predominantly British extraction Founding Fathers established under our Constitution that is unique and emulated by every democracy on earth today, including Mexico. And that counts more than any Thanksgiving Day tradition.

  • Frank
    November 21, 2007 at 6:57 pm

    Well all I can say is enjoy your bean soup tomorrow. As for me I am having turkey.
    Tamales aren’t a traditional American dish for Thanksgiving either but from what I understand many Hispanic households serve them as a holiday dish.
    I say it is the spirit of Thanksgiving that we should celebrate and it doesn’t matter what food is served.

  • Frank
    November 21, 2007 at 6:58 pm

    By the way, I doubt that Spanish was the language of choice by the native indians.

  • Crock
    November 21, 2007 at 7:42 pm

    I have to agree with Dr de la Teja, the policies have been always to make the minorities feel like they live in an occupied territory where history and heritage of other states are not part of the whole country. Our country is not a colony of the thirteen colonies that’s why history has to be review once again. I would not discuss democracy where only two parties can win or where corporate money decides who is the candidate or where the electoral college give the presidency to the one who get less votes. Else a democracy that used to bar minorities and women from voting.
    I just give thanks to God for the people who act to his word, not to hate, help the poor and love each other.

  • Frank
    November 21, 2007 at 10:00 pm

    And I thank God for law abiding Americans and immigrants who abide by them and enter our country legally.
    One of the ten commandments is “Thou shalt not steal”. Illegal aliens are stealing from Americans and spitting on our laws.

  • Horace
    November 21, 2007 at 10:25 pm

    It’s so sad that people like Marisa have to politicize Thanksgiving. Rather than accepting it as a unifying concept. It seems that this holiday has to undergo diparagement and become just another bone of contention by ethnocentrics. Thanks for messing up my Thanksgiving, Marisa. Are your blogging comments for Christmas, New Years, Easter and the Fourth of July going to be wet blankets, as well?

  • Crock
    November 21, 2007 at 11:57 pm

    Frank, forgive me if I am wrong here, but wasn’t part of Jesus’ teachings about loving your neighbor and setting good examples? Did I miss the part where Jesus said “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”.
    I can hand you a big rock if you like.

  • miguel
    November 22, 2007 at 4:30 am

    Horace and Frank… The truth is bitter pill to swallow at times but please use to day to thank God for what you have here in this great country and make it a day of unifying with understanding.
    So your Thanksgiving Day was not first. So what? You still believe in its principle of living side by side with the natives that adopted your ancestors into their country don’t you?

  • Frank
    November 22, 2007 at 7:34 am

    Jesus also said not to lay down with thieves. The most compassionate thing we could do for the Mexican people is to close our borders and force them to stand on their own two feet and make changes in their own country. I don’t think Jesus had any admiration for cowards and thieves.
    Do you really think that Jesus would have preached taking from others for the betterment of oneself? Especially if it were to affect those being stolen from negatively? I don’t think so. Jesus also taught personal responsibility and obeying the laws of the land.
    Helping others within their own country is one thing, giving away our country to them is quite another.
    Since yesterday I have read many versions of what constituted the first Thanksgiving. Marisa’s is only one of them. It doesn’t bother me which one was first. I already stated that it is a day of thankfullness for what we all have. By the way miguel, why do you only mention my ancestors as being adopted by the natives? What about those Spanish ancestors of yours? My ancestors didn’t come over here till the U.S. was established as a country anyway. They were welcomed by the U.S. government.

  • miguel
    November 22, 2007 at 9:05 am

    frank said By the way miguel, why do you only mention my ancestors as being adopted by the natives? What about those Spanish ancestors of yours? My ancestors didn’t come over here till the U.S. was established as a country anyway. They were welcomed by the U.S. government.
    frank the reason I only mention you is that mine were here at the time.
    So you show up late and demanded all the changes? Some things stay the same even to this day.

  • Frank
    November 22, 2007 at 11:08 am

    miguel, but aren’t you part Spanish too? If so, part of your ancestors came and were just as bad as any other Europeans that came here.
    My ancestors didn’t come here and demand changes. They assimilated into the U.S. society that was already in place.

  • adriana
    November 22, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    Quote from Frank: Tamales aren’t a traditional American dish for Thanksgiving either but from what I understand many Hispanic households serve them as a holiday dish.
    Ha, try telling that my my grandmother, born and raised in the USA and her parents, also born and raised in the USA. If you have ever been to Santa Fe, NM or traveled through Texas, Arizona, and the rest of the American SW, you will discover that there are a lot of traditional American dishes that come from the Native Americans.
    Why are you so upset with this blog post? Marisa didn’t say anything that excludes or disparages your own Thanksgiving traditions.

  • Frank
    November 22, 2007 at 10:40 pm

    Who’s upset? I am just putting my two cents worth in just like everyone else.

  • Youffraita
    November 23, 2007 at 5:21 am

    One of my professors told us that, contrary to what one usually hears, the first printing press in the U.S. arrived about 1540 or so IIRC. Because it was a Spanish-language press, located in the Southwest, it doesn’t (or didn’t back then) make it into the history books.
    Instead, the historians generally report the arrival of the first English-language press, some 80-100 years later.

  • George
    November 23, 2007 at 9:18 am

    Unfortunately, Marisa, there are no Hispanics carring on this tradition from from the landing of the Spanish in Florida. You seem to fail to understand that Thanksgiving is more than carrying on a tradition from the Pilgrims, one that was local, but has become a national thanks to God for all he has given us, in spite of all our shortcomings as a nation. I agree with Horace, politicizing Thanksgiving only divides our country in a time when we need to pull together as one.

  • Crock
    November 23, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    George the separation of the church and the state prevented Hispanics from celebrating religious rites sponsored by the government.

  • George
    November 23, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    Would you please expound upon your last comment, Crock.

  • Diana Joe
    November 26, 2007 at 9:19 pm

    -“has become a national thanks to God for all he has given us,”
    ——————->Posted by George | 23 de Noviembre 2007 a las 09:18 AM
    UGh- excuse me George, but you seem to be under some ROMANTIC impression that the entire nation is thank-ful for what God has given them? That is where you are wrong. Obviously you must be one to have linear believes that everything was hunky-dory from the onset of organised religion,and that perhaps God as you perceive him, EXPECTS to be THANKED?
    Where do those that have different beliefs fit in with your linear mentality?(for example why is God a he and not a she)-ah because you have all the answers huh?!
    For one there has always been poverty and homelessness in this, the greatest of nations-do you really believe that a hungry and homeless family feels thankful when they are forced to feel so hungry and left-out of the whole thanksgiving deal?!
    Get a grip!
    oh yeah- so they get a meal deal at the local gym-but they stay homeless and they stay hungry the next day! And the cycle repeats itself.
    We can house every man woman and child in this country-but we’re not designed that way-we’re plain pinchi.

  • Frank
    November 27, 2007 at 8:06 am

    Just because someone is a Christian and they thank THEIR God for what they feel he has given them, is no reason to attack them. We all know that there are different religious beliefs in this country and we have freedom of religion and to express our views within our religions.
    We can’t solve the problem of poverty just because we are religious. Much needs to be done within our government to solve poverty.

  • diana joe
    November 27, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    If the government applied the same tactics and desire to overcome the USA’s WAR against PROVERTY-which it never has or will,we would not sit around thinking eh-whatever.
    We really have no intention to create solutions do we Frank?
    Hunger in America is a huge huge problem and a shameful one at that!
    How is it that a country like my United States proclaims itself to be “The Greastest” of civilised nations have such an obvious lack of compassion and absolution for the most meagered of American needs?
    If we haven’t been concerned how we should feed the impoverished how the heck can we jump to the next supposed problem (immigration)and use the rule of law to clamp down hard on everything and everybody? The rule of law doesn’t look very promising,and if the rule of law was to really play it’s part into the compensation of debts owed to it’s citizens (for knowingly and willingly allowing them to starve and be undermined)I truly believe hunger and homelessness in America would be a line in a horror film or book?!
    And our politicians would run and hide!

  • Frank
    November 27, 2007 at 6:56 pm

    It isn’t up to me or any other citizen to solve poverty and hunger problems in their country. It is the responsibility of our government to care about all of our citizens and come up with solutions.
    Sounds like you have a lot of problems with our government, take it up with them, not me.

  • diana joe
    November 27, 2007 at 9:44 pm

    Frank says=
    “It isn’t up to me or any other citizen to solve poverty and hunger problems in their country. It is the responsibility of our government to care about all of our citizens and come up with solutions.”
    It is up to us FRANK-what the hell are you thinking?!
    Get off that linear wagon,and start giving a CARE!
    Why the hell are you so interested in immigration when the CITIZENS of our COUNTRY USA are so hungry?!!
    you baffle me!
    ~ 35.5 million people (including 12.6 million children) live in households that experience hunger or the risk of hunger. This represents more than one in ten households in the United States
    ~ 4.0 percent of U.S. households experience hunger. Some people in these households frequently skip meals or eat too little, sometimes going without food for a whole day. 11.1 million people, including 430 thousand children, live in these homes.
    ~ 6.9 percent of U.S. households are at risk of hunger. Members of these households have lower quality diets or must resort to seeking emergency food because they cannot always afford the food they need. 24.4 million people, including 12.2 million children, live in these homes.
    ~ Research shows that preschool and school-aged children who experience severe hunger have higher levels of chronic illness, anxiety and depression, and behavior problems than children with no hunger. —–if you ask me our government needs to WIN the WAR on HUNGER-not FREAKIN” OIL

  • Frank
    November 28, 2007 at 8:39 am

    Of course I am concerned about hunger and poverty is this country but there is only so much a mere citizen can do. We can only make a small dent in it through donations, volunteer work, etc. The grand scale of it has to be solved by the government.
    What has illegal immigration to do with it? They are two seperate issues. One can’t be concerned about more than one issue? As a matter of fact many low skilled American workers can’t get jobs due to the illegal invaders stealing jobs and thereforeare starving. Guess you don’t care about them though, do you?

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