Heritage, Volume 8, Number 2, Spring 1990 Page: 20
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By Alex Apostolides
Drawings by Jose Cisneros from the book
Riders Across the Centuries: Horsemen of the
Spanish Borderlands, Texas Western Press,
the University of Texas at El Paso, 1984.
T he year was 1598. The place, a
bosque of thick and tangled
undergrowth along the banks of
the Rfo Bravo, the river that was
to become known as the Rfo Grande del
Norte. One day this place would be known
as San Elizario, and a city called El Paso
would grow about fifteen miles upstream.
For now, it was a place for resting after the
long and grueling march from the sand
dunes of Samalayuca, a stopping place for
Juan de Ofiate's expedition, on its way to
see just what was what in this unknown
There were 400 men and 138 families
in de Ofate's band. Eighty-three wagons
and ox carts carried all their worldly goods.
They drove a herd of more than 3,000
sheep and goats, horses, mules, and cattle.
Ofiate had come north with more in
mind than exploration. His people were to
be the nucleus of a colony, adding to the
glory of the King of Spain.
And here now, on that twentieth day
of April in 1598, they celebrated the First
Thanksgiving in the New World; saw the
first-ever dramatic presentation in what
one day was to become part of Texas, a skit
by Captain Marcos Farfan de los Godos.
The Thanksgiving feast done, de Ofate
read the Toma, the proclamation annexing
all this new land for the King,and the history
of our part of Texas officially began.
Ofate's band wasn't the first foreign
presence here. It's moot, but they say old
Cabeza de Vaca stumbled through these
parts in 1536. He and his three companions-Dorantes,
Castillo, and Estevanico
the Moor-had been wandering
through what was to become Texas on an
epic eight-year journey, heading for the
safety of the Culiacan valley on Mexico's
They'd been shipwrecked in Galveston
Bay; had lived with the Indians,
both friendly and-not; had gained a reputation
as healers; and this is what had gotten
The report they gave to the viceroy in
Mexico City was to open the gates to exploration
of our Southwest, change the
face of this part of the country forevermore.
They weren't the first, though.
Human beings had made this part of
Texas home for thousands of years before
the first Spaniard ever poked his nose over
Long before-ten thousand years and
more-this desert land held inland seas
and huge, forgotten beasts, hunted down
El Adelantado Don Juan de Oiiate-1598
HERITAGE * SPRING 1990
Here’s what’s next.
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 8, Number 2, Spring 1990, periodical, Spring 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45428/m1/20/: accessed May 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.