Thanksgiving in Teypana


So, Thanksgiving — the one we do with the turkey, the dressing, the pumpkin pie and the two aspirin before sleeping it off — has arrived.

Juan de Oñate came through here, though, 22 years before the Mayflower, after celebrating Thanksgiving near El Paso early in 1598. Even before that, Spaniards celebrated Thanksgiving in 1565 at St. Augustine, Fla., and by now we know that a good deal about the Plymouth Rock story is myth. That’s OK, I still had extra dressing with my turkey.

Forty-five days after his El Paso stop, Don Juan and his 500 cohorts, 83 ox carts, 24 supply wagons and 7,000 head of sheep and cattle came north and spent the month of June near Qualacú, south of San Pedro. They later passed through my property near Teypana, which they named Socorro, and historian Paul Harden was writing it all down in his notebook.

We’d long since downed and digested our Thanksgiving enchiladas, but Oñate was not to be denied. We sent him on to Taco Bell in Pilabo, but he later returned, remembering how he’d earlier received “socorro” (help) from the natives living here in Luis López — er, Teypana.

Not many Piro natives live on my property anymore. The fire ants have chased most of them away. The Socorro Electric Coop, besides, turned down Oñate’s request for their names. Several were seen at Puerto Seguro Safe Harbor and later at Farmers Market on the Plaza, and some even took in a show at the theater on Manzanares.

Was M Mountain on the early Spaniards’ agenda to visit? Not likely, since the miners had already renamed it, referred to by Oñate simply as “Montaña.” Did they do some sight-seeing at the Very Large Array? Mrs. Oñate — Isabel de Tolosa — had a better idea. She insisted they do some shopping at the Coronado Mall in Albuquerque — so much for the VLA that day, and they left the 7,000 sheep and cattle back at camp.

You tell me I am celebrating the summer Thanksgiving in November. I live in two worlds, I answer, the one on the trail with the Castellano kids, and the other in the bicentennial plenum. Time is binary, ever since our clocks went digital.

Teypana mysteriously disappeared when the Spanish explorers put in place their reductionist policy, which resettled natives to a limited number of sites, to ease up their administration. The place went high and dry, anyway, when Walmart settled on Pilabo for their base of sales. Pilabo even took our name and became Socorro.

With the Plymouth Rock saga stacked with myth, even Oñate’s tale no doubt has some blur of its own. Don Juan and his troupe didn’t spend all their time traipsing the testy trails across the Valle de los Muertos, as we’d always thought. For most of the trip, they came up I-25 — hey, those early pioneering conquistadores weren’t stupid. It’s not true, either, that Don Juan and his friends brought the 83 ox carts and 24 supply wagons so as to avoid gasoline-driven vehicles, with gas priced over $3 a gallon. There were other reasons, but we won’t go into them here.

Don Juan did call off his visit to New Mexico Tech, after hearing that the Defense Department was basing four drone type crafts at Tech’s Playas Training Center. With the havoc the U.S. is causing around the world with its drones, Oñate was taking no chances.

At that early American Thanksgiving near El Paso, Oñate’s crew had already celebrated with Mass and a meal of fish, ducks and geese. The expedition’s intent was largely religious. So it didn’t take much for us to convince Don Juan to relax and enjoy the holiday. It’s Thanksgiving, all right, and we’ve got a lot to be grateful for.