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Spanish Explorer Gave Thanks in St. Augustine, Florida

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Florida Menéndez de AvilésGAINESVILLE, FLORIDA—Scholars from the University of Florida say that the first Thanksgiving took place in St. Augustine, Florida, 50 years before the Pilgrims arrived in the New World on the Mayflower. Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés arrived in 1565 with 800 soldiers, sailors, and settlers, after losing half of his eight ships to hurricanes and other hardships over the 68-day journey. “A Mass and feast of Thanksgiving was the first thing Menendez did, and he invited all of the local native people who were so curious about them,” Kathleen Deagan, distinguished research curator emerita of historical archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, said in a press release. The meal is thought to have taken place near the mouth of Hospital Creek on the Matanzas River, the site of Menéndez’s original encampment and first colony. Salted pork, red wine, garbanzo beans, olives, sea biscuits, and foods acquired during a stop in the Caribbean were probably on the menu. Timucuan guests may have contributed corn, fish, berries, and beans to the meal. To read more about Spanish Florida, go to "Off the Grid: Mission San Luis."

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