VIEWSnFrom El Paso to PlymouthnHispanic Contributions to American CulturenLast November, a delegation of citizens from the farnWest Texas border city of El Paso made the longnjourney to Plymouth, Massachusetts. The purpose of the ElnPasoans’ visit was to challenge Plymouth’s long-held — andnnearly universally accepted — claim that it was the site of thenfirst Thanksgiving to be held on what is now United Statesnsoil.n”A/ contrario,” said the residents of El Paso. Instead ofnhaving taken place in Plymouth in 1620, the first Thanksgivingnwas held near El Paso 22 years previously, in 1598.nMoreover, asserted the revisionists, the United States shouldnhonor a long-forgotten hero, Juan de Onate, the leader ofnthe caravan of brave Spanish settlers and conquistadoresnwho not only celebrated the first American Thanksgivingnbut staged the first play ever performed on what is todaynAmerican soil.nThe historical mini-controversy soon fizzled out. But thenstory of Juan de Onate and his expedition symbolizes annaspect of America’s cultural identity that is destined to grow.nAs the contributions of Hispanics to North Americannhistory are brought into sharper focus, the United States hasnno choice but to ascertain who the Hispanics are. How didnthey get here, and how do they fit into the nation’snconsciousness? Inevitably, this leads to the question not onlynof assimilation, but of the real meaning of assimilation as thenRichard Estrada is a columnist for the Dallas MorningnNews.n18/CHRONICLESnby Richard Estradannnworld moves in the direction of greater global integration.nNo region of the country is as influenced by Hispanicnculture as the Southwest. The history of the Spanish andntheir Hispanic-Indian descendants in the Southwest begannwith the wanderings of Alvar Nufiez Cabeza de Vaca. Thensurvivor of a shipwreck in the Gulf of Mexico, Cabeza denVaca — along with two companions, one of whom was anblack Moor — walked across Texas and northern Mexiconbeginning in 1536. Soon after Cabeza de Vaca’s return tonSpanish civilization in northern New Spain (modern-daynMexico), the first Spanish expedition into today’s Southwestnoccurred between 1540 and 1542 under the leadership ofnFrancisco Vasquez de Coronado. Members of this expeditionntrekked over modern-day Arizona, New Mexico, andnKansas, and were the first Europeans ever to witness thenspectacular beauty of the Grand Canyon. One of my bestnfriends — an El Pasoan, it so happens — claims to be andescendant of a member of this expedition.nIn the 17th century, Spain proceeded to establish setdementsnalong a north-south corridor that includes moderndaynEl Paso, Texas (historically more a part of New Mexiconand Chihuahua thafi of Texas), and Albuquerque and SantanFe, New Mexico. In the 18th century, settlements such asnSan Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angelesnwere established in modern-day Texas and California.nRoman Catholic proselytizing always attended Spanishnpolitical conquest. To the historian Herbert Eugene Bolton,nthe Southwest was, therefore, the “rim of Christendom.”n