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Ponce de León claims Florida for Spain

Ponce de León claims Florida for Spain



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Near present-day St. Augustine, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León comes ashore on the Florida coast, and claims the territory for the Spanish crown.

Native Americans inhabited the area that became known as Florida for thousands of years before any European contact. Although other European navigators may have sighted the Florida peninsula before, Ponce de León is credited with the first recorded landing and the first detailed exploration of the Florida coast. The Spanish explorer was searching for the “Fountain of Youth,” a fabled water source that was said to bring eternal youth. Ponce de León named the peninsula he believed to be an island “La Florida” because his discovery came during the time of the Easter feast, or Pascua Florida.

READ MORE: The Myth of Ponce de León and the Fountain of Youth

In 1521, he returned to Florida in an effort to establish a Spanish colony. However, hostile Native Americans attacked his expedition soon after landing, and the party retreated to Cuba, where Ponce de León died from a mortal wound suffered during the battle. Successful Spanish colonization of the peninsula finally began at St. Augustine in 1565, and in 1819 the territory passed into U.S. control under the terms of the Florida Purchase Treaty between Spain and the United States.

READ MORE: How St. Augustine Became the First European Settlement in America


Ponce de León lands in Florida

The Spanish explorer landed in the New World on April 3rd, 1513.

The most engaging story about the Spanish adventurer who discovered Florida for Europeans is that he went there in search of the fabled fountain of youth, which restored vigour and sexual energy to those who drank its water. Most historians now dismiss the tradition as itself a fable, but it is still alive and well in Florida. There is a certain irony in the fact that the Sunshine State has long been a favourite retirement haven for elderly Americans, who move there for their declining years.

Juan Ponce de León was born to a noble family in Spain in 1474 and in his teens fought against the Moors in Granada. In 1493 he sailed as a volunteer on Christopher Columbus’ second voyage to the New World, which took him to the island Columbus named Hispaniola (today split between the Dominican Republic and Haiti). He settled there and in 1508 led an expedition to what is now the island of Puerto Rico in search of gold, which he and his men duly discovered. He founded the Spanish colony there and was appointed governor. In 1513 he led three ships on an expedition that reached the east coast of Florida, according to tradition on April 3rd at the place where the city of Saint Augustine stands today. He named his discovery La Florida because it was close to the Christian ‘festival of flowers’, or Pascua Florida, and allegedly as a reference to the new flowering he expected to enjoy from the fountain of youth. After a few days Ponce de León sailed down the coast past the future site of Miami and further on south before returning to Puerto Rico.

In 1521 he led an expedition of 200 settlers with horses, cattle, farming implements and seeds for planting to establish a Spanish colony in La Florida, but when he and his party started to build a settlement they were attacked by the local Indians and he was mortally wounded by a poisoned arrow. He and his people retreated to Cuba, where he died. His body was taken back to Puerto Rico and given honourable burial before the high altar of the Dominican church in San Juan, the island’s principal Spanish settlement. His remains were later transferred to San Juan cathedral.

After further explorations and attempts to colonise Florida by the Spaniards and by French Huguenots, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés arrived in 1565 and founded a Spanish military base at Saint Augustine. He slaughtered the French and established the first permanent European colony on the mainland of what would become the United States. Saint Augustine is the oldest city in the continental US.

The story about Ponce de León and the fountain of youth, it seems, only developed after his death. The idea of such a fountain goes back for centuries in the Old World. Herodotus placed it in Ethiopia and other authors in India. The early Spanish empire builders in the Caribbean heard from local tribespeople about a rich and paradisal region called Bimini and Ponce de León’s voyage in 1513 was undertaken on the orders of the Spanish royal court to search for and colonise Bimini and any other undiscovered lands. The official document talked of finding gold and said nothing of a reinvigorating fountain, but the two ideas had already become linked. In 1535 a history of the West Indies by Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés said that Ponce de León had been hoping to find the rejuvenating waters of Bimini when he landed in Florida.

The tale was repeated by later authors and the tradition developed that the Indians in the Saint Augustine area enjoyed unusual longevity and that they showed Ponce de León the spring they used. He thought it must be the fountain of youth and drank its water himself. Long afterwards, in 1868, a man who bought land close to the harbour in Saint Augustine found a spring with a stone cross by it. In the early 1900s Mrs Louella Day MacConnell of Saint Augustine (known in the city as ‘Diamond Lil’) and her husband contrived to discover a document that described Ponce de León placing a stone cross beside the same spring, which enabled them to create a lucrative Fountain of Youth tourist attraction.

In 1934 workmen planting orange trees at the site came across human remains. The Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC sent a team of archaeologists, who discovered more than 100 skeletons there, dating from European and pre-European times. The result is today’s Fountain of Youth National Archaeological Park on the site of the old Spanish fort, with a reconstruction of the original Indian village. Visitors still drink the water from the spring and the park is one of Saint Augustine’s most popular attractions.


Ponce de León claims Florida for Spain - HISTORY

Juan Ponce de León was the first Spanish explorer to arrive in Florida. Early Spanish explorers were known as conquistadors (kahn-KEYS-ta-dawrz) or "conquerors." While there are no official records, historians believe that Ponce de León was born in 1460 in San Tervas de Campos, Spain.

Early Exploration

In 1493, Ponce de León sailed with Christopher Columbus on Columbus' second voyage to the Americas. He and his family settled on an island in the Caribbean named Hispaniola (Dominican Republic). He became a military commander at this post and was appointed deputy governor.

In 1506, Ponce de León discovered a nearby island named Borinquen. While there, he found large deposits of gold. Soon after his discovery, he left the island. He returned in 1508 on orders from the king of Spain to explore and colonize the island. He renamed the island Puerto Rico. He was the island's governor for two years until the king replaced him with Columbus' son.

Discovery of Florida

Hurt by the King's action, Ponce de León sailed again, this time north through the Bahamas heading towards Florida. He was in search of new lands and treasures. He had also heard of a mythical fountain of youth. Indians spoke of a legendary, magical spring whose water was believed to make older people young again. Ponce de León explored many areas, including the Bahamas and Bimini, for both gold and the mythical fountain, but he never found either.

In late March of 1513, his ships landed on Florida's east coast near present-day St. Augustine. He claimed this beautiful land for Spain. Since he had discovered this country of lavish landscape and beautiful beaches, he was entitled to name it. He named it La Florida (LAH flow REE dah) or "place of flowers."

He decided to continue his exploration of this land and sailed down the coast. He encountered some rough currents at one point and named the area Cape Canaveral which means “Cape of Currents”.

Ponce de León continued down the east coast of Florida and along the keys until he arrived at an island that had many
turtles. He named the island Dry Tortugas because there was no fresh water on the island and “tortugas” means “turtle” in Spanish.

Ponce de León and the Calusa Indians

Continuing up the west coast of Florida, Ponce de León entered the Charlotte Harbor area. As he and his men explored inland for wood and fresh water, they saw the Calusa tribal village at Mound Key. They discovered that the Calusa were an unfriendly tribe. The explorers fled back to their ships and decided to leave the area. They sailed back to Puerto Rico.

Return to Florida

In 1521, Ponce de León returned to Florida again to build a colony. He landed on the gulf beaches between Charlotte Harbor and Estero Bay with over 200 settlers, horses, tools, and seeds. The plan was to set up a farming colony. As they went inland for fresh water, the Calusa ambushed them. Ponce de León was shot in the thigh by an arrow and was seriously wounded. The settlers decided to abandon the settlement and sail back to Cuba.

As a result of his wound, Ponce de León died at the age of 61 in Cuba. He will always be remembered as the brave conquistador who first explored many parts of Florida and searched for the mythical fountain of youth.



Ponce de León claims Florida for Spain - HISTORY

Ponce de Leon led three exploration to Florida. He was killed during his third exploration

Ponce de Leon was the governor of Puerto Rico and due to political intrigue within the Spanish Empire he was encouraged to explore a new “island” that was said to be to the Northwest. On March 4th 1513, set forth on an expedition that he financed from Puerto Rico. On April 2nd they sited land, and which they called Florida. To this day the exact location of the landing has been disputed, some believe it was where St Augustine is today others believe it is Melbourne Beach. After exploring the area the fleet explored further south. Leon sailed through the Florida Keys and then up the West coast of Florida. After eight months he returned to Puerto Rico. Ponce de Leon was greeted as a hero in Spain and given a further charter to explore Florida. He sailed with a new fleet in 1515, but when Ferdinand died in Spain the exploration was cut short.

In 1521 Ponce de Leon led another expedition to Florida. This one goal was to settle Florida. They arrived at the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River. There they were attacked by the Calusa indians. Leon was injured in the attack by a poison arrow. He soon died from his wounds and that ended the expedition. Over the years the story has taken hold that Leon was seeking the mythical fountain of youth. That story seems not based on historic evidence


History Behind A Name: Ponce de León

Ponce de León is believed by many to be the first European to land in Florida, which is where our beautiful inlet gets its name. However, Florida was hardly the first stop on the Spaniard&rsquos famous expeditions. He garnered much of his fame and reputation by settling what would become modern-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic, as well as finding gold in nearby Puerto Rio before being encouraged by the Spanish crown to search for more land elsewhere. Hearing tales of a magical fountain of youth, Ponce de León set out for a fabled island known by natives as Bimini in search of the fountain, as well as more land and gold for the Spanish empire. What followed was the finding and settling of Florida as we know it today.

Early Career and Governorship

Ponce de León was born into a noble Spanish family in 1460 and though they were poor, he was able to acquire many valuable social skills and military tactics by serving as a page at the court in Aragon and fighting against the Moors in Granada. He acquired a taste for fame and fortune and accompanied Christopher Columbus on his second expedition to the West Indies in 1493. Roughly a decade later, Ponce de León played an instrumental role in the subjugation of Hispaniola's (modern-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic) native population and named the provincial governor of the eastern part of Hispaniola by the King of Spain as a reward for his efforts.

Ponce de León was later ordered to explore the nearby island of Peurto Rico and verify reports that an abundance of gold could be found there. He took a single ship and 50 soldiers to the area and landed near the modern-day capital of San Juan. The small band of Spanish soldiers conquered the island's inhabitants under Ponce de León's leadership and soon discovered that the rumors of gold were true. Using the island's conquered people as slave labor, the Spanish mined vast quantities of gold from the mountains of Peurto Rico. Ponce de León returned to Hispaniola following this success and was awarded the title of Governor of Puerto Rico in 1509. De Leon would only hold this title for a few years before the son of Christopher Columbus wrested it away from him within the Spanish courts. Forced to rescind De Leon's position as Governor of Puerto Rico, the Spanish Crown encouraged Ponce de León to search for new territories to conquer outside of the Columbus family's sphere of control.

Promises of Eternal Youth

In his continuous search for more land and profits for the Spanish empire, Ponce de León heard tales from the natives of the Caribbean that there existed a magical fountain with waters that would grant eternal life. He set out to find this mythical place and scoured the Bahamas, as well as the island of Bimini, but could not find the fountain nor gold.

In April of 1513, Ponce de León and his ships landed on the eastern coast of modern-day Florida. De Leon initially believed he had discovered a large island but later learned it something more. Due to the landscape&rsquos lush vegetation and the Catholic holiday Pascua Florida (Feast of Flowers) during which it was "discovered," Ponce de León named the region La Florida. He continued sailing south along Florida's east coast before turning west through the Straits of Florida, past the Florida Keys, and then north along the peninsula's west coast. Ponce de Leon landed in numerous locations during this journey and encountered many Native American inhabitants along the way. Some of the indigenous were friendly towards the Spanish but many were not including the Calusa who inhabited much of south Florida and greeted the European explorers with much violence. Ponce de Leon returned to Puerto Rico after exploring the Florida coast and was awarded the title of Governor of Bimini and Florida by the Spanish Crown, with permission to colonize those regions as well.

Return to Florida and Legacy

After cementing his personal finances and claims in Spain, Ponce de León returned to the west coast of Florida in 1521 for his second exploration of the land. His expedition was very quickly attacked by the Calusa tribe again and De León was struck by an arrow through the thigh. He and all his men sailed to Cuba where he succumbed to his injury and passed away.

Due to Ponce de León&rsquos efforts, Spanish colonization was able to advance quickly through the Caribbean. Though no record exists in his notes of deliberately looking for the fountain of youth, it will always be attached to him as the object he was searching for. Furthermore, the name he gave to our state has stuck for hundreds of years and his name lives on every day in Ponce Inlet.


Myths, mysteries abound 500 years after Ponce de Leon's voyage to Florida

Florida history is as murky as an alligator-filled swamp.

Five centuries after Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León stepped foot on the eastern shore of what is now called Florida, much about his voyage remains a mystery.

The 500th anniversary of Ponce de León's landing will be observed Tuesday, continuing a yearlong celebration called Viva Florida. But before you don your conquistador outfit for the festivities, there are a few myths and misconceptions we need to straighten out.

Who found Florida?

Popular belief: Ponce de León discovered Florida in 1513.

What experts say: Ponce de León, a former governor of Puerto Rico who was given the authority to search for new lands, may not have been the first European in Florida. Maps from as early as 1511 — two years before his voyage — show a landmass north of Cuba, said Sam Turner, director of archaeology at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum and an expert on maritime history.

"It was very possible Florida was discovered in 1509 . or 1510," Turner said.

Other historians have suggested that traders may have traveled to Florida before 1513 but that it was Ponce de León who claimed it for Spain.

Fountain of Youth

Popular belief: The fabled Fountain of Youth drew Ponce de León to Florida.

What experts say: The official charter of Ponce de León's voyage never mentioned the Fountain of Youth, said author and University of Central Florida history instructor Jim Clark. And no one during Ponce de León's lifetime (1474-1521) connected the explorer's travels to the mystical waters.

The myth that Ponce de León traveled in search of the Fountain of Youth — the fabled waters that supposedly brought eternal youth to those who drank or bathed in them — began after his death.

Spanish historian Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo "wanted to show Poncé as an idiot … a bumbling fool," said University of Florida professor Jack Davis, an expert on the state's early history. "It is unclear why he [Oviedo] did, but probably because he was aligned with [Christopher] Columbus and his son, Diego."

Ponce de León, like most New World explorers, was probably looking for gold, silver and slaves, Davis said.

Where he landed

Popular belief: Ponce de León landed near Cape Canaveral. Or … Ponce de León landed in Melbourne Beach … or St. Augustine.

What experts say: The original ship's log from Ponce de León's voyage to Florida has been lost, so the exact spot where his crew landed isn't known. Some historians think Ponce de León landed somewhere between present-day Melbourne Beach and Daytona Beach.

But Turner disputes those claims. He said Ponce de León more than likely came ashore north of St. Augustine. According to Turner's research, Ponce de León spotted Florida on March 27, a week before what many historians say. Turner said Ponce de León traveled along the coast for almost a week and probably didn't come ashore until April 3.

But unless Ponce de León's logs are found, no one will ever know exactly where he and his crew landed.

Naming Florida

Popular belief: Ponce de León called the land he found "La Florida" — a Spanish term meaning "feast of flowers" — because of the lush vegetation along the coast.

What experts say: Davis argued that no matter where Ponce de León had landed — even, say, Delaware — the explorer probably would have called the place "La Florida" because of the timing.

"La Florida" is a reference to the Easter season, and Ponce de León's landing coincided with Easter. Davis said it makes sense that Ponce de León — exploring for the Catholic country of Spain — would have given the land a name related to the holy day.

A hero? Really?

Popular belief: Ponce de León became a hero because of his travels to Florida — a region that benefited the Spanish crown for almost 300 years.

What experts say: In 1521, Ponce de León led an expedition to southwest Florida, near present-day Port Charlotte. The group encountered the native population, a battle broke out and Ponce de León was struck with an arrow. He died in Havana. Florida wasn't settled for an additional 44 years, when St. Augustine was founded in 1565.

From the 1500s to the 1800s, Spain "never made a profit" on Florida, Clark said. The Spanish controlled Florida for so long, many historians say, to protect the Gulf Stream — the trans-Atlantic current, discovered by Ponce de León and his crew, that originates near the tip of Florida and flows out to sea. Spanish ships carrying treasures from Mexico used the Gulf Stream to cut travel time to Europe, Turner said.

Many historians argue that Ponce de León's real "discovery" wasn't Florida but rather the Gulf Stream.


Everyone is talking about 1619. But that’s not actually when slavery in America started.

As the New York Times noted recently in a blockbuster issue of its magazine, African slavery started in America in 1619. That’s true, but only if you ignore a significant chapter of American history: the Spanish-Afro-American historical experience in Florida.

In many parts of the United States, including Florida, Texas and New Mexico, Spanish speakers arrived first. That matters not just for historical accuracy. It also helps reframe the current rhetorical and political upheaval that surrounds immigration from Spanish-speaking nations to the United States, by reminding us how Spanish-speaking black slaves helped build the nation that we now have.

There is a tendency of many people who write the history of America to have a view of the world centered on Jamestown and the Anglo American experience. When history fixates on the 13 original American colonies, the rest of the map, including Florida, seems to fall away. But it’s worth expanding that picture to include Spanish-occupied territory in what is now the United States.

When we consider those lands, we see that slavery actually dates back a full century before 1619. Slavery in Florida reveals how a multinational slave trade built on personal greed and white supremacy forced Africans and African Americans to build North American wealth in which they would not be able to share. Then, adding insult to injury, these early black slaves were erased from the standard narrative of American history.

In 1511 Spain’s King Ferdinand instructed his subjects in the New World to “get gold, humanely, if you can, but at all hazards, [to] get gold.” Spanish explorers heeded their king’s call. Florida was named by Juan Ponce de León, who claimed it for Spain in 1513 when he was searching in vain for the Fountain of Youth and gold.

Spanish empire-building in the era was driven in part by desire for greater territory. Conquests in Mexico by Hernan Cortés in 1521 and in Peru by Francisco Pizarro between 1531 and 1534 had also produced an insatiable lust for gold that fueled the treasure hunt in the New World. Ponce de León, however, had to settle for merely claiming the land of Florida for Spain, since there was neither gold nor mythical fountains to be found.

On the heels of Ponce de León’s claiming Florida, the Spanish empire tried to create settlements in its new territory. For example, in 1526 another Spanish explorer, Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón, tried to establish a Spanish settlement at San Miguel de Gualdape in what was then La Florida (the current Georgia or South Carolina coast.) The Ayllón group included both Spaniards and African slaves who were brought as mining and agricultural laborers. But the settlement collapsed. First, some of the Spaniards mutinied against Ayllón. Then the African slaves burned down the mutineers’ housing and went to live with Native Americans in the area.

While the historical record on early slavery in Florida is thin, scholars have uncovered the ways in which it was endorsed and exploited by the Spanish crown, while being challenged and resisted by the very slaves forcibly brought across the Atlantic through the slave trade. In 1539, slavery arrived in present-day Florida when the slave trader and Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto attempted to establish a permanent settlement and claim more territory for Spain.

We know very little about the black slaves with DeSoto. A letter from Spain’s King Charles V dated April 20, 1537, gave DeSoto permission to take 50 Africans, a third of them female, to Florida. According to historian Jane Landers, DeSoto’s slaves included both Moors from Northern Africa and sub-Saharan Africans. Many of them deserted him to live with the Native Americans in Florida. We know that DeSoto abandoned some black slaves during his expeditions, including two with known names. One named Robles, who apparently was Christian, was left at Coosa, Ala., because he was too ill to walk. And another slave named Johan Biscayan was left at Ulibahali in present-day Georgia.


Ponce de León claims Florida for Spain - HISTORY

Click here or on signature at right for Juan Ponce de León Signature Activity.

Pánfilo de Narváez (1470-1528)

Panfilo de Narváez was born into an upper-class family in Vallenda, Spain. He joined other conquistadores in the New World to earn his fortune. Between 1509 and 1512, Narváez took part in the conquests of Jamaica and Cuba. In 1520, Governor Diego Valázquez of Cuba sent him to Mexico with 1,000 soldiers to capture Hernán Cortez, who was conquering the Aztec Empire and exceeding his authority. Narváez and his men fought the forces of Cortez in May 1520 near Veracruz. Many of Narváez&rsquos soldiers defected and eventually all joined Cortez, while Narváez was captured and imprisoned in Veracruz for two years.

After his release, Narváez returned to Spain, where King Charles V granted him permission to lead an expedition to Florida. In 1527 his armada of five ships set sail. After reaching the Caribbean, some of his men deserted. He landed near Tampa Bay in April 1528 and proceeded to establish a colony. He started with 600 men, but Narvaez and most of his men died. Eight years later, only four survivors made it to Mexico City. One of those survivors was called Esteban, a black explorer slave. During his journey, Esteban had learned much about the land, and later led Spanish explorers through what is now the southwestern United States.

Hernando de Soto (ca. 1500-1542)

Hernando de Soto was born about 1500 in Spain to a poor family who were nonetheless members of the Spanish nobility. After obtaining some education at a university, he was invited in 1514 to join an expedition to the Indies, where he and his compatriots explored territories that now comprise Panama, Nicaragua, and Honduras. Later, as second in command of Francisco Pizarro&rsquos conquests of Peru and the Incan capital of Cuzco, de Soto further consolidated his wealth before returning to Spain and a life of leisure.

In 1536 King Carols V granted de Soto the title of Governor of Cuba, including La Florida. In April 1538, de Soto departed Spain with about nine ships and 700 to 1,000 men. Arriving at Cuba, they helped defend Havana after a French attack on the city. In May 1539, De Soto and his fleet departed for Florida, landing about ten days later at Tampa Bay. They explored the present-day states of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. They also discovered the mouth of the Mississippi River. After crossing the river, de Soto fell ill and died his men buried his body in the Mississippi River.

Tristán de Luan y Arellano (1519-1573)

Tristán de Luan y Arellano was born in Spain in 1519. He is best known for a short-lived colony at the site of Pensacola, Florida, in 1559. De Luna sailed to the New World in 1530-1531. In 1540 he joined the Coronado expedition that explored what is now the southeastern United States and northern Mexico. Eight years later he helped put down an Indian revolt in Oaxaca. About 1557 Luis de Velasco, the viceroy of Mexico, selected de Luna to lead an expedition to establish a colony on the Gulf coast and gave him the title of governor of Florida. With about 1,000 colonists, 500 soldiers, and 240 horses, de Luna departed Mexico on June 11, 1559, and landed at Pensacola Bay on August 14. Five days later, a hurricane destroyed most of his ships and supplies. The colony held on until he was relieved of his duties and ordered to Spain in January 1561. De Luna did return to Mexico in 1567, but his expedition had left him broke he died in Mexico City in 1573.

Jean Ribault (1520-1565)

In 1562 Frenchman Jean Ribault came to Florida to claim territory for France. Ribault landed at the mouth of the St. John&rsquos River, built a stone monument to mark his claim, and continued north, building a fort on the Carolina coast. Ribault left 30 men to run the fort while he returned to France for supplies. A number of accidents at the fort made life difficult for the men, but they were rescued by a passing British ship.

Two years later another Frenchman named Rene Goulaine de Laudonniere led 300 men and four women to Florida and built Fort Caroline near present-day Jacksonville. The colonists ran low on food and became unhappy with Laudonniere&rsquos leadership. As they decided to leave Fort Caroline, Ribault arrived with 500 men, 70 women, and supplies. He saved the French colony in Florida.

On August 28, 1565, the king of Spain sent Pedro Menéndez de Avilés (below) to Florida to drive out the French. Menéndez de Avilés arrived at present-day St. Augustine and immediately marched north to destroy Fort Caroline. Ribault had been warned by friendly Native Americans that the Spanish were going to attack and sailed south with the majority of his men. The Spanish killed those who remained at Fort Caroline, then caught up with Ribault. After a short battle, the Spanish killed most of the French. However, Laudonniere escaped the battle and made it back to France. The location where Menéndez killed Ribault and his men became known as Matanzas, which means massacre.

Pedro Menéndez de Avilés (1519-1574)

Pedro Menéndez de Avilés was born in Spain in 1519. Though he was the son of a nobleman, he ran away to sea at 14 years of age. After 15 years of service in European waters, he made several voyages to the New World beginning in 1560. In 1565, King Philip II of Spain named Menéndez governor of Florida. His mission was to establish a colony in Florida and remove the French colony established in Spanish territory. This also provided Menéndez an opportunity to search for his son Juan, who had shipwrecked in the Bahamas the year before, but he never found him.

Menéndez departed Spain with a small armada of 11 ships and about 2,000 men in July 1565 and arrived in Florida the following month, where he founded St. Augustine. Menéndez quickly destroyed and killed most of the French at Fort Caroline and renamed it San Mateo. He then took on the French relief headed by Jean Ribault and forced their surrender. Menéndez executed them all except for those who professed to be Catholic (the French in Florida were Huguenot Protestants). He remained in Florida until returning to Spain in 1567. He returned one more time before dying in 1574.

To learn more about the 16th Century Explorers of Florida, click on the links below:

Juan Ponce de León

Juan Ponce de León by John E. Worth

Juan Ponce de León, Spain-Florida Organization

Pánfilo de Narváez

Pánfilo de Narváez by John E. Worth

Biography of Pánfilo de Narváez by Christopher Minster

Pánfilo de Narváez Explorer

Pánfilo de Narváez, Texas State Historical Association

Hernando de Soto

Hernando de Soto by John E. Worth

Hernando de Soto Arrives and Explores Florida

Hernando de Soto: Explorer

Tristán de Luan y Arellano

Tristán de Luan y Arellano

Tristán de Luan y Arellano, Spain-Florida Organization

The Tristán de Luan Expedition by Steve Pinson

Shipwrecked History: Spanish Ships Found in Pensacola Harbor by John E. Worth

Jean Ribault

Jean Ribault Claims Florida for Spain

Pedro Menéndez de Avilés

Pedro Menéndez de Avilés by Michael Gannon

Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, Spain-Florida Organization

phone: 561.832.4164 | fax: 561.832.7965 | mail: P.O. Box 4364, W.P.B., FL 33402 | visit: 300 N. Dixie Hwy, W.P.B., FL 33401

© 2009 Historical Society of Palm Beach County | all photos courtesy HSPBC unless otherwise noted


Cronología Timeline

El Tratado de Tordesillas firmado entre España y Portugal, divide entre los dos países las tierras recién descubiertas.

1508 Juan Ponce de León comienza la exploración de la parte sur de Puerto Rico. Colonos españoles establecen asentamientos en Puerto Rico, Jamaica y Cuba. 1519

Hernán Cortés viaja a México. Comienza la guerra entre Cortés y el emperador Montezuma en la ciudad Azteca de Tenochtitlán. Montezuma muere. Dos años más tarde, el emperador Cuauhtemoc rinde la ciudad ante Cortés.

1524 Francisco Pizarro comienza el primero de dos viajes por la costa colombiana hacia el sur y llega al Perú. 1528

Pánfilo de Narváez encabeza la expedición a Florida y toma posesión de ella para España. La expedición es más tarde destruida por tormentas e indios hostiles Narváez no sobrevive. Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, superviviente de la expedición, comienza su propia expedición explorado lo que es hoy el suroeste de los Estados Unidos.

Hernando de Soto explora las regiones de Florida, Georgia, las Carolinas y cruza las montañas Apalache hasta Tennessee. También explora Alabama, Misisipi y Arkansas.

1540 Francisco Vázquez de Coronado explora las regiones ahora conocidas como Nuevo México y Arizona y más tarde Kansas. 1542 Cabeza de Vaca publica Navfragios&mdashconsiderada la primera historia de los Estados Unidos&mdashdocumentando su experiencia entre las naciones indias americanas. Juan Rodríguez de Cabrillo encabeza la primera expedición para explorar lo que es ahora la costa oeste de los EE. UU. Desembarca y bautiza la Bahía de San Diego. 1556 Felipe II asciende al trono español, gobernando hasta 1598. 1598

Juan de Oñate encabeza una expedición de 300 colonos al Valle del Río Grande en Nuevo México para establecer misiones franciscanas. Más tarde establece una colonia en San Gabriel (lo que hoy es Chamita, Nueva Santa Fé) y se convierte en el primer gobernador de Nuevo México.

1607 Colonos ingleses establecen su primer asentamiento permanente en Jamestown, Virginia, comenzando con ello el imperio colonial inglés en América del Norte. 1637

Campaña exitosa de los españoles para subyugar a los nativos en el oeste de Florida.

1680 La Gran Rebelión Pueblo comienza el 10 de agosto en Santa Fé. Misiones son destruidas, 21 franciscanos muertos y 2.000 colonos españoles se ven forzados a salir de Nuevo México. Los españoles no regresaron hasta 1692. 1687

El P. Eusebio Kino viaja por el sur de Arizona para evangelizar a los indios Pima. Uno de los primeros exploradores científicos, cartógrafos, astrónomos, historiadores, constructores y rancheros en Pimería Alta, Kino establece más de 20 misiones.

1740 El Parlamento inglés aprueba el Naturalization Act (Ley sobre Naturalización) por el que se concede la ciudadanía inglesa a emigrantes extranjeros que viniesen a las colonias de América del Norte. 1754&ndash1763 La Guerra Franco-India comienza entre Francia e Inglaterra que termina con el Tratado de París. 1769 Fray Junípero Serra establece la misión de San Diego de Alcalá, la primera de las nueve que funda por el Camino Real en California. 1776

Las colonias inglesas declaran su independencia de Gran Bretaña con la firma de la Declaración de Independencia el 4 de Julio.


Still think Ponce de Leon discovered Florida? More evidence that you are wrong

Of all the outlandish myths about Florida's outlandish history, one of the most stubborn holds that Ponce de Leon discovered it in 1513 when he was searching for the Fountain of Youth.

EDITOR&rsquoS NOTE: This is one of many perspectives on Ponce de Leon and the discovery of Florida and developments like this comes out almost every year at this time. Send us your thoughts to [email protected]

Of all the outlandish myths about Florida's outlandish history, one of the most stubborn holds that Ponce de Leon discovered it in 1513 when he was searching for the Fountain of Youth.

But evidence compiled by a Florida Keys map collector, a South Florida archaeologist and a Naples ocean engineer further debunks the tall tale of the Spanish conquistador whose name graces textbooks, schools, boulevards, hotels, parks, statues and the most popular tourist site in St. Augustine, where Juan Ponce de Leon never set foot.

Ponce de Leon may have named the place then known as Bimini &mdash which he thought was an island &mdash after the Easter time "Feast of Flowers," but he was not the first European to land in La Florida.

If not Ponce de Leon, who? The three authors of a new book released Friday, "The Florida Keys: A History Through Maps," present a compelling theory that Floridians ought to be naming more stuff in the Sunshine State in honor of John Cabot, the Italian explorer who sailed to the coast of North America in 1497 and claimed it for King Henry VII of England.

Some historians believe Cabot was the first European to find Florida when, after failing to locate a Northwest Passage to China, he journeyed so far south from Canada that he could see Cuba to the east, according to an account by Cabot's son, Sebastian.

"That would put Cabot off the Florida Keys long before Ponce de Leon got here and named them the Martyrs," said Brian Schmitt of Marathon, an avid map collector and owner of the oldest real estate company in the Keys. "Lots of what we've been taught about Ponce de Leon is fanciful creation passed down through the centuries. Maps show Florida was well known by Europeans before Ponce de Leon arrived."

Archaeologist Bob Carr's analysis of conch shells he unearthed in Fort Lauderdale supports what the maps illustrate.

"Floridians need to stop living under the illusion that Ponce was our famous founder," Carr said. "We need to get beyond the tourism hoax of the Fountain of Youth and learn about our complicated history."

Schmitt's most prized acquisition is the 1511 Peter Martyr Map made by the prolific Italian historian who worked for the royal court of Spain. Peter Martyr D'Anghiera wrote the first accounts of explorations in Central and South America in a gossipy style. He interviewed all the intrepid mariners of the day, including Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci and Sebastian Cabot, and examined their ships' logs and charts.

The map shows detail of the Florida coastline and what clearly appear to be the Keys and the Dry Tortugas north of the islands of Cuba and Hispaniola. Schmitt purchased the map from a San Diego dealer for $250,000.

"If you are a map collector, it's the Holy Grail &mdash the earliest attainable map of the New World," Schmitt said. His presentation of the map and book on Friday in downtown Miami was originally planned to coincide with the Miami Map Fair, which was cancelled because of coronavirus concerns. "But it is only about 8-1/2 by 11 inches in size, not particularly pretty, a woodcut on hand-laid paper, with some print-through Latin script on the back side.

"Maps are the confluence of art and science, and some are breathtakingly beautiful. Not this one. I tell visitors if you can identify the one in my collection that's worth more than all the others combined, you can have it."

Two other maps buttress the anti-Ponce argument: The 1500 Juan de la Cosa map depicting vast lands north of Cuba shows British flags planted along the east coast of the U.S., which would dovetail with the theory that England's claim to the original 13 American colonies was a byproduct of Cabot's discoveries.

A second map, created in 1502 and called the Cantino Planisphere, depicts the peninsula of Florida with a remarkably accurate rendering of its inlets and bays. Alberto Cantino, a spy for an Italian duke, smuggled the map out of Portugal when European countries were in competition for claims to New World territory. The original was found hundreds of years later being used as a screen at a butcher shop.

"Once aggregated into maps, this geographic information was jealously guarded, allowing Spain and Portugal to maintain an advantage in trade and colonial expansion over other European countries," Schmitt said, describing how maps were pieced together like puzzles, as cartographers compiled sketches and descriptions of the coastline made from the deck or crow's nest or from expeditions on shore. "It wasn't until 1600 that they had instruments for more accurate measurements."

In the book, co-author Carr presents an archaeological argument that adds to the body of evidence that Ponce didn't discover Florida. Carr, who excavated the prehistoric Tequesta Indian villages at the mouth of the Miami River, discovered a mound of 22 conch shells when he was surveying land at the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens in Fort Lauderdale in 1984. He found uncharacteristic gaping holes in the middle of the shells and one with a distinctive thin metal blade hole. Radiocarbon tests showed the shells dated from the late 15th century.

"These can't have been opened by Spanish explorers because the Spanish had already been in the Caribbean by that time and knew how to open conch shells efficiently, the way the indigenous people opened them by piercing a hole in the crown, severing the tendon attachment and extracting the conch for a meal," he said. "Whoever did this really labored to bust them open and eat them."

Carr concluded the shells were proof of a European landing that pre-dated Ponce.

"Christopher Columbus knew how to open conch shells and Ponce had traveled with Columbus. These were opened by people who were not Spanish and had never been in the Caribbean but who likely arrived in South Florida from the north along the Atlantic coast or had sailed directly from Europe," Carr said.

Among Schmitt's collection of 1,000 maps is the first map of New Providence in the Bahamas, the only full copy of what is likely the first English map of the West Indies or Spanish Main, and the only copy of one of the first maps to name the Tortugas and Los Martires (the original name of the Keys).

"I've been collecting for 25 years and my focus is on the Keys, the Bahamas, Cuba and South Florida, the areas where I've been boating and diving my whole life," said Schmitt, 66. His family moved to the Keys from Detroit in 1955 and started a real estate company. Schmitt has never left. His boat is named the Hippocampus, after Neptune's horse. "I grew up in the real estate business and developed a sense of the land and a love for the islands."

The second part of the new book is about the mapping of the Keys, and the first to do it, in 1770, was William Gerard De Brahm, whose skill as a cartographer earned him the title of Surveyor General of the New World for England. One of his most unusual printed charts &mdash perhaps a precursor to the climate change projections of the 21st century &mdash depicted Florida 10,000 years ago when water levels were lower in order to demonstrate that the Keys were part of Florida and refute Spain's claim that the Keys were geologically linked to Cuba.

"Spain tried to claim the Keys as part of Cuba when Spain traded Florida to England," Schmitt said. "With this very odd map, De Brahm defended England's claim."

De Brahm wrote incredibly detailed journals about the Gulfstream and Florida's flora and fauna, including its insects, bears, panthers, snakes and crocodiles, of which he had heard "instances that they have attacked Children without the House, and carried them off the Land into the Water, but cannot vouch for its Truth." And he warned that "Tempests will be seen more than in any other part of the Globe."

Of the Keys he said: "None of the islands is inhabited by any of the human species, but constantly visited by the English from New Providence, and Spaniards from Cuba, for the sake of wrecks, madeira wood, tortoise, shrimps, fish, and birds: of the latter a variety exist on the islands and about Cape Sable, amongst which is peculiarly a large red bird, which measures six feet from the toe to its bill's end, (which is crooked, and has its maxillary motion on its upper part, as on that of a parrot) and is called flamingo."

Maps help explain why the Ponce de Leon legend has persisted.

"The most chronicled story was Ponce's story," Schmitt said. "Spain controlled Florida for 250 years. They owned the place and they publicized the history they wanted believed.

"Why is this called America? Because of a mistake by Martin Waldseemuller," Schmitt said of the 1507 world map by the German cartographer that used the name America for the first time. "Vespucci exaggerated his accomplishments and Waldseemuller said we might as well name it after Amerigo and it took on a life of its own.

"In subsequent versions &mdash I have a 1513 Waldseemuller map &mdash America is gone and it's called Terra Incognita."

Other historians believe Gaspar and Miguel Corte-Real, brothers from Portugal, reached Florida first on voyages in 1500, 1501 or 1502.

"The argument against Sebastian Cabot is that he made things up. And nobody really knows exactly what happened to John Cabot," Schmitt said. "There' s no written record of his voyages. You find different versions of the same events when you're doing historical research, so you've got to find the most credible one. Maybe I'm too confident in Peter Martyr but I don't share those reservations about Sebastian, who became the pilot major of Spain."

Ponce de Leon did land in Florida in 1513 but somewhere near Cape Canaveral, 125 nautical miles south of St. Augustine. He then sailed south, recorded interaction with the native "Chequesta" people at the mouth of the Miami River, rounded Cape Florida and headed north up the Gulf coast, where he was chased away near Fort Myers by Calusa Indians.

"Having received a charter from the King of Spain to colonize the land, Ponce certainly had prior knowledge of Florida, which at the time was called Beimeni, or Bimini, not to be confused with today's small island in the Bahamas," said Todd Turrell, co-author of the book with Schmitt and Carr. "The Columbus family, who had the charter for Cuba and the Bahamas, was angry that the Beimeni/Bimini charter had not been issued to them. Ponce renamed Bimini as Florida, a fact confirmed by Spanish explorer Alonso Alvarez de Pineda, who noted by hand on his 1519 chart of the Gulf of Mexico: 'Florida, formerly Bimini.'"

Ponce returned to the Gulf coast eight years later for another attempt at settlement with two ships crammed full of 200 people and 50 horses. Near present-day Marco Island he was attacked by Calusa tribesmen and hit in the leg with an arrow. He retreated to Cuba where he died from an infection of his wound.