Juan Ponce de León

By | Apr 2, 2010

April 2nd is a holiday in Florida because on April 2, 1513, Palm Sunday, the explorer Juan Ponce de León first landed on the Florida Peninsula at a location near present day St. Augustine. It’s believed that this was the first time that an European had stepped onto the peninsula.

Ponce de León named it La Florida after Pascua Florida, spanish for Flowery Easter.  He believed that he was exploring an island and tried to navigate around the peninsula, first south around the keys then up the gulf coast as far north as Tampa.

Ponce de León first came to the new world as part of the second voyage of Columbus in 1493. On this voyage Columbus explored the islands between Dominica and Cuba.

He was named Governor of Puerto Rico in 1509 due to his efforts in the New World, but from a political move in Spain by the son of Columbus he was removed as Governor in 1512. It was then that he asked for and obtained permission to explore the areas north of Cuba.

In 1521 Ponce de León led an unsuccessful expedition to colonize Florida to be based on the southwest coast. There were around 200 men among them priests and farmers with domestic animals. The native Calusa Indians had other ideas and attacked the colonist.

Ponce de León was hit by an arrow in the shoulder. The colonists left the Florida coast sailing to Cuba. The arrow may have been laced with poison since Ponce de León died soon afterward from his wound.


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