Ponce de León

Florida has a long and rich history which we often tend to overlook. On April 2nd we celebrated the 506th anniversary of Juan Ponce de León’s landing in Florida which was the first known exploratory expedition in the new world. Although many scholars now claim that he was not the first European to visit, he has made an indelible impression on our state’s history and lore which we would like to share    

Most Floridians do not know what became of him after this first expedition. Ponce de León returned to Spain in 1514 and was authorized by King Ferdinand to settle La Florida. Due to the King’s untimely death, this colonization attempt was delayed until 1521 with Ponce de León setting sail from Puerto Rico. Ponce de León attempted to establish the first large scale colony within the current continental United State on the southwest coast of Florida. Unfortunately, he chose a site then settled by a large group of Calusa natives who did not take kindly to these interlopers. During a skirmish on the southwest coast of Florida, Ponce de León was severely wounded by the native population. The settlement was abandoned and he was transported to Cuba, where he died shortly after arrival. His tomb is located in the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It is estimated that 30 percent of modern-day Puerto Rican residents are descended from Juan Ponce de León and his wife.