Little Bits of History

The Sunshine State

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 2, 2011

The Sunshine State

April 2, 1513: Juan Ponce de León discovers a new land. Ponce de León was a Spanish conquistador, veteran of the war to conquer Granada [the last Moorish state on the Iberian peninsula] and fellow traveler with Christopher Columbus. Ponce de León traveled with Columbus on his second trip to the New World and he became the first governor of Puerto Rico in 1509. After the senior Columbus died in 1506, his son, Diego, battled for control over lands and wrested the governorship away from Ponce de León.

The Fountain of Youth myth surrounding Ponce de León’s exploration began in the 1560s and is inaccurate. While banished from Puerto Rico, a land he had built using the natives whom he had enslaved, de León needed a new quest. He was looking for spiritual rebirth or some new purpose along with riches, lands to conquer, and slaves to capture.

He funded his own sailing party and set out to find lands north of Cuba. On March 27, 1513 land was sighted but no landing took place. Days later, landfall was made somewhere on the east coast of “La Florida” claimed for Spain and meaning “flowery.” Ponce de León sailed south and charted rivers, sailed around the keys, went a short distance north along the western coast, sailed back to Havana, and then went back to the Biscayne Bay area – around present day Miami. He came back with a colonizing party of about 200 men in 1521. The natives resisted the invasion of their land. Ponce de León was shot in the shoulder with a poison arrow. The Spaniards left, went back to Havana and de León died shortly after landing in Cuba.

The state of Florida has been occupied for up to 12,000 years. The native population was around 350,000 before any Europeans arrived. The Spanish flag was flown there from 1513 until Spain traded Florida to Britain in exchange for control of Havana in 1763. During the Revolutionary War, with Britain distracted, Spanish colonizing efforts again took over lands. Florida became an organized territory of the United States in 1822 and became the 27th state of the union in 1845. In 1861 she seceded from the US to join the Confederate States of America and was readmitted to the US in 1868 after Reconstruction requirements were met.

“We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started… and know the place for the first time.” – T.S. Eliot

“Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit.” – Frank Borman

“My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned sixty and that’s the law.” – Jerry Seinfeld

“Florida’s number three industry, behind tourism and skin cancer, is voter fraud.” – Dave Barry

Also on this day:
Giacomo Casanova – In 1725, Casanova was born.
US Coinage Act – In 1792, the Coinage Act was passed.

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