You will remember, our last post ended in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic and referenced Christopher Columbus’ return on his second voyage.
The Colonial Era was beginning.
Before departing Spain in September 1493 for his second expedition to the New World, Columbus set-about hiring his crew. And because Spain’s recent war against the Emirate of Granada had ended, many military men were ready to seek fortune and opportunity in this New World. Some 1200 sailors, soldiers, and others willing to colonize a foreign land joined Christopher Columbus for his second voyage to the New World. Juan Ponce de Leon was one of 200 “gentleman volunteers” who signed-up for the expedition. He came from a prominent and politically well-connected family and had served with honors and distinction in the Spanish military. He continued to do so with his arrival in Hispaniola where he was tasked with battling the native Taino people. Ponce de Leon was rewarded tor his successes with a land grant from the Hispaniola governor which included slave labor to farm his new estate. His fortune grew. In 1508, King Ferdinand of Spain chose Ponce de Leon to explore the island of Puerto Rico. He then appointed him Governor of the island in 1509. Columbus’ son, Diego, replaced Ponce de Leon as governor in 1511. And then, in March 1513, on the advice of King Ferdinand, Ponce de Leon set out to explore more of the Caribbean. By April, he had landed on Florida’s east coast (most likely just north of St. Augustine). He charted the Atlantic coast down to the Florida Keys and then north along the Gulf coast. It is believed he may have sailed as far north as Apalachee Bay on Florida’s western coast. But NO, NO, NO, there is not one single, serious historian who believes the myth that Ponce de Leon was looking for a Fountain of Youth!!!
Fatefully, in March 1521, while attempting to establish a colony in what is now the continental United States, Ponce de Leon was seriously wounded in a skirmish with the indigenous Calusa people, who dominated southern Florida. They fiercely opposed the incursion. Ponce de Leon retreated to Cuba where he died from his wounds in early July 1521. His remains were sent to Puerto Rico for internment. Today, you may visit his tomb inside the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista in San Juan. He did not seek, nor find, a fountain of youth; but he did name the peninsula La Florida in recognition of the lush, verdant landscape he found there and because he was there over the Easter season, known in Spanish as Pascua Florida (Festival of Flowers.)
So, this is your quick armchair history by non-historians. You get the gist.
Now let’s move on to the photos of San Juan, Puerto Rico:
Next, we’ll explore St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.