Monday, 27 January 2014

Juan Ponce de León

Juan Ponce de León (1460-1521), Spanish explorer, born in San Servos, León. In 1493 he accompanied Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to America. Later Ponce de León conquered Borinquén (Puerto Rico) for Spain and was governor of the island from 1510 to 1512. From the Native Americans he heard tales of an island called Bimini, located somewhere north of Cuba, which reputedly possessed the fountain of youth, a spring whose waters had the power to restore youth. Believing these tales, Ponce de León in 1512 obtained permission from the Spanish king to find, conquer, and colonize Bimini. The next year Ponce de León sailed from Puerto Rico at the head of an exploratory expedition. On March 27 he sighted the eastern shore of the present state of Florida, which he believed to be the legendary Bimini. He landed north of the site of present-day Saint Augustine on April 2 and named the region Florida because he sighted it on Easter Sunday (Spanish Pascua Florida,”flowery Easter”). Believing Florida was an island, he tried to sail around it, going south to what is now Key West, up the west coast of Florida, then south again. He reached Puerto Rico again in September 1513. From 1515 to 1521 he engaged in subduing the rebellious natives of that island. In 1521 he set out to colonize Florida; the expedition included about 200 people and many domestic animals. The party landed on the west coast of Florida, where it was fiercely attacked by Native Americans. Ponce de León was severely wounded in the engagement. The expedition withdrew and sailed to Cuba, where he died shortly after landing.

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