A replica of a 16th-century Spanish galleon arrived in Miami to help commemorate Juan Ponce de León’s historic landing in Florida.
Five hundred years ago in the spring of 1513, the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León set sail from Puerto Rico to search for the island of Bimini. He may have heard a legend that the island had a Fountain of Youth. The fountain’s waters supposedly made old people young again. Ponce de León did not find Bimini or the Fountain of Youth. Instead, he landed on the east coast of what is now the state of Florida, on April 2. He named the land La Florida, Spanish for “flowery,” and claimed it for Spain. He became the first Spanish explorer to set foot on land that became part of the United States.
This year, the state of Florida is celebrating the 500th anniversary of Ponce de León’s landing with a series of events called Viva Florida 500. The celebration began when a 170-foot replica of a 16th-century Spanish galleon set sail for Florida from San Juan, Puerto Rico. The ship, which is similar to the one that Ponce de León sailed on, arrived at the port of Miami on April 15. It next set sail for Port Canaveral, docking there on April 30. It will also make stops in Fort Lauderdale and St. Augustine. At Port Canaveral, thousands of elementary school students took tours of the galleon to learn what it was like to be an explorer in the 1500s.
Some local communities in Florida also organized events to commemorate Ponce de León’s arrival. In Melbourne Beach, a descendant of Ponce de León dressed as the explorer and reenacted his historic landing there. Scientific research has shown that Melbourne Beach is most likely the spot where Ponce de León first arrived in Florida 500 years ago.
Image credit: ©Andrew Innerarity/Reuters
- Viva Florida 500
Learn more about the Viva Florida 500 events planned for 2013.