Donald Forgione, Director of the Florida Park Service, invited all Historic City News readers to join in the celebration of Florida’s Hispanic Heritage Month; September 15th through October 15th. Nowhere in the state is the significance and appreciation of Hispanic culture more central to our history than in St Augustine and St Johns County.
During this celebration, Florida residents and visitors are encouraged to experience “The Real Florida” by spending time with family and friends at the 12 Florida state parks that focus on preserving Hispanic heritage. Two of those parks can be found here in the oldest continuously occupied community of European origin in the United States; settled by Spanish explorers led by Pedro Menendez de Aviles.
“With more than four million Hispanics that call Florida home, communities throughout the Sunshine State will celebrate with a wide range of events and activities and we look forward to Florida’s State Parks playing a significant role in this important celebration,” said Governor Rick Scott. “We encourage Florida families to spend time together exploring the natural and cultural treasures at Florida’s State Parks, while celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.”
Locally, enjoy these two state parks:
Anastasia State Park, St. Augustine
More than 300 years ago, sites like the coquina quarries located within Anastasia State Park were busy with workers hauling blocks of rock. With hand tools, they hewed out blocks of the soft shellstone and pried the squares loose along natural layers in the rock. The blocks were used to construct the Castillo de San Marcos and many other buildings.
Fort Mose Historic State Park, St. Augustine
In 1738, the Spanish governor of Florida chartered Fort Mose as a settlement for freed Africans who had fled slavery in the British Carolinas. When Spain ceded Florida to Britain in 1763, the inhabitants of Fort Mose migrated to Cuba. Although nothing remains of the fort, the site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994 for its importance in American history.
“While it’s impossible to capture the importance of Florida’s Hispanic past, present and future in one month, we enjoy telling the stories at our state parks during Hispanic Heritage Month,” Forgione told Historic City News local reporters. “Family is an important thread in every culture, so during this special month we’re encouraging visitors to host a celebratory family picnic at a state park or take a visit a state park with significant Hispanic history.”
Other participating state parks include:
Big Talbot Island State Park, Jacksonville
Named during the British period and originally used by the British grantees for plantation agriculture, including citrus, sugar, indigo and cotton, Big Talbot Island was used by Spanish settlers during the following Second Spanish period.
San Felasco is the mispronunciation by settlers and Indians of the name of a 17th century Spanish mission, San Francisco de Potano, which was located in the southeastern section of the preserve. The preserve is one of the few remaining mature forests in Florida.
Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, Micanopy
Rancho de La Chua, on the Prairie’s north rim, is believed to be the site of Hacienda de La Chua, the largest cattle ranch in Spanish Florida. Established before 1637, La Chua was managed by the politically powerful Menendez Marquez family. Cattle and wild horses seen today are descendants of those brought over by the Spanish in the early 1500s and left to roam free after the British raids in the early 1600s.
San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park, St. Marks
The site’s history began in 1528 when Panfilo de Narvaez arrived with 300 men. In 1539, Hernando de Soto, along with 600 men, followed the same route taken by Narvaez. In 1679, the Spanish built a fort to protect the Spanish missions. The museum at the park displays pottery and tools that were unearthed near the original fort and explains the history of the site.
De Leon Springs State Park, DeLeon Springs
Legend and folklore claim Juan Ponce de León sought and discovered the mythical Fountain of Youth at DeLeon Springs. The Visitor Center features exhibits on the park’s 6,000 year history and presentations on Florida’s Springs, the St. Johns River and the Everglades.
Tomoka State Park, Ormond Beach
Within the park is the Nocoroco Site, a Timucuan village reported by Spanish explorers in the early 1600s, where visitors can enjoy a half-mile nature trail through a hardwood hammock that was once an indigo field for an 18th century British landowner.
Sebastian Inlet State Park’s McLarty Treasure Museum, Melbourne Beach
In 1715, 11 Spanish treasure galleons sank along the east central Florida coast. One of the survivors’ campsites was located on the present day site of the McLarty Treasure Museum. A second museum, the Sebastian Fishing Museum also provides history of the area to visitors.
This 125-acre island is located in the Estero Bay, and was created more than 2,000 years ago by the indigenous tribe known as the Calusa, or “fierce people.” In 1566, the Spanish Governor of Florida established a settlement on Mound Key with a fort and the first Jesuit mission, known as San Antonio de Carlos. Today, interpretive displays can be found along a trail that spans the width of the island.
The San Pedro was a 287-ton, Dutch-built ship which sailed as part of the fleet of New Spain in 1733. Her discovery in Hawk Channel in the 1960s, beneath 18 feet of water, led to the recovery of small silver coins dated between 1731 and 1733, as well as cannons trapped under the ballast pile. Today, this underwater archaeological preserve features a submerged shipwreck that is available for diving and snorkeling.
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, Key West
Fort Taylor played important role in Civil War and the Spanish-American War. The fort was one of a series built in the mid 1800s to defend the nation’s southernmost coastline. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1973.
Events commemorating Hispanic heritage month include:
Fort Clinch State Park, Fernandina Beach
Spanish American War Event
Saturday, Sept. 21, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 22, 9 a.m. to Noon
This event will feature a commemoration of the Spanish-American War. Admission is $6 per vehicle, up to eight people plus $2 per person fort admission. For more information, call (904) 277-7274.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Hobe Sound
Viva Florida Virtual Puzzle Cache
Year Round, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
500 years ago Juan Ponce de Leon arrived in Florida and discovered the beauty of the state they called La Florida. Jonathan Dickinson State Park has unique ties to this anniversary. A downloadable puzzle will guide you through your own adventure to discover the park’s natural and cultural history. Complete the GPS or non-GPS version.