Juan Ponce de Leon Finds Florida
By Raphael Cosme
Last night at the Flagler College Lewis Auditorium on Granada Street, Discover First America Series presented “Juan Ponce de Leon Finds Florida”.
The Ponce event was opened by Elaine Fraser from The Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. The fun started with a comedy clip video of two Ponce crew that fall asleep in the Fountain of Youth grounds and woke up 500 years later confronting an unfamiliar modern city with a different culture and wondering what happened to La Florida.
Chad Light who also portrays Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles ran the entire show of Spanish explorers and he introduced three experts, Dr. Kathleen Deagan, Dr. Samuel P. Turner and historian Roger Smith, to clear certain mystery surrounded Ponce de Leon.
There was more than 90 minutes of lectures just talking about Don Juan Ponce de Leon settlements and voyages in the New World, theories and fascinating evidence of the landing of Ponce de Leon.
The 450th Youth Ambassadors Samantha Cosme and Kai Tutor, stamped more than 500 hundred commemorative passports; they said it was nonstop answering questions to the audience at the entrance about the mystery live Andalusian steers fenced at the front stairs that belongs to St. Johns County rancher Allan Roberts. He displayed it outside the auditorium and the audience enjoyed it.
City archaeologist Carl Halbirt, made his way on stage with a surprising new discovered element of St Augustine history — through the use of DNA testing, scientists have been able to connect bones found in archeological excavations of 16th Century Spanish sites to the modern cracker cattle raised on Roberts local ranch.
Doctor Kathleen Deagan lectured the early life of Ponce de Leon in Spain and his two mayor settlements “Salvaleon” in Dominican Republic and “Caparra” in Puerto Rico before discovering Florida with some aspects of archaeological diggings and artifacts associated with early Spanish Conquistadors sites in the Caribbean.
Samuel P. Turner PhD, Director of Archaeology of the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program, showcased details of Ponce de Leon voyages from Puerto Rico through the channels of the Bahamas and Florida.
Turner presented the only known publication of the voyage of Juan Ponce de Leon by Antonio Herrera de Tordecillas, first published in Madrid, Spain, in 1601. Although the original logs of the voyage are presumed lost or destroyed, Herrera gives a day by day account that places the Ponce de Leon landing site near latitude 30′ 8″ a location near South Ponte Vedra Beach — somewhere in the vicinity of St Augustine.
Father Gilbert Medina, who came two hours from the Eustis Catholic Parish Church to attend the event, said “people need to understand that the Fountain of Youth is not only about Ponce de Leon and Menendez first settlement, it is a sacred place that has the blessing of God”.
Photo credits: © 2013 Historic City News contributed photograph by Raphael Cosme