Major 500-450 projects developing

Mayor Boles unfolded a list of major projects in the works for the Ponce de Leon Quincentenary in 2013 and our 450th in 2015.

The ideas were aired during talks last week with Aviles, Spain, Mayor Pilar Varela Diaz, Spain’s Consul General in Miami Santiago Cabana, Spain-Florida 500 Years Foundation President Emilio Sanchez, and Historian Willie Johns of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Museum/Exhibit centers – A St. Augustine heritage center in a portion of Francis Field to promote our Spanish as well as indigenous heritage, and a center on the Mission of Nombre de Dios grounds for our religious heritage. Johns said the Seminole Tribe would be interested in co-financing the St. Augustine heritage center.

A replica of Pedro Menendez’ flagship San Pelayo – Mayor Varela Diaz said the ship would be built in Spain and sailed to St. Augustine during the 2013-2015 commemorations.

Menendez coffin headboard replicas – Aviles will send an artisan to the University of Florida (UF) to create two replicas from the original headboard, being preserved at UF. One replica would join Menendez’ outer coffin, on display at the Mission of Nombre de Dios.

200th anniversary of Spain’s Constitution – Plans will develop for a commemoration here in 2012 of the 200th anniversary of Spain’s Constitution of 1812. Our Plaza de la Constitución monument is the only surviving tribute to that short-lived constitution.

Men of Menendez to Aviles – Our sister city and founder’s birthplace is budgeting funds to send 20-25 members of our 16th century living history contingent to Aviles in a ceremonial visit next year.

Exchanges – Sports, teachers, and tourism exchanges are planned to be developed in coming years.

Much of the funding and project support is hoped for from the Spain-Florida 500 Years Foundation, an organization of some 500 Spanish companies based in Miami. Foundation President Emilio Sanchez, who organized the Miami economic conference during King Juan Carlos’ recent visit, said too many Hispanics in South Florida and our nation are not aware of the Spanish heritage based in St. Augustine.

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