Ponce de Leon Award announced

The Spain-Florida Foundation announced to Historic City News the launch of the annual Juan Ponce de León Award to recognize the exceptional contributions that a person, entity, organization, or company has made to promoting understanding of the Hispanic community in the United States.

In 1513 Spanish explorer Ponce de León landed on the northeast coast of what is now Florida.

Awed by the flowery landscape, he named the land in honor of Spain’s Pascua Florida (Flowery Easter).

His journey marked the beginning of European exploration of south eastern North America.

The Spain-Florida Foundation, commemorating the 16th century-era of exploration, will present the first Juan Ponce de León Award at a gala in November.

In Miami a group of prominent Spanish and Hispanic leaders created the Spain-Florida Foundation in order to seize this historic opportunity to highlight the contributions of Spain to Florida and the U.S., through the organization of commemorative events and programs.

In St. Augustine, a group of private citizens, financed by funds from the City treasury, created First America Foundation, led by Chairman Don Wallis and two boards of directors, contracted with the City of St. Augustine to research, develop, plan, fund and execute four commemoration programs featuring the significant events relevant to the founding and subsequent history of the City of St. Augustine.

So far, the State of Florida, City of Pensacola, and City of St. Augustine have set up three different commissions to commemorate several historic events and to recognize the Spanish heritage of the United States.

The Spain-Florida Foundation, along with the private First America Foundation, and most recently the federally appointed 450th Commemoration Commission, share plans to celebrate these historic anniversaries.

Leading up to 2015, Florida cities will celebrate the 500 years of historical, cultural, social and economic contributions of Spain to this state by organizing a series of important projects and activities.

From 2008 to August 15, 2009, Pensacola celebrated the 450th anniversary of the Spanish arrival in West Florida. Spanish sailor Don Tristan de Luna arrived in Pensacola on August 15, 1559, with a contingent of more than 1,500 soldiers, servants, settlers, priests and Mexican Indians. Shortly after establishing the settlement, a hurricane destroyed supplies, eventually causing the Spanish to flee the area and not return until the late 1600s.

In 2013 the State of Florida will commemorate 500 years since the arrival of Ponce de Leon in Florida in 1513.

In 2015, St. Augustine will celebrate the 450th anniversary of the founding of the City on September 8, 1565; making the city the oldest continuously occupied and enduring settlement of European origin in the United States.

The multi-year celebrations, which began in 2008, will include: art exhibits, economic seminars, heritage walks, historical reenactments, educational programs, a Spanish wine festival, several visits from Spanish dignitaries and multiple events to emphasize the relevant role that the Spanish explorers played and the value today of the Spanish “brand”.

Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News staff photographer

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