Historic City News reporters watched as St Augustine city commissioners listened to six minutes of harsh criticism for the way the City portrays Pedro Menendez and Ponce de Leon as “heroes” instead of as “murderers” of native people who lived here thousands of years — three minutes from Shannon Larsen and three minutes from St Augustine resident, Bill Hamilton.
The criticism directed at the City is for knowingly “glossing over the real truth” in retelling the 16th century stories of Ponce and Menendez; pretending that these men and their soldiers cared for and respected the native tribes, their religion and their customs.
Fire and brimstone from Larsen when she took the podium to speak during public comments; calling out the Mayor and commissioners for “dressing up” like the two explorers who we credit for the discovery of La Florida and founding of America’s oldest city by European settlers in 1565.
“The native people were murdered, slaughtered, thrown out to drown in the water and buried in mass graves,” Larsen said. “And, now the city wants to celebrate these criminals.”
Specifically, in a telephone conference call that included staff members of the 450th Commemoration, City Manager John Regan, and Mayor Joe Boles; Larsen said the Mayor insulted the Seminole people by hanging up in the middle of the call and that comments by staff members only made matters worse.
“Holding high-priced dinner parties and pretending to be Ponce de Leon and Pedro Menendez is disgusting,” said Larsen, who had been picketing at the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument earlier in the day. “The fort here should be torn down. Ponce de Leon and Pedro Menendez are dead — and they should be left that way.”
St Augustine Sunrise Rotarian Bill Hamilton, who is the owner of Southern Horticulture, explained that he has been a champion for telling the truth about Spaniards who settled in St Augustine and their role as slave owners and provocateurs of attacks against the indigenous tribes of Seminole and Timucuan Indians in a quest to take their land.
“The original holocaust was carried out by the European settlers against the native tribes in the 1500’s,” Hamilton said. “You owe it to yourselves to tell the truth about the 450 years of attacks that have continued against their people.”
The regular Monday night business meeting concluded with a statement by Mayor Boles apologizing for any offense taken by the Tribal leaders; saying that he did not know “the agenda of the call” beforehand, and that he stayed on the line until about 10 minutes past noon — even though he had already announced that he had another 12:00 appointment.