Ponce de Leon


Ponce de Leon was born in 1474 in Tervas de San Campos, province of Valladolid, Spain. He was born to a noble family. We don't know much about his early life. He did have red hair. He was strong, active and aggressive.

Ponce de Leon was the first explorer to claim some of North America's mainland for Spain. His first trip to the New World was with Christopher Columbus, on his second journey in 1493. He became a soldier in the Spanish settlement of Hispaniola,in the West Indies. From 1502-1504 he led Spanish forces against the Indians in Higuey,the eastern province of Hispaniola. After he defeated them, he was appointed governor as a reward. He left Hispaniola in 1508 to explore Puerto Rico and found gold on the island and conquered it within a year. He became governor in 1509 and rose to be one of the wealthiest and most powerful people in the new world. He governed Puerto Rico for 3 years. Political rivals removed him from office in 1512. He received permission from King Ferdinand to colonize Bimini. In 1513 he led an expedition in search of Bimini. He visited the area of the Bahamas and several other unknown islands. In April of 1513 he found Florida, which he thought was an island. He chose the name Florida because it was Easter season and in Spanish Florida means "flowery." He claimed Florida part of Spain. He sailed down the coast and the eastern shoreline and the tip of Florida. He was famous for his quest for the fountain of youth. He searched for it up the west coast of Florida. The fountain they thought made people young and virile again. He gave up his quest for the fountain of youth, realizing it didn't exist.

In 1513 he returned to Puerto Rico and on his way back he landed on Yucatan and thought it was Bimini. In 1514 he sailed back to Spain to tell of his findings. He returned with 5000 gold pesos. King Ferdinand ordered him back to Puerto Rico to colonize Bimini and Florida. In Puerto Rico he ordered built the city of San Juan, the now famous capital. In February of 1521 he sailed to Florida with 200 men and enough supplies to start a colony. The Indians were not friendly, they fought hard. Ponce de Leon was wounded by an arrow. He and a few other survivors sailed to Cuba to escape. After they landed in "Here rest the bones of a lion, mightier in deeds then in name."

Ponce de Leon was an excellent governor. He was a leader who discovered Florida. He was a gentleman, but his ruthlessness with the Indians backfired on him. When the Indians fought back in Florida, Ponce de Leon finally lost. He also was the first to report the mighty strength of the Gulf Stream which helped the Spanish fleets and help us to this day.

He was very brave to set out to unknown places in the middle of nowhere. I'm glad he discovered the islands, I might never have visited the Bahamas.