Ponce De Leon, Juan
(A WORLD EXPLORER)
Juan Ponce De Leon was born in 1460 in the town of San Saros in the province of Santeros de Combo in the kingdom of Leon. He was educated in Seville in the Hall of Euridides. The son of a knight, he wanted to be a soldier, but, as was the custom, first one had to be a page and then a squire, before becoming a soldier.
Juan really wanted to be a soldier, however, and Don Pedro, his master, knew that. So when he said, "Juan, it is time you begin your military training," Juan's eyes grew big. After completing his military training, Juan went to battle. He became known as a good swordsman in the war against the Moors.
When the war ended he was out of work. Juan became concerned for the well being of himself, his wife, and their children. When Juan heard stories about Christopher Columbus and his encounters with gold and diamonds he decided that he would try to get a job on a ship with Christopher Columbus for his second voyage to America. He got the job and went sailing in search of diamonds and gold. In Puerto Rico, an island that he named, he served as Governor for three years. He made bread and every sailor bought it. Ponce De Leon was granted the first coat of arms ever granted in the New World.
In 1513, Ponce De Leon led an expedition in search of Bimini. He explored the area of the Bahamas and visited several islands that had been unknown to Europeans. In April 1513, he landed in Florida, on his search of the Fountain of Youth, which he thought was another island, and claimed it for Spain. According to one story, Ponce De Leon named the present-day state Florida because of the many flowers that grew there. The Spanish word Florida means flowery. Another story says that he arrived there during Easter Season, which the Spaniards call Pascua Florida.
He landed near the present site of St. Augustine. He sailed down the coast and explored almost the entire eastern shoreline and southern tip of Florida. His search for the Fountain of Youth led him partway up Florida's Western Coast. In June 1513, Ponce De Leon decided to return to Puerto Rico. During the voyage back, he landed on what is now the Yucatan which he thought was Bimini.
In 1514, Ponce De Leon sailed to Spain with news of his findings. King Ferdinand ordered him to colonize Bimini and Florida. The king also commanded him to rid the West Indies of the Carib Indians, who were fierce cannibals. Ponce De Leon returned to the new world in 1515 and fought the Carib Tribe. The Indian fighting and other activities , including another voyage to Spain, delayed his second expedition to Florida until 1521.
In February 1521, Ponce De Leon sailed from Puerto Rico with two ships that carried about 200 men and enough supplies to establish a colony. He landed on West Coast Florida, probably near Charlotte Harbor. Indians attacked, and the Spanish leader was wounded by an arrow. Ponce De Leon and the few other survivors sailed to Cuba, where Ponce De Leon died.
Although his search for a fountain of youth did not succeed, Ponce De Leon made a great step forward in exploring the New World. The beautiful shore he discovered became part of North America and later became the state of Florida. Many years later the first city of this country, St. Augustine, was built where Ponce De Leon landed. Ponce De Leon's discovery opened the way for people from Spain and other lands to settle and build America.