Ponce de Leon

A man of many accomplishments


Simply, he was a Spanish explorer and conquistador. However, he was also a the first Governor of Puerto Rico, Founder of Florida, and passenger on Christopher Columbus' second voyage to the new world. Ponce de Leon was not just a great man of Spain history, but rather, a great man of World history. His actions created European influence on places that were not yet affected, and contributed to the Age of Exploration greatly.

The Story Behind the Man & These Items

First Major Exploration

In 1493, after being relieved of his war duties, Leon joined Christopher Columbus in his second voyage to the new world. He was considered one of the 200 or so "gentlemen" aboard. When the ship anchored for a pause, he got his first glance of the unexplored Puerto Rico.


Some time after returning from this voyage, Spain appointed him governor of a province named Hispaniola. Here he was in contact with natives, while most was not friendly contact, it is speculated that the natives informed him of gold in the rivers of Puerto Rico, an island not heavily explored or officially claimed.

The Exploration

Two years before officially having permission to explore and colonize Puerto Rico, Ponce de Leon was expected to have taken a secret mission to Puerto Rico. There he lay-lowed and gathered some general information about the island. In 1508 he officially explored Puerto Rico. The mission was great success in the Spanish eyes, they discovered tons of gold, and set up a colony. Ponce de Leon was in fact so successful the Spanish Crown appointed him the first Governor of Puerto Rico. However many natives targeted the colonists and explorers, resulting in the deaths of both Spaniards and natives. (Mostly natives however). The Europeans also brought diseases that the natives were not immune too, thus lowering the Native population dangerously. Those that lived were mostly forced into a slave-like-living, labeled as prisoners and forced to work for the colonists. When they rebelled, they were killed, but never to extinction and were a lingering problem. Ponce de Leon also had to deal with his rivals (Colón, for example.) who constantly tried to take his place as Governor of Puerto Rico.

Florida, the new "Island"

Despite losing his place as Governor of Puerto Rico, Ponce de Leon was encouraged by the Spanish crown to further explore the new world against Colón's wishes. Legend says there was another reason that Ponce de Leon wanted to explore for, The Fountain of Youth. It's more likely that Ponce de Leon was looking out for a herb - specifically the Bahamian Love Vine- to slow his aging but, this was not his main reasoning for continuing his explorations. He took a small fleet of 3 ships; The Santiago, the San Cristobal and the Santa Maria de la Consolacion. A few days after Easter Sunday, the crew spotted land they believed to be another island. Ponce de Leon chose to name this new land La Florida, after the Easter season and floral landscape. They anchored and rested for a few days, to find information and claim the land. Then they proceeded onward along the coast of Florida for further knowledge and to map out the area. They made several stops along the shore, and met new natives. Some fled at the presence of them, while others responded aggressively. The crew attempted trade with the aggressive natives, but failed. While sailing around Florida they encountered an extremely strong current which swept away their smallest boat, this current however would later be known as the Gulf Stream and become the primary route for eastbound ships leaving the Spanish Indies bound for Europe. When the fleet returned to their original landing spot they were surprised to meet another Spaniard ship crew, who's ship had been wrecked. The ship crew took the stranded people, and returned to Spain.

Last Voyage

In his last voyage, Ponce de Leon took many farmers, domestic livestock, crops, resources, and colonists too Florida. Thus colonizing Florida for Spain.

Are we to let this man who influenced the world so much simply be forgotten? Or will this museum incorporate these items to keep his memory alive?
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A letter of His

Dearest Leonor,

We have landed safely with ease onto this new landscape, called San Juan Bautista. I have decided to settle the crew about two or so miles from shore. We were quite eager to explore, but have taken the time to build a store shed and house, as those are simply necessary shelters. I do not mind the lack of space, because frankly, this expedition is very much worth it. You see- we have planted a few crops, but most of our time has been spent mining the mounds of Gold in this soil. Yes my dear, the natives were not telling tales! And how glad I am! Nothing can really chip my elated soul, this raw gold is worth fortunes and there is so much more to be found. They aren’t many things to worry about here either, the natives are not to much of a problem, and I believe I have a way to put them to use. The worst thing we fear is our lack of food supply, but once we have enough gold I assure you we will return to gather food and other resources that may become scarce. The Crown will have to be pleased and proud of our work, and I’m certain he’ll ask us to return to the island to mine. I wish for you, if he does ask and the children to come with me to San Juan Bautista. We will live happily and rich with little worries and the land will be only ours, only Spain’s.

Leonor, this land has already given me so much, and now I believe it wishes to gift our family. Will you travel with me back to this plentiful island if our Crown so wishes?

From your dearest,

Juan Ponce de León