The voyages of Juan Ponce de León and his expeditions in Florida have long held a romantic and mythic place in American history. Speculation about his first landing in Florida, about the legend of the Fountain of Youth, and about Ponce de León.s reasons for setting sail to Florida have engaged chroniclers, historians, and even sailing masters for five centuries.
On August 15, 1559, Spanish conquistador Don Tristan de Luna sailed into what is now Pensacola Bay, leading a fleet of twelve ships with 1,500 colonists on board. Their effort to establish a permanent settlement was thwarted by a violent hurricane, which devastated the fleet.
One of the shipwrecks was discovered by underwater archaeologists in 1992, and another in 2006, but until recently, the terrestrial site of the attempted Luna settlement remained a mystery.
The land that the Spanish called La Florida encompassed the entire region that is now the southeastern United States. While several conquistadors had visited Florida prior to 1539, none were more intrepid explorers than Hernando de Soto.
1565 – Pedro Menendez de Aviles received his “asiento” or settlement orders from the Spanish government to travel to La Florida on this date. Two years earlier, Don Juan Mendedez, Pedro Menendez’s only son was lost in a wreck near the Bahamas and Menendez was determined to find him. He was also instructed to reconnoiter the gulf and east coasts, making detailed observations about the ports, currents, hazards, etc., and settle the new territory. The Spanish government also tasked Menendez with driving the French settlers out of La Florida.
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