| 05 June, 2013 17:29
Viva Florida 500! To fully understand the impact of Spanish explorers in Florida, I read a wonderful book titled Juan Ponce de Leon and the Spanish Discovery of Puerto Rico and Florida by Robert Fuson. Not only was Ponce the first European to lay claim to La Florida, he also discovered the Gulf Stream. He made two voyages around the peninsula, naming coastal islands and coastal shores. I was inspired to follow his route!
Ponce left Puerto Rico and headed north. Carried by the Gulf Stream, he first landed somewhere north of Ponce Inlet between Daytona Beach and New Smyrna Beach, possibly even near Flagler Beach. Geographical historians calculated this from the ship's log. Every city in the area claims Ponce! From St. Augustine to Brevard County, each have spots saying: "Ponce de Leon slept here"! He did land, named the land La Florida and gave thanks for the discovery with his crew.
Turning south, he viewed every aspect of the coastline. A beautiful replica of his galleon was made in Spain and sailed to Florida for the 2013 celebration. "El Galeon" sailed across the Atlantic and docked at Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Cape Canaveral and St. Augustine. El Galeon is a beautiful ship, reflecting the sun in its polished wood, sails billowing with ropes making patterns. Floridians have toured the ship at every port. I followed Ponce's route down the Atlantic coast and toured "El Galeon" in Cape Canaveral, after viewing the coastal areas in St. Augustine southward.
Ponce explored the Miami area, and then cruised past the Keys, naming the Dry Tortugas. Following the coastline northward, he sailed in the Gulf of Mexico and headed into the Naples-Ft. Myers-Sanibel-Captiva-Pine Island areas. So did I! From there, he sailed by Sarasota and Tampa Bay and most likely into the Tarpon Springs-Anclote Island area. So did I! Some historians think he even made it to Apalachee Bay. My visits combined both cars and boats, and I developed a deep respect for this explorer who sailed in a galleon around our state for the first time! At least I had maps, GPS, and an iphone!
So now I have a 1,000 or more sketches and photos of Florida in its natural state, the way Ponce de Leon found it. His journey ended, but my painting journey has just begun! Thank you, Ponce, for the inspiration! Viva Florida 500! Viva Paintings to honor the celebration!