Thursday, April 2, 2009

Ponce Goes to Florida

On April 2, 1513 Ponce de Leon stepped onto a beach somewhere near present day St. Augustine and named the land Florida. He had been told by Indians in Puerto Rico that there was an island of gold and a fountain of perpetual youth. Had it been one day earlier perhaps Ponce would have taken this information with a grain of salt, but the pursuit of gold and youth was overpowering and off he went. His three ships sailed around the southern end of Florida but seeing no hotels in Miami they continued up the west coast. Since it was already April he figured that Spring Training was over so headed back to Puerto Rico.

Not one to quit so easily, Ponce returned to Florida eight years later. Though there were still no hotels in Miami, at least with air conditioning, he was determined to establish a settlement and perhaps build a fancy hotel all on his own. He brought along 200 men, horses, cattle, and supplies, but no air conditioners. Little did he know that the land was already occupied. Early land speculators, also known as the Calusa Indians, did not take kindly to these fancy shmancy Europeans trying to grab up the good spots. And they meant business. One of the Indians, being known as On Target by his fellow warriors, struck old Ponce with a poison arrow and killed the dude. He was buried in Puerto Rico. Originally his tombstone was to read, "Here lies No Fountain No Gold" but they thought better of it and instead are inscribed the words, "Here rest the bones of a lion."