Juan Ponce de Leon
Born: 1460, Tierra de Campos Palencia, Leon
Died: 1521, Havana
Juan Ponce de
Leon was born into a noble family around 1460 in San Servas, Spain.
He is thought to have sailed on Christopher Columbus's second voyage
in 1493 to the New World, where his many discoveries would greatly
effect the development of the Americas. Ponce de Leon arrived in
Borinquen (now called Puerto Rico) in 1508, found gold, and conquered
the island for Spain. He became the island's first governor in 1509
and founded Puerto Rico's first European settlement, Caparra. In
1512, however, he was pushed out of office by political rivals and
once again set out to find and conquer new territories and to discover
the legendary Fountain of Youth for his king, Ferdinand II. The
fountain was rumored to have magical properties that would allow
men to attain immortality and eternal youth, and was said to exist
on an island called Bimini. Ponce de Leon never found Bimini or
the Fountain of Youth, though he did make several other important
discoveries, including that of the Gulf
Stream. (While some credit him with discovering Florida,
it had previously been discovered and even mapped by Spaniards).
He arrived on the North American continent on April 3, 1513, a week
after Easter (Pascua), leading him to name the land "La Florida."
Ponce de Leon sailed back to Puerto Rico shortly thereafter and
did not return to Florida until July 1, 1521. Ponce de Leon's second
voyage to Florida, in which he hoped to found a colony, was unsuccessful.
He was fiercely attacked by natives upon arrival and forced to flee
after being shot with a poisoned arrow. Ponce de Leon retreated
to a hospital in Havana, Cuba (the nearest Spanish facility), but
died there a few days later at the age of 47 To this day Ponce de
Leon is best remembered for his quest for the Fountain of Youth.