Photo: Ponce de Leon and Fountain of Youth
It is believed that around April 2 or 3 of the year 1513, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon landed on the east coast of Florida to claim the land for Spain and named it after the Easter feast of those days known as Pascua Florida.
Today, half a millennium later, Florida celebrates the 5th centennial of an event the signified the first European presence in what is today the United States.
Florida, through the Viva Florida 500 organization, is celebrating the arrival of the first European with a series of events initiated at the beginning of the year and that will continue throughout 2013.
“Viva Florida 500 is a year-long commemoration, but we believe it is important to draw extra attention to the week of Ponce de Leon’s arrival because of its historical significance for our state and nation,” Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner said.
“Florida is truly the place where the world’s cultures began to unite and transform into the great nation we know today as the United States of America,” he told a press conference.
In the coming weeks a replica of a 16th-century Spanish galleon will arrive in Florida carrying an educational 5th-centennial exposition.
Planned for Tuesday is the inauguration of a statue of Juan Ponce de Leon on the beach at Melbourne near Cape Canaveral.
Wednesday will be an important day in St. Augustine, the oldest U.S. city, where the landing of the Spanish explorer will be recreated and a Catholic Mass will be said at the Cathedral Basilica.
In addition, an exact replica of the baptismal font where Ponce de Leon was baptized will be installed in the basilica.