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Latino Daily News

Sunday March 17, 2013

Oldest City in U.S. Honors Spanish Explorer Ponce de Leon

Oldest City in U.S. Honors Spanish Explorer Ponce de Leon

Photo: St. Augustine, Florida

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St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest city in the United States, will pay tribute on April 6 to Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon (1460-1521), who discovered Florida in 1513, with an equestrian and military exhibition and with live music, among other events.

The celebration coincides with the 5th Centennial of the Discovery of Florida and the Cathedral Basilica in the northeast Florida coastal city will celebrate a commemorative Mass dedicated to Ponce de Leon’s baptismal font, an exact replica of which will be sent from Spain to the United States.

The installation of the font copy, which the city hall of Santervas de Campos in Valladolid province - the birthplace of the explorer - will present to the town hall of St. Augustine, will be one of the main events at the celebration in this country.

St. Augustine, founded in 1565 by Spaniard Pedro Menendez de Aviles, thus will participate in the events commemorating Ponce de Leon’s arrival in Florida, a landing that marked the beginning of Spanish exploration and colonization of the North American continent and began the modern history of the United States.

The so-called Men of Menendez reenactment society will participate in the commemorative events on April 6 outfitted in garments of the epoch and carrying period Spanish flags and weaponry of that day and age, a curtain-raiser for the celebration in 2015 of the 450th anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine.

From March 23 until Dec. 12, exhibits entitled “Springs Eternal: Florida’s Fragile Fountains of Youth” and “Finding the Fountain of Youth: Discovering Florida’s Magical Waters” will be open to the public at the Florida Museum of Natural History in the north-central university community of Gainesville, about 118 km (73 miles) west of St. Augustine.

The first exhibit consists of a series of photographs and texts that provide a visual celebration of the state’s natural springs, as well as a meditation on their future that alerts the public to the decline of the springs due to the action of man and the lack of rainfall, among other negative factors.

And “Finding the Fountain of Youth” examines how the legend of Ponce de Leon’s quest for restorative waters shaped the Sunshine State’s image as a land of fantasy, rejuvenation and magical spring-fed waters.