Juan Ponce De Leon Lands In Florida

After 1492 European exploration of the Americas revolutionized how the Old and New Worlds perceived themselves.

One of the first major contacts, in what would be called the American Deep South, occurred when conquistador Juan Ponce de León landed in La Florida in April of 1513. Ponce de León was later followed by other Spanish explorers, such as Pánfilo de Narváez in 1528 and Hernando de Soto in 1539.

Rumors of undiscovered islands to the northwest of Hispaniola had reached Spain by 1511 and Ferdinand was interested in forestalling further exploration and discovery by Colón. In an effort to reward Ponce de León for his services, Ferdinand urged him to seek these new lands outside the authority of Colón. Ponce de León readily agreed to a new venture and in February 1512 a royal contract was dispatched outlining his rights and authorities to search for "the Islands of Benimy".

The contract stipulated that Ponce de León held exclusive rights to the discovery of Benimy and neighboring islands for the next three years. He would be governor for life of any lands he discovered but he was expected to finance for himself all costs of exploration and settlement. In addition, the contract gave specific instructions for the distribution of gold, Native Americans, and other profits extracted from the new lands. Notably, there was no mention of a rejuvenating fountain.

Ponce de León equipped three ships at his own expense and set out from Puerto Rico on March 4, 1513. The only contemporary description known for this expedition comes from Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas, a Spanish historian who apparently had access to the original ships' logs or related secondary sources from which he created a summary of the voyage published in 1601. The brevity of the account and occasional gaps in the record have led historians to speculate and dispute many details of the voyage.