Hernando De Soto Arrives In Florida

In May 1539, de Soto landed nine ships with over 620 men and 220 surviving horses at at present day Shaw's Point, in Bradenton, FL. He named it Espíritu Santo after the Holy Spirit.

The ships brought priests, craftsmen, engineers, farmers, and merchants; some with their families, some from Cuba, most from Europe and Africa. Few of them had ever traveled outside of Spain, or even their home villages.

A Spaniard named Juan Ortiz, who had come to Florida with the failed Narváez Expedition and been held by an inland tribe, was sighted near de Soto's port. Ortiz came to Florida in search of the earlier Narváez Expedition and was captured by the Uzica. The daughter of Chief Hirrihigua of the Uzica arguably served as a precursor to Pocahontas by begging for Ortiz's life, as her father had ordered Ortiz to be roasted alive. Ortiz survived captivity and torture, and joined, at the first opportunity, the new de Soto Spanish expedition. Ortiz knew the countryside and also helped as an interpreter. As a lead guide for the de Soto expedition, Ortiz established a unique method for guiding the expedition and communicating with various tribal dialects. The "Paracoxi" guides were recruited from each tribe along the route. A chain of communication was established whereby a guide who had lived in close proximity to another tribal area was able to pass his information and language on to a guide from a neighboring area. Because Ortiz refused to dress and conduct himself as a hidalgo Spaniard, his motives and council to de Soto were held in suspicion by other officers. But Don Hernando remained loyal to Ortiz, thus allowing him freedom to dress and live among his tribal Paracoxi friends. Another important guide was the seventeen-year-old boy Perico, or Pedro, from modern-day Georgia, who spoke several of the local tribes' languages and could communicate with Ortiz. Perico was engaged as a guide in 1540 and treated better than the rest of the slaves, due to his value to the Spaniards.

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.