Juan Ponce de Leon is known for being a daring explorer, who explored Florida, searched for the Fountain of Youth, and had ties to Christopher Columbus. Let’s look at ten reasons his name is still known today.
1. Ties to Christopher Columbus
Ponce de Leon was shipmates with Christopher Columbus. In fact, it was after sailing with Christopher Columbus in 1493 that Ponce de Leon went his own way, staying in Santo Domingo to search for the Fountain of Youth. He was a volunteer on the Columbus voyage as the war ended and he was a soldier looking for something to do.
2. Search for the Fountain of Youth
The “Fountain of Youth” is one of the reasons we still hear of Ponce de Leon. He was given permission and his trip was financed by the government as a reward for his service to Spain. It was during his search for the fountain producing an elixir that stopped aging that he discovered today’s Florida. He never found the fountain of youth, but he did find other things during his voyage.
3. Second search for the Fountain of Youth
His life long pursuit for the Fountain of Youth may have been the thing he was best known for. Five years after his first voyage that took him to Florida in search of the Fountain of Youth, Leon sailed back on another voyage. It was because of this second voyage, and an attack by a group of Native Americans when they landed in Florida that Ponce de Leon died. He was shot with an arrow, and although he made it back to his ship, and sailed to Cuba, he died from the wounds he endured. This occurred in 1521.
4. First Governor of Puerto Rico
Besides his travels and voyages, Ponce de Leon served in government. He was the first Governor of Puerto Rico, put there by the Spanish crown. He had discovered gold there and because of his findings was very popular with the Spanish crown, thus his position of governor.
5. Discovery of Florida
Even though it was by accident, and was done while pursuing the fountain of youth, Ponce de Leon was said to have discovered Florida. He thought it was an island, and although he was wrong, he was the one given credit for finding this state, and naming it Florida, to mean flowering in Spanish.
6. Discovery of the Gulf Stream
One of the biggest advantages of Ponce de Leon discovering Florida is that this brought about the discovery of the Gulf Stream, making sea voyages faster, easier and more profitable, which greatly benefited Spain. Leon did not discover the Gulf Stream, but without his groundwork, it may have been a while before it was discovered. Spain benefited greatly from his instrumental role of finding faster easier ways to sail from Spain to this newer world.
7. Removal from office as Governor of Puerto Rico
Controversy always helps one be more notable in history, and Ponce de Leon is not without his fair share. Most notable were the political rivalries over his position of Governor of Puerto Rico. After the death of previous shipmate Columbus, the son of Columbus determined that the title of Governor should have belonged to his father, and thus, as a matter of succession, to him. He fought for this, and was awarded the title, stripping Ponce de Leon of it.
8. First settlement in Puerto Rico
During his expeditions in search of Gold in Puerto Rico, Ponce de Leon laid the groundwork for settlement. At the site where he landed, he erected a storehouse and a fortified house, creating the first settlement in Puerto Rico, Caparra.
9. First Spanish settlement in North America
Even though he did not know he was in North America, Ponce de Leon established the first Spanish settlement in North America, it was St. Augustine Florida. Although he was not the first Spanish man to enter those parts, shown by the fact that he encountered a few natives that knew the Spanish language, he was the first to create a settlement and start a real Spanish presence.
10. Distinguished military leader
Ponce de Leon was more than a discoverer, he also had a history of military leadership. He is given credit for the subjugation of the island of Hispania, and was a decorated military leader in Spain. Many important Spanish colonies and acquisitions came as a result of his leadership and command.