Juan Ponce de Leon


Juan Ponce de Leon was born in Spain around 1460. In 1508, he was sent by Spain to conquer the island of San Juan, which is now called Puerto Rico. He did conquer the land and the Tainos Indians who lived there, and ruled the island for the next three years.

All along, Ponce de Leon had been interested in trying to find a land called Bimini because King Ferdinand of Spain had offered to let him have it if it could be found.  Some people say he was also looking for a magic fountain that would keep people young forever. With the permission of the king of Spain, he set out to follow his dream. However, the king also told him to search for riches and find land to conquer while he was gone.

In 1513, Ponce de Leon finally reached land. He claimed the land near what is now St. Augustine, Florida for Spain. Because it was the Easter season, he called it La Florida, which means “flowery Easter.” He sailed around the southern tip of Florida into the Gulf of Mexico before returning home to Spain.

By the time Ponce de Leon was 47 years old. He decided he wanted to spend his last years in Florida. After all, he found it, he claimed it for Spain, and he wanted to start a colony there. He never had the chance to start the colony because he was shot by the arrow of an angry native. And sadly, if he ever was looking for the magical Fountain of Youth, he never found it!