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5th Centenary of Juan Ponce de Leon’s Arrival at the Florida Coast stamp from Spain

5th Centenary of Juan Ponce de Leon’s Arrival at the Florida Coast stamp from Spain
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The 5th Centenary of Juan Ponce de Leon's arrival at the Florida coastis being commemorated by the Spanish Correos' issue of a stamp referring to the historical event.

On Easter Sunday 1513, also calledPascua Florida(Festival of Flowers), the Spanish expedition led by Juan Ponce de Leon disembarked in a new land which they named Florida, in honour of the religious festival. It seems that the explorer landed in the place nowadays called Melbourne, near Cape Canaveral, without knowing that he had just discovered the territory where the United States of America would be founded a few centuries later.

Juan Ponce de Leon (Santervas de Campos, Valladolid, 1460 - Cuba, 1521) came from a noble family. He was a page in the court of the Catholic Monarchs and fought at the conquest of Granada. It is thought that he went on Christopher Columbus's second expedition to America and took part in the conquest of Hispaniola, the island formed by Haiti and Santo Domingo. From there, he went on to take the nearby island of Borinquen, now Puerto Rico, in 1508, and colonized it easily with the help of Agueybana, the chief of the Taino Indians. He was appointed governor of Puerto Rico, where he built towns and mined for gold and natural resources after subduing the Indians. In 1511, he was removed from the post of governor.

Theconquistadorstarted on new adventures in 1513, and with royal assent, left Puerto Rico in search of an uncharted place, called Bimini. After several weeks at sea, on Ester Sunday orPascua Florida, the expedition disembarked in an exotic land that they named Florida. Back in Puerto Rico, Ponce de Leon obtained the title of Adelantado, which confirmed his right to explore, using his own means, on behalf of the Spanish crown.

In 1521, Juan Ponce de Leon led a new expedition, consisting of ships, religious orders, men, women, craftsmen, seeds, livestock and farming tools, to colonize Florida. He was wounded by a poisoned arrow in a fight with the Indians and ordered withdrawal to Cuba, where he died. Other Spanish expeditions followed in Ponce de Leon's footsteps and left a clear imprint of Spain in Florida with the founding of the first towns, schools, churches, hospitals and courts of justice.

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