Juan Ponce de Leon

Juan Ponce de Leon was born in Santervas de Campos, Spain in 1460. He took part in the war to conquer Granada. Later, Ponce de Leon accompanied Columbus on his second voyage. He helped conquer the eastern part of the Hispaniola. Ponce de Leon was given the governorship of the providence in recognition of his service. Ponce de Leon heard rumors of the considerable wealth in the neighboring island of Puerto Rico. He requested and received permission to lead an expedition to explore and conquer that island.

In 1508, Ponce de Leon established the first settlement in Puerto Rico, called "Caparra". Ponce de Leon quickly gained control of the whole island. The natives of the island (called "Tainos") were worked hard. Many died from the diseases that Europeans had brought with them.

In 1511, Ponce de Leon was removed from office. He requested permission to explore the area to North of Cuba. That permission was granted. Popular history states that Ponce de Leon was searching for the Fountain of Youth during his expedition. There are many questions as to whether that is really true.

On April 2nd 1513, Ponce de Leon landed on territory he called "Florida"– for all the flowers he saw there. Ponce de Leon most likely landed just North of the current Florida. Then, he explored that coast from north to south, all the way down to the Florida Keys.

In 1514, Ponce de Leon returned to Spain. There, he received the Royal Commission to conquer Guadalupe and settle Florida. He led a failed expedition to Guadalupe in 1515, after which he returned to Puerto Rico. He stayed in Puerto Rico until 1521. Then he led an expedition to set up a permanent colony in Florida. The colonists landed on the Southwest coast of Florida. Hostile Natives soon attacked them. A poison arrow stuck Ponce de Leon. The Spanish withdrew to Cuba where Ponce de Leon soon died from his wound.