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His body was taken back to Puerto Rico and given honourable burial before the high altar of the Dominican church in San Juan, the island’s principal Spanish settlement.His remains were later transferred to San Juan cathedral.
In 1493 he sailed as a volunteer on Christopher Columbus’ second voyage to the New World, which took him to the island Columbus named Hispaniola (today split between the Dominican Republic and Haiti).He settled there and in 1508 led an expedition to what is now the island of Puerto Rico in search of gold, which he and his men duly discovered.He founded the Spanish colony there and was appointed governor.In 1513 he led three ships on an expedition that reached the east coast of Florida, according to tradition on April 3rd at the place where the city of Saint Augustine stands today.He named his discovery La Florida because it was close to the Christian ‘festival of flowers’, or , and allegedly as a reference to the new flowering he expected to enjoy from the fountain of youth.After a few days Ponce de León sailed down the coast past the future site of Miami and further on south before returning to Puerto Rico.
In 1521 he led an expedition of 200 settlers with horses, cattle, farming implements and seeds for planting to establish a Spanish colony in La Florida, but when he and his party started to build a settlement they were attacked by the local Indians and he was mortally wounded by a poisoned arrow.
He and his people retreated to Cuba, where he died.
The most engaging story about the Spanish adventurer who discovered Florida for Europeans is that he went there in search of the fabled fountain of youth, which restored vigour and sexual energy to those who drank its water.
Most historians now dismiss the tradition as itself a fable, but it is still alive and well in Florida.
There is a certain irony in the fact that the Sunshine State has long been a favourite retirement haven for elderly Americans, who move there for their declining years.
Juan Ponce de León was born to a noble family in Spain in 1474 and in his teens fought against the Moors in Granada.