Juan Ponce de Leon
Juan Ponce de Leon was born sometime around the year 1460 in Spain. As a Spanish explorer he began his explorations in 1493 by accompanying Christopher Columbus on Columbus' second voyage to America.
After this voyage he was commissioned to explore a small island called Borinquen, later known as Puerto Rico. In 1509, by then rich on the gold from the island, Ponce de Leon became governor of Puerto Rico. However, in 1512 King Ferdinand the second replaced Ponce de Leon as governor by a man named Diego Columbus. So Ponce de Leon turned his attention elsewhere.
According to legend, Ponce de Leon was unhappy with the aging process and searched for methods to restore youth. One particular remedy attracted Ponce de Leon's interest. On an island, told about in stories, there was a magic fountain. The belief was that anyone who bathed in the fountain's water or drank water from it would become young again.
Ponce de Leon ordered three of his ships to be made ready for a trip to discover the fountain of youth. However many historians believe, having lost power as governor, Ponce de Leon searched not only for the fountain of youth, but gold also. Ponce de Leon explored many islands, including the Bahamas and Bimini.
Then on Easter Sunday in 1513, Ponce de Leon discovered a beautiful tropical land. He claimed the land for the king of Spain and named it Florida, since the Spanish name for Easter is "Pascua florida," meaning "holiday of the flowers." After some exploration Ponce de Leon returned to Puerto Rico. It is believed that during his exploration of Florida he introduced oranges to this area.
Ponce de Leon returned to Florida in 1521. Intending to colonize Florida on this trip he found the previously friendly natives to be hostile. A battle between the two forces ensued and in July of that year Ponce de Leon was wounded by a poison arrow. In hopes of recovery he was transported to Cuba where he later died.
Books for Children
- Ponce De Leon (Juniors-World Explorers) by Wyatt Blassingame - This book is a nice biography of Ponce de Leon's life as a soldier as well as an explorer. Interesting for children ages 8 -12. (amazon.com has it)
- Juan Ponce De Leon (Hispanics of Achievement) by Sean Dolan - An accurate account of his explorations. Interesting maps accompany the text. Appropriate for children 9 and older. (amazon.com has it )
- The Magic Fountain (Another Really Truly Story) by Sadybeth and Anson Lowitz - An interesting story based on the legend of Ponce de Leon's search for the fountain of youth (amazon.com has it ).
- Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by Education World includes lesson plan ideas as well as information about famous Hispanics such as Pablo Picasso and Juan Ponce de Leon.