Juan Ponce de Leon. Bio. A&E Television Network. 2016. Web.
Juan Ponce de Leon. History. A&E Television Network. 2016. Web.
Juan Ponce de Leon. Wikipedia. 2016. Web.
5. Early Life
The Spanish explorer and conqueror Juan Ponce de Leon was born in Santervas de Campos, Spain in 1460. His family belonged to Spanish nobility. As a young boy, he was a page to the royal court of Aragon. Educated in the court, de Leon was coached in the Roman Catholic faith and proper Spanish social etiquette. Later, he was schooled in miltary tactics. He would also become a close friend of Columbus. He was a descendant of the Marquiz of Cadiz. Later, as a young man, a royal relative by the name of Pedro Nunez de Guzman hired him on to act as his squire. De Leon was also a Spanish soldier in the Granada campaign against the Moors.
De Leon's first taste of exploration came alongside Christopher Columbus, as he accompanied Columbus on his second voyage to what is now North America. On this expedition, he was a volunteer soldier. Soon thereafter, he met Nicolas de Ovando, then the Governor of Hispaniola. When the native Indians staged a revolt against the Spaniards, De Leon was able to stop them. De Ovando was so grateful to him that he made him Governor of the eastern region of Hispaniola. When De Leon heard from a native that Puerto Rico was awash with gold, he asked the Spanish crown to allow him to visit the island. Exploring the island, he established a settlement there and later became its governor, appointed to serve in the name of the Spanish Crown.
By the time of his governorship, De Leon was already known as an avid explorer. One time, he was on his way to find the fabled 'Fountain of Youth", which the local natives believed to be located in Bimini (in today's Bahamas). Sailing to find it in March 1513, he reached Florida. There, he explored the Florida Keys and the coast of Florida. He also found the Gulf Stream in the area. After his search for the miracle waters proved futile, he returned back to Puerto Rico. In Spain, De Leon was named military governor of Florida for discovering that part of the New World. After an absence of 8 years, he returned to Florida to establish a settlement, and made landfall in today's Charlotte Harbor, Florida.
From early on, Ponce de leon already faced challenges in his career, whether as a soldier, explorer, or governor for Spain and its colonies. When Ponce de Leon became the military commander under Nicolas de Ovando, governor of Hispaniola, he was asked to quell a revolt on the island of Hispaniola. This was just one of many revolts that he would ultimately have to put down in the region. He also engaged some native Indians in firefights in Puerto Rico after they staged a revolt during his absence. He was a close friend to Christopher Columbus, but he was somewhat affected personally by the political intrigue that led to his governorship of Puerto Rico.
1. Death and Legacy
In 1521, Ponce de Leon sailed back to Florida to establish a settlement on orders directly from the Spanish crown. That expedition made its way towards the southwest coast of Florida. Upon landfall, a war party of Calusa Indians ambushed Leon and his men in the vicinity of the Caloosahatchee River. Unable to repel the Calusa warriors' fierce offensive, the Spaniards retreated back to their ship. Unfortunately, Ponce de Leon was struck by a poisoned arrow in the thigh. They sailed out of the area and brought him to Cuba, where he died in July of 1521. Ponce de Leon left a legacy of having significantly helped in promoting Spanish colonization and cultural in the Caribbean, as well as of having discovered new areas in the New World within which Spain could continue to expand its influence farther still.