Juan Ponce de Leon was born around 1460 in San Tervas de Campos, Spain. He was the first Spanish explorer to arrive in Florida. In 1493, Ponce de Leon and Christopher Columbus sailed together on Columbus’ 2nd voyage to America. They had settled on an island named Hispaniola, which is present day Dominican Republic, where Ponce de Leon had become governor at. In 1506, he had discovered an island close by named Borinquen, and during his time here, he found lots of gold. Once he made this discovery and took most of it, he left the island of Borinquen. In 1508, he was ordered by the king of Spain to return to Borinquen to colonize it. Later on, he had renamed this island Puerto Rico. He became the island’s governor for two years until he was replaced with Columbus’s son by the king.
He was hurt by what the king had done, so he decided to go sailing again. This time it was in the north direction towards Florida. As usual, he was searching for new valuables and land. Along his journey, he was introduced to a fountain of youth. This was a magical spring that Indians believed whose water was able to make old people look young. Ponce de Leon searched many areas in hopes to find the treasures and the fountain, but failed to do so.
In 1513, he landed on Florida’s east coast and claimed this land for Spain. Since he was the one who discovered this piece of land, he was entitled to name it and named it La Florida, or “Place of Flowers.” After, he decided to sail down the coast where he had experienced rough currents and named this area Cape Canaveral, meaning “Cape of Currents.” Then he went down the east coast of Florida to arrive on an island that had lots of turtles. He named it Dry Tortugas, because no water was present on the island and “tortugas” which means “turtles” in spanish.