Juan Ponce de Leon

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  • Topic: Puerto Rico, Juan Ponce de León, Spanish Empire
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  • Published : January 29, 2012
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Juan Ponce de León y Figueroa (1474 – July 1521) was a Spanish explorer. He became the first Governor of Puerto Rico by appointment of the Spanish crown. He led the first European expedition to Florida, which he named. He is associated with the legend of the Fountain of Youth, reputed to be in Florida. He was born in the village of Santervás de Campos in the northern part of what is now the Spanish province of Valladolid. Although early historians placed his birth in 1460, more recent evidence shows he was likely born in 1474. His family genealogy is extremely confusing and poorly documented. There is no consensus on who his parents were but it seems that he was a member of a distinguished and influential noble family. His relatives included Rodrigo Ponce de León, the Marquess of Cádiz and a celebrated figure in the Moorish wars. Ponce de León was also related to another notable family, Núñez de Guzmán, and as a young man he served as squire to Pedro Núñez de Guzmán, Knight Commander of the Order of Calatrava. A big contemporary chronicler, Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés, states that Ponce de León became an experienced soldier fighting in the Spanish campaigns that defeated the Moors in Granada and completed the re-conquest of Spain in 1492. Arrival in the New World (Puerto Rico)

Chief Agueybana greeting Juan Ponce de León
The fleet reached the Caribbean in November 1493, and visited several islands before arriving at their primary destination in Hispaniola. In particular they anchored on the coast of a large island the natives called Boriquen but would eventually become known as Puerto Rico. This was Ponce de León's first glimpse of the place that would play a major role in his future. Around this same time, Ponce de León married Leonora, the daughter of an innkeeper. They had three daughters, Juana, Isabel and Maria; and one son, Luis. He built a large stone house for his growing family—a house that still stands today near the city of Caparra....
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