Juan Ponce de León was famous for his voyage to Florida as well as for his association with the legend of the Fountain of Youth. He also discovered the Gulf stream and established the oldest European settlement in Puerto Rico.
Timeline of Juan Ponce de León:
Note that not many documents were found which recorded the exact dates of Juan Ponce de León's timeline. The dates mentioned below are an approximation.
- 1474: Juan Ponce de León was born and baptized in 1474 in the village of Santervás de Campos, in Spain. He came from a noble family and learned several languages beside physics, geometry, mathematics, and astronomy.
- 1490: He fought as a soldier in the Spanish army against the Muslims (Moors) in southern Spain, after serving as page to Don Pedro Nunuz de Guzman, a Spanish knight. He also traveled the seas as a privateer, attacking ships belonging to the Moors.
- 25th September 1493: Ponce de León joined Christopher Columbus during his second voyage for the new world, along with approximately 1200 sailors, colonists, and soldiers on one of the sixteen ships on the expedition.
- 1494: He stayed back in Santo Domingo, Hispaniola, after Christopher Columbus returned to Spain.
- 1502: Ponce de León was assigned the task of crushing the native Taínos, who were considered to be rebellions in Hispaniola. He was appointed by governor Nicolás de Ovando, to bring order to a colony which was in disarray. Later, Ponce de León was made the frontier governor of the new province Higüey, by Ovando. In addition to the post, Ovando also awarded him a substantial land grant along with sufficient Indian labor, to farm his new estate.
- 1505: Ponce de León established a new town in Higüey and named it Salvaleón. In the same year, he married Leonora, who was the daughter of an innkeeper. They had one son named Luis and three daughters named Isabel, Juana, and Maria.
- 1508: On account of his earlier exploration and stories heard from the native Tainos, Ponce de León was sure of the presence of gold on the Boriquen island. In 1508, he got permission for the first official expedition to the island, from King Ferdinand II of Aragon. He left Hispaniola on June 12, 1508, along with a small group and eventually anchored in San Juan Bay. He created the first settlement in Puerto Rico by the name of Caparra and went on to explore the island for gold.
- 1509: Ponce de León returned to Hispaniola in early 1509 bringing back a good quantity of gold with him. He was appointed as the governor of San Juan Bautista and was instructed to extend the settlement of the island. Later the same year, Juan Ceron was appointed as the chief justice and Miguel Diaz as the chief constable of the island. These appointments were made by Diego Colón, the son of Christopher Columbus and were meant to override the authority of the governor.
- 1512: Ponce de León was given a royal contract which outlined his rights and authority to search for the 'Islands of Bimini' also spelled Benimy (in the Bahamas).
- 1513: Ponce de León set out from San German in Puerto Rico with three ships, at his own expense, on March 4, 1513. After traveling for a few days, the fleet sighted land, which Ponce de León believed was another island. He named it as La Florida because of the beautiful flowers on its landscape. He went on searching for a chain of islands in the west and reached the Dry Tortugas on June 21. There the crew members captured many giant sea turtles, Caribbean Monk Seals and seabirds. Ponce de León reached the shore of Puerto Rico on October 19, almost eight months after beginning his expedition. According to many historians, he discovered Florida while allegedly searching for the Fountain of Youth.
- 27 September 1514: Ponce de León secured a second grant, which gave him the power to make settlements on the Islands of Bimini and Florida. He was also knighted and given a personal coat of arms, which made him the first conquistador to receive these honors.
- 26 February 1521: Ponce de León set out with two ships which consisted of some 200 men, including priests, farmers, and artisans, in order to colonize Florida. He landed on the west coast of Florida along with his fleet, but was met by Native American Calusa warriors on Pine Island. He suffered serious injuries in the conflict and died of his poisoned wounds in Havana, Cuba, in July, 1521 at the age of 47.
Juan Ponce de León was a great Spanish explorer and soldier and his tomb was built in the cathedral, in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.