American Indians told the Spanish on Hispaniola about a magical fountain on islands to the west. Whoever drank the fountain’s waters, they said, would become young again.
A Spanish conquistador named Juan Ponce de Le6n heard the miraculous story and in 1513 launched an expedition to find it. De Leon was an experienced explorer. In 1493, he reportedly accompanied Columbus on his second expedition to the Americas and became governor of the western half of Hispaniola. In 1508, he colonized Puerto Rico.
On March 27, 1513, de Leon spotted a lush, green land on the western horizon. The Spanish landed, the first Spanish to set foot on North America. Since the date fell on Easter (called Pascua Florida in Spanish) and the vegetation was so beautiful, de Leon named the region “Tierra La Florida”, “land of the flowers.”
The Spanish spent the next five months sailing down Florida’s eastern coast, around the key islands, and north again along the west coast. Florida, de Leon realized, was a giant peninsula. When de Leon returned to Spain in 1514, he was knighted by the king and given permission to colonize Florida.
De Leon returned to Florida in 1521, where he and his men were attacked by Seminole Indians. De LeOn was wounded by an arrow, and the Spanish withdrew to Havana, Cuba. De LeOn died of the wound in July 1521. De Le6n never discovered the mythical Fountain of Youth, but he spread Spain’s claims in North America.