Viva Florida 500

500 Years of Florida History!

Juan Ponce de Leon
Juan Ponce de Leon
Image courtesy of In spring 1513, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León landed on the east coast of Florida and became the first recorded European to set foot on the continental United States. His arrival in 1513 predates European settlements in Jamestown, Virginia and Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts, by 94 years and 107 years, respectively.
Ponce de León gave Florida the name La Florida by because of its lush plant life and in honor of Pascua Florida, the Eastertime Spanish Feast of Flowers taking place at the time of his arrival.
Of course, Native Americans were present for thousands of years prior to European arrival, and the Ponce de León expedition included people of diverse culture and ancestry. This 500th anniversary marks a time to recognize the contributions of everyone who has contributed to Florida’s heritage and culture.
Ponce de León’s voyage of discovery began a new era in which Native Americans, Europeans and other nationalities under many different flags formed the foundation that created the state of Florida.

Viva Florida 500
A countless number of different cultures contributed to Florida’s heritage and continue to live, work and thrive together today. 500 years of history and cultural diversity is being commemorated throughout Florida in 2013 through an initiative called “Viva Florida 500.”
The City of Fernandina Beach is proud to be a part of Florida’s story through our rich and diverse history also dating to the 16th century! Click here to visit Fernandina’s page on the Viva Florida 500 website.

Let's Celebrate!

To celebrate this anniversary, the City of Fernandina Beach, in partnership with the Amelia Island Museum of History and Fort Clinch State Park, sponsored a weekend event to highlight Fernandina’s diverse heritage.

Friday, September 27, 2013 at 6pm
500 Years of Spanish Influence - Exhibit opening at the Amelia Island Museum of History with special guest Dr. Michael Francis. Dr. Francis presented "Murder and Martyrdom in Spanish Florida: Don Juan and the Guale uprising of 1597."

Saturday, September 28, 2013 - 10am to 4pm
Come to the Old Town Plaza where the day's activities included:
  • Reenactors depicting Fernandina's Spanish Colonial period, along with a series of vignettes which tell the story of Amelia Island through the eyes of historical figures like Mary Mattair, Gregor MacGregor, and Luis Aury.
  • A re-creation of a typical Spanish lot (or peonia) as mandated by the Spanish Law of the Indies - complete with live animals!
  • Arepresentation of Fort San Carlos (the Spanish wooden fort built in 1816), with a cannon discovered on Amelia Island by the National Park Service.
  • A sample archaeological dig.
  • Spanish flamenco dancers entertained the crowd!
  • A Middle Passage ceremony occurred, honoring the lives of those perished during the ocean passage from Africa to the Americas, Spanish territory, and Caribbean.

Saturday, September 28, 2013 at 6pm
Tickets were sold in advance for a Spanish-style dinner, along with a lecture on Spanish Colonial food by Cathy Parker. The dinner also took place in Old Town.