Five hundred years.
Next April will mark the 500th anniversary of the day that Ponce de León sailed off the Florida’s east coast and provided us with a pretty cool name.
I can’t even fathom what these explorers were like or how they handled the conditions they encountered. For that matter, I really wonder what the Timucua and Apalachee and Seminoles were thinking as their home became the landing strip for a succession of conquistadors. Trying to explain all of this is Viva 500 which is bringing together people and communities and government agencies such as the Florida Humanities Council to organize events that will put the dynamics of Florida’s history in context. Due to a rare concentration of major commemoration moments – de León’s 500th anniversary (2013), the 450th anniversary of France’s establishment of Fort Caroline (2014), and the 450th anniversary of the settlement of St. Augustine (2015) – there’ll be several years to really delve into Florida’s incredible past.
You can get started on your higher education on Sept. 8 by attending a commemoration of the 447th anniversary of the founding of the city of St. Augustine. It’s a heritage event hosted by Mission Nombre de Dios and Florida Living History, Inc., whose dedicated participants bring our past to life.
At this re-enactment you’ll see what it may have been like when Admiral Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés stepped ashore on Matanzas Bay. By his actions, St. Augustine remains the oldest, continuously occupied European city, port, and parish in the continental United States. The free event begins at 10 a.m. at the Mission Nombre de Dios. There will be appearances by the mayor, a Mass of Thanksgiving offered by the bishop, a presentation on the founding of St. Augustine by Dr. Timothy J. Johnson of Flagler College, and more moments that mark this extraordinary time in history.
One of the best things we have going for us is the Florida Humanities Council, and through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, they’re one of the major players behind this and other Viva 500 activities. You’ll be hearing plenty about this over the next few years – and this recreation event seems like a great way to start.
And if you’d like to get involved, consider becoming part of Florida Living History, Inc. (follow this link or call 877/352-4478). They're the non-profit, educational organization dedicated to the support of living history activities, events, and portrayals related to the history of colonial Florida. Good stuff.