Oct 8, 2011

United States of Florida?

Did Columbus (c. 1451 – 1506) discover Florida?

Florida shoreline as seen
through the eyes of Ponce De Leon

My understanding is that Christopher Columbus discovered a couple of the Caribbean Islands, starting with the Bahamas, and then sailed down to Cuba and Hispaniola.

Of course there were already people living on his new found lands, which he originally mistook for India, thus bequeathing the natives with a misnomer that still sticks: Indians.

But no, he never stepped foot in Florida.


More broadly:

Why isn’t the continent called “New India” instead?

Doesn't Florida look like India on this map?

In steps Amerigo Vespucci (c. 1454 – 1512).

He took sail seven years after Columbus, was only a visitor (not a captain), and only saw the south American coast … let alone coming anywhere close to Florida,

Somehow it’s his name – not Columbus’s – that made the map, for both the north and the south “new found lands!”

The red area (and beyond)
was what Ponce De Leon had in mind
when he dubbed the land "La Floride."
Newfoundland, of course, was discovered by “Lucky Leif” Ericson (c. 970 – c. 1020.) He outflanked Columbus by 500 years with the Viking preferred arctic trade routes where he set up a camp in Vinland to grow grapes.

(Had only he landed in Florida he could have grown oranges instead!)


Florida was conspicuously devoid of oranges when Juan Ponce De Leon (c. 1474 – 1521) first set eyes on it in 1512. His interests lay not in citrus, but water – the “Fountain of Youth” to be exact.

He never found it, but he did name the great peninsula on which we stand, united, as Floridians.



The under-reported truth is that Ponce De Leon had a bit of Vespucci in him:

Yes, he only saw a thin sliver of the Florida coast – east and southwest – but it wasn’t the coast or even the peninsula he had in mind when he decreed – “I dub thee Florida” … or however it was in Spanish he said it;


He meant the entire land mass, as far as it stretches:

Or in other words, all of North America.

No two maps are the same:
Especially back then!

It has a nice ring to it, and had a cartographer so long ago only penned the map differently, it may very well have been …

The United States of Florida!

But his search goes on:
The Fountain of Youth!

7 comments:

Robert V. Sobczak said...

Happy early Columbus Day, i.e. Monday.

swampbuggy said...

Desoto explored as far north as Kentucky and as far west as Oklahoma. We did name a county in Florida after him. The only national recognition he recieved was having a 1950's 3 ton Chrysler with fins proudy bear his name.

Robert V. Sobczak said...

It's pretty amazing the ground he covered. He was the Coronado of the east.

rhobbs said...

Thank you for the nice read.

I’d like to ask a question of anyone who might know: Was it tourism marketers or geo-politicians who move the Bahama Islands out of the North Atlantic Ocean and into the Caribbean?
Some have tried to put Bermuda there, too. (But the few instances I've seen on that could just be the result of lazy press-type journalism.)

Lilly said...

I always enjoy a bit of history. Where I live, it was reported that Queen Elizabeth visited the park (back then it was known as National Park). After her 'visit' it was renamed Royal National Park. In fact she never step foot inside the park but passed it on her way through on the train.

Paul Holmes said...

The Discovery of America.

Why do we Americans make such a fuss about the discovery of our country? America is huge, how could you not discover it. If you set out westward from Europe or turned right in Japan and went to the east, you would eventually bump into it, it’s impossible to miss it.
Secondly, how can you discover a country that already has thousands of people living there?
Of course as we know, the Portuguese who eventually discovered the Americas were actually looking for a new way to India.
What I find almost unbelievable is that they discovered two little islands, Cuba and Jamaica and totally missed the whole of North America.
Then they proceeded to fight over these two minuscule pieces of territory for several years, until they realized that there was this massive almost empty country just ninety miles to the north.
The reason that they managed to find these tiny specs in the great ocean when they couldn't find a huge great big place like America may have been due to the scents wafting from the land.
A good navigator could I am told smell land long before he could see it. So given the choice of following the scent of rum and hibiscus blossoms or stale buffalo droppings, I know which one I would have discovered first.
Had they seriously wanted to discover America then they should have asked that Viking chap Leif whatever his name was, for a copy of the map that he used when he found America the first time.
Obviously he did not know he had found America, because it was not called America in those days.
History recalls that as the Vikings came ashore through the mist, the local Indians on seeing these strange creatures covered in animal fur, with horns on their heads and faces covered in hair, thinking they were the fabled ‘sea buffalo’, promptly shot them; thus ending the first invasion of this great land.
What they shot them with is still apparently a mystery.
Had things turned out differently, America may have become part of Scandinavia. We probably would have all finished up being called Sven, eating pickled herrings for breakfast, smorgasbord for lunch and rushing around for the rest of the day shouting, “skol” and knocking back copious amounts of schnapps.
One thinks of ‘skol’ as a toast, it is however an order and the only way they can get anyone to drink the awful stuff. I am told that the Norwegians use schnapps in roughly the same way that we use anti-freeze.
Of course as I just suggested, those sailors who eventually discovered the Americas by accident, were actually looking for a new way to India and when they saw land they thought that they had discovered the East coast of that fascinating country.
Didn't they notice that the men were wearing feathers and not turbans and none of the ladies had red dots on their foreheads?
Even an idiot like me would have known that this was not India, and therefore it was a stupid mistake to call the place the West Indies, especially as they were looking for the East Indies.
At least we know why our proud indigenous people are called Indians, that’s who the stupid Europeans thought they were.

Paul Holmes

Robert V. Sobczak said...

Funny what gets remembered and what doesn't. Columbus is symbolic. Like most great people it was timing as much or more than anything else.