Oct 6, 2012

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!

3 comments:

swampthing said...

our swampy peninsula, the appendix of america

J. Bradford Linville said...

Love maps, love history, good job of combing both, Thanks Bob!!

Robert V. Sobczak said...

Thanks Swamp Thing and Lindy. Nice to hear from you.