New York Times Pounces On Ponce De Leon's 500th Anniversary Today Like All He Did Was Die

Contrary to our schoolbook 'larning' - Ponce did not discover Florida. "He never did much of anything here except get himself killed."

There's no movie material in records of Portuguese navigators first sighting Florida or maybe the Cabots from England did it. "It started appearing on maps by 1500, so by 1513, when Ponce de Leon first visited Florida that some Indians greeted him in Spanish." Ponce never went near St. Augustine, where he is said to have discovered the "Fountain of Youth." Washington Irving concocted that tale 300 years later.

Today in Melbourne Beach, the unveiling of "The First Landing", a larger than life statue of Ponce in that terrain, as well as the Postal Service unveiling a four-stamp series called "La Florida." Ponce hoped for gold but not finding any, went back home. In 1521, Juan Ponce de Leon returned, because Cortez found gold in Mexico

On his second voyage, he got into a skirmish with the Indians and took an arrow to the head. Ponce fired the first shots in what would turn into a 300-year war of ethnic cleansing. More American soldiers would die trying to subdue Florida than in all the Indian battles in the West. He died of fever in Havana, Cuba.

Just think, plutocrat Henry Flagler named his St. Augustine investment -- the "Ponce de Leon Hotel" -- but as luck would have it, he lost money on that as well as the Florida East Coast Railway.