State celebrates 500th anniversary of the first European exploration of Florida

Published: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 at 04:04 PM.

TALLAHASSEE — The 500th anniversary of Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon’s arrival on the land he named “La Florida” in 1513 is being celebrated this week across the state.

 “This week marks an historic anniversary for Florida and the entire United States of America. Ponce de León, during the week of April 2, 1513, became the first documented European to arrive anywhere in the current United States of America,” said Gov. Rick Scott.

Five centuries ago a band of Spanish explorers led by Juan Ponce de Leon explored much of the coast of Florida's peninsula.

That was the first of a wave of European exploration of what is now the United States. (Columbus's famous landing in 1492 was in the West Indies.)

This year, Florida is celebrating the anniversary with a yearlong series of events titled Viva Florida 500.

 “This special anniversary is an opportunity to share Florida’s unique story and reflect on the people, places and events that made Florida the dynamic state it is today,” Scott said.

 “In addition to our work in creating a more business friendly climate, Florida’s rich history and culture have supported tourism, which is among the many reasons that we’ve created nearly 300,000 private-sector jobs and our unemployment rate has dropped to 7.7 percent,” the governor said. “The policies we are implementing are working and we encourage more people to come to Florida to contribute to the overall economic vitality of our state.”

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