Viva Florida 500 GreaterJax™ is a series of occasional pieces about Florida history and this year’s celebrations of 500 years of same in and around northeast Florida.
Although we’ve been hearing about this big party for a couple of years now, and it’s still a little early, so far Viva Florida 500 doesn’t mean much.
But what is it, really?
There’s actually plenty to celebrate, and, let’s face it, at the ripe old age or at least 500, Florida is our oldest state, hands down.
In a nut shell, Viva Florida 500 is this: Ponce de León, a Spaniard, and his crew may have been the first Europeans to land on Florida and give she a name.
Let’s pitch a wang dang doodle!
Historical records Indian and European calculate the date to have been April 2, 1513.
Although Greater Jacksonville has long been considered the site of the original Spanish landing, the best that historians can do to pin it down is to note that Ponce de León made landfall somewhere between Jacksonville proper and Cape Canaveral in central Florida.
Good on the Spanish for hitting Florida, which wasn’t really lost or undiscovered, and on the attendant Indians for doing what they could to keep records.
In the interest of unity in this very special year, we do ourselves much honor as we gear up to appreciate the many contributions of the many peoples who down through the last five centuries have helped make the state of Florida what it is.
For instance, did you know that, though the Spanish “discovered” our fair state, the French actually settled here first in?
It’s known to a certainty that Jean Ribault and his merry band of Huguenots established Fort Caroline at the mouth of the St. Johns river near what is now downtown Jacksonville in 1562.
They beat the Spanish settlers who showed up in 1565 by, yep, three years.
Last year we celebrated 450 years of French history right here in Greater Jacksonville.
Clearly there’s more to it than what’s left of Fort Caroline and the one ferry boat, even though it is the state’s only extant and historic one.
So what we have before us is an ideal time in which to learn more about our Indians and our Dutch and our Portuguese and our Greeks and our Italians and the host of other people who came to Florida a long, long, time ago.
Here’s a French lesson to start:
Boucans and boucanier are the French words from which buccaneer derives.
Truitt, you ask?
Norman French. Means “trout” or “fish.”
Much love to the Spanish and the Indians and the Vikings.
But the French were here first.
Liberté, égalité, fraternité
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OFFICIAL BIO: K Truitt is a second-generation, native Floridian born in Jacksonville. Truitt worked in public higher education for 25 years, most recently in Texas, is a successful grant writer, knows newspaper publishing, printing and graphic design and wants to work in the public sector. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org