Tuesday, February 27, 2018
PONCE DE LEON
A while back I wrote a column on the Quest for Youthfulness. The desire to stay young, or at least give the appearance of staying young, is an obsession with many here in the USA. This is not to say it isn't a quest for others around the world. An Email asked why didn't I mention Ponce de Leon, a pioneer in the pursuit of eternal youthfulness? Good point.
Juan Ponce de Leon, or simply “Ponce” as we Floridians call him, is prominent in both legend and real life. While his contemporaries did not record many things that would help poor columnists many decades later, there are some things we do know for certain. In real life he came from a family of distinction, served as a soldier in combat, endured his share and more of political hassle. AND, if he didn't actually discover Florida he was the one who named our state. Beyond Florida, Ponce de Leon sailed around Caribbean waters to such sunny shores as Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas. He was a conquistador in noble company with Cortes, Pizarro, Coronado and de Soto, all men of fame in discovering and/or conquering vast territories for the Spanish Empire. We even have a town down here named Ponce de Leon (population just short of 600 souls.)
What Ponce de Leon did NOT do was embark on expeditions to discover the vitality-restoring waters we still refer to as Fuente de la Juventud - The Fountain of Youth. His mission was to acquire as much gold and territory for the Crown of Spain as possible. Period. The whole story of his looking for a fountain of youth started shortly after his demise from a poisoned arrow wound inflicted when fighting the native people who didn't take kindly to the idea of being conquered and enslaved. The consensus is that those who wrote about Ponce and the Fountain of Youth were doing so more for merriment of their readers than recording history. Still the Fountain of Youth yarn was a godsend to cosmetic firms and countless spin-offs that promise rejuvenation.