How many of you saw the most recent Pirates of the Caribbean film with the Fountain of Youth?
I did and found the lore included in it very interesting and amusing. Not to mention that I loved the ending with the Spaniards coming in and destroying it declaring, “Only God can grant eternity.” AWESOME! Well, this past week our history lesson was about Ponce de Leon, and of course, I associate him with the Fountain of Youth. That was one of the big things he did as an explorer, he looked for the Fountain of Youth in Florida.
Side note about the Fountain of Youth in Florida
As a matter of fact, there is an archeological park in Saint Augustine, Florida that claims to be the ACTUAL Fountain of Youth. When Jeff and I visited there, pre-kids our hotel was right next to it, but for various reasons, we didn’t make it to that park (too busy exploring the fort, one of the few forts to of never been taken in battle, or any of the other sites there).
Back to our regularly scheduled Fountain of Youth and Ponce de Leon history lesson
Juan Ponce de Leon is a Spanish explorer. He sailed with Christopher Columbus during his second voyage to colonize Hispaniola. The next few years are fuzzy, for some reason they did not obsessively document their lives like we do today, but he ends up in a prominent role in the government there.
He actually does so well, he gets promoted to governor of this new colony that’s eventually going to be called Puerto Rico. He has a bit of a political battle with Columbus’ son over who really is in charge, and eventually, it just is not worth it to keep fighting over this, so he decides to go explore some more.
Juan Ponce de Leon, doesn’t his name just roll off the tongue? It’s fun to say. Juan Ponce de Leon sails around Florida for a bit, naming it after the holiday of Easter, which is called Pascua Florida in Spanish, because of the rather gorgeous landscape. He thinks, he’s found an amazingly big island at first and they tour around the Southern bit of Florida and have a jolly old time.
There are a few arguments about just where he wandered about Florida and just where he landed, and when you travel in Florida many places claim to of been visited by him.
It’s kind of like the claims by historic inns that George Washington slept in them.
He returned to Puerto Rico, saw it was a giant mess and decided to pop in and say hi to King Ferdinand. King Ferdinand was like, “Great job! You should go settle that land.” So Juan Ponce de Leon headed back to Florida with a few hundred men to settle that crazy land.
Only, it didn’t work. They landed, but the natives understandably didn’t want a bunch of Europeans coming in and settling there, and in the kerfuffle that blew up de Leon was wounded and they retreated all the way back to Cuba, where de Leon died.
You’ll notice at no point did I mention anything about Juan Ponce de Leon searching for the Fountain of Youth. That’s because in my writing of this post I learned we aren’t actually sure he searched for it.
The idea of Ponce de Leon finding the Fountain of Youth came from a book published almost 20 years after he died.
It was then backed up by several different books and people claiming to be surivors of his expeditions over the next 50 years.
I feel so disillusioned. I loved that story.
Several modern historians seem to think there might have been a mistranslation, the local tribes brewed a tea from the “vid fountain” (fountain vine) and that was mistaken for the fountain of life.
Interesting how our knowledge of history grows and changes over the years
Our Fountain of Youth activity
After reading about Ponce de Leon, I challenged the kids to design what the Fountain looked like out of Legos.
Batman’s Fountain of Youth which looks more fountainy, I swear that’s a word.
This is Superman’s Fountain of Youth. He said the fountain was near a battle, so it needed soldiers to protect it. This is what happens when you have a 6-year-old design something, it’s going to turn into what he’s interested in. Princess’ fountain was more on the theoretical side (you can see it up at the top of this section). I’m sure there’s a fountain in there somewhere amongst all of those bricks.
Originally published January 23, 2012