Ponce de Leon Was Searching For The Fountain of Youth

Ponce de Leon has always been associated with the search for the Fountain of Youth.  But in researching the impact this conquistador had on Pine Island and the surrounding area, and reading Spanish Historian Herrera’s translated accounts of Ponce de Leon’s 2 journeys to Florida, Ponce de Leon’s intent was discovery of unknown lands and his return to the status he enjoyed when he was Governor of San Juan (known today as Puerto Rico).  As excerpted from Herrera’s  Historia general de los hechos de los Castillanos en las islas i tierra firme del Mar Oceano (General History of the Deeds of the Castilians in the Islands and Mainland of the Ocean Sea), first published 1601 by Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas and narrating Ponce de Leon’s 1513 voyage to the New World.

Ponce de Leon was not looking for the Fountain of Youth when he partitioned the King of Spain for the King’s permission to sail in search of new lands.  Ponce de leon was looking to increase his wealth and position in Spanish hierarchy.

In the 16th century the story of the Fountain of Youth became attached to the biography of the conquistador Juan Ponce de León. As attested by his royal charter, Ponce de León was charged with discovering the land of Beniny. Although the Indians were probably describing the land of the Maya in Yucatan, the name—and legends about Boinca’s fountain of youth—became associated with the Bahamas instead. However, Ponce de León did not mention the fountain in any of his writings throughout the course of his expedition. While he may well have heard of the Fountain and believed in it, his name was not associated with the legend in writing until after his death.

The connection was made in Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo’s Historia General y Natural de las Indias of 1535, in which he wrote that Ponce de León was looking for the waters of Bimini to regain youthfulness.[6] Some researchers have suggested that Oviedo’s account may have been politically inspired to generate favor in the courts.[4] A similar account appears in Francisco López de Gómara’s Historia General de las Indias of 1551.[7] In the Memoir of Hernando D’Escalante Fontaneda in 1575, the author places the restorative waters in Florida and mentions de León looking for them there; his account influenced Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas’ history of the Spanish in the New World.[8] Fontaneda had spent seventeen years as an Indian captive after being shipwrecked in Florida as a boy. In his Memoir he tells of the curative waters of a lost river he calls “Jordan” and refers to de León looking for them. However, Fontaneda makes it clear he is skeptical about these stories he includes, and says he doubts de León was actually looking for the fabled stream when he came to Florida.

Herrera makes that connection definite in the romanticized version of Fontaneda’s story included in his Historia general de los hechos de los Castellanos en las islas y tierra firme del Mar Oceano. Herrera states that local caciques paid regular visits to the fountain. A frail old man could become so completely restored that he could resume “all manly exercises… take a new wife and beget more children.” Herrera adds that the Spaniards had unsuccessfully searched every “river, brook, lagoon or pool” along the Florida coast for the legendary fountain. It would appear the Sequene story is likewise based on a garbling of Fontaneda.

And finally, this from Wikipedia: Author Charlie Carlson claims to have spoken with a supposed St. Augustine-based secret society claiming to be the protectors of the Fountain of Youth, which has granted them extraordinary longevity. They claimed Old John Gomez, a protagonist in the Gasparilla legend from Florida folklore, had been one of their members.  Credit Wikipedia

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