There are many claims, historical writings and controversy surrounding the famous “Fountain of Youth” (Fountains of Youth). The conquistadors are known to have sought this source in the 16th century. It is a legendary source that supposedly brings back youth to anyone who drinks or bathes in its waters. The stories of the existence of the Source of Youth have been told around the world for thousands of years. The source is mentioned in the writings of Herodotus, the legends of Alexander the Great, and the stories of Presbyter John. Stories of similar origins also existed among indigenous peoples of the Caribbean at a time of great geographical discovery. The indigenous peoples of the Caribbean spoke of rejuvenating water in the mythical land of Bimini. The legend came to prominence in the 16th century, when Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León (first governor of Puerto Rico) searched for the source in 1513 and discovered Florida.
Who was Juan Ponce de León?
Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León was one of the first Europeans to set foot on the soil of today’s United States of America. He led the expedition to present-day Florida (to which he gave his name). Ponce de Leon discovered the Bahamas and colonized Puerto Rico. Yet the story is most remembered for his legendary quest for the Fountain of Youth. The Fountain / Fountain of Youth was thought to reverse the aging process and cure various ailments. There is no official information on him, but it is believed that Juan Ponce was born in 1474. He served as a boy in the court of King Aragon as a boy. He was then a soldier who participated in the Spanish campaigns against the emirates of Granada. After the war ended, Leon began his career as a researcher in the group of the second expedition of Christopher Coloumbus in the New World in 1493.
Leon then settled on an island in the Caribbean known as Hispanola (present-day Dominican Republic). He was appointed military commander then governor of the eastern province of the island (after successfully suppressing the uprising of the native population).
During his management of the island, there were rumors that there was a lot of gold on the nearby island of San Juan Batista. 1508 Ponce de Leon receives permission from the King of Spain to explore the island.
The result of this expedition is the establishment of the Spanish settlement of Puerto Rico. Ponce de Leon has been appointed governor of the island.
Ponce de Leon was not the only conquistador. He had plenty of opponents. In 1511, Ponce de Leon is forced to surrender his position to Diego Columba, son of Cristopher Columba.
The Spanish king gives Leon the mythical territory of Bimini (for compensation). The condition was that Leon finance the expedition and find the Bimini mythical territory. Politics got involved in the whole story. His search for Bimini was linked to the search for the Fountain of Youth.
After Leon’s death, Spanish chronicler Gonzalo Fernandes de Oviedo and Valdes sought a way to discredit the conquistador (Oviedo was on the side of Leon’s rival, Diego Columba).
The chronicler describes Ponce as an egocentric and gullible man who believed in the natives’ story of the fountain of youth and sought in vain.
In search of Bimini, Leon’s expedition bore fruit in 1513 after the east coast of Florida was discovered. Ponce de Leon named the Florida area after they came to Florida during Easter (in Spanish Pasque Florida).
He was granted permission to colonize the region a year later, but returned to Florida only in 1521. Then the conquistador was wounded by an arrow in the thigh. He died of that wound a few months later.
In some ways, Ponce de Leon achieved immortality.
For starters, today he is remembered as the man who discovered Puerto Rico and Florida. Although people like Oviedo tried to discredit Leon’s accomplishments, he will remain remembered as the man who tried to find the Fountain of Youth, not by the negative criticism his chroniclers made.