Juan Ponce de Leon was an explorer or conquistador during the age of discovery. He explored the New World, became governor of the sixteenth century colony of Puerto Rico and named Florida. Initially a solider for Spain, de Leon emerged as one of the most successful Spanish explorers of all time. Before he set sail for the New World, de Leon was the Knight Commander of the Order of Calatrava. Here is a look at some of the major accomplishments of Juan Ponce De Leon.
1. Juan Ponce de Leon Sailed with Christopher Columbus
Every knows of the famous voyage embarked upon by Christopher Columbus where he intended to find a quicker route to India in Asia but ended up in the New World, the present day North America. De Leon was one of the members of this herculean expedition that took more than twelve hundred sailors, soldiers and colonists in 1493. He was essentially a volunteer on the expedition, not a soldier or a colonist.
2. Frontier Governor of Higuey & Exploration of Hispaniola
De Leon was fascinated with the explorations on his first voyage. He returned to Spain and subsequently returned to Hispaniola where Columbus had anchored during the earlier voyage. De Leon explored Hispaniola and assisted the then governor of the province, Nicolas de Ovando, to instill order in the colony. Impressed with his contributions and help, Ovando appointed de Leon as the frontier government of Higuey, a new province on the eastern part of the island.
3. Governor of Puerto Rico
De Leon was a provincial governor when he heard of riches and fertile land in a region called Puerto Rico, which was not very far from the island. He attained the permission of Ovando and ventured out on an expedition of his own. He led an exploration and found gold. Subsequent explorations lead to the establishing of a Spanish colony in Puerto Rico. He continued to explore the region and amassed substantial quantities of precious metals. Juan Ponce de Leon was appointed as the governor of San Juan Bautista and later he became the governor of Puerto Rico.
4. Discovered and Named Florida
De Leon followed up on rumors that there were islands yet to be discovered up north. He embarked on an expedition that led him to Florida. He passed the Bahamas along the way. Ponce de Leon named present day Florida as La Florida, partly because it was the time of the festival of flowers or Pascua Florida in Spanish.