Ponce De Leon

Juan Ponce de León was a Spanish conquistador and explorer in the 1500s.

He is most well-known for charting the Atlantic coast that extended down to the state of Florida. Books and journals say that he was searching for the mythical “Fountain of Youth,” but there is no actual proof of that. He was from a noble Spanish family and entered the Spanish military when he was very young.


Where did they live?

Ponce de León devoted his early years to military service in Spain. When the wars and battles stopped, there was no need for his service, and he and other members of the military began to look to where they could devote their experience.

Facts about Ponce De Leon

  • In 1493, Ponce de León traveled as a “gentleman volunteer” with Christopher Columbus to the New World on the second voyage that Columbus accomplished. Ponce de León continued in military service, and by the 1500s, he had achieved a high-level military position in Hispaniola, one of the colonial governments. During that time, he crushed the uprising of the local Taino people.
  • Having proved his worth, Ponce de León was then sent on exploration expeditions to what is now Puerto Rico, and by 1509 the Spanish crown named him the first governor of that island. As governor, he owned a lot of mines and plantations and became quite wealthy. However, he was in a constant legal battle with Christopher Columbus’ son, Diego Columbus, over the rights to Puerto Rico governing. It took a long legal battle, and Diego won and took over being the governor.
  • By 1511 Ponce de León decided to continue to explore the Caribbean Sea. In the next two years, he became the first European to land in what he named “La Florida” and then continued to chart down the Atlantic coast to the Florida Keys. Records show that he may have gone north on the Gulf Coast as far as Charlotte Harbor.
  • The most well-known area in Florida, where Ponce de León landed, is the current city of St. Augustine. He was not interested in settling areas, but instead doing exploration. It is said that he was seeking the fabled island of Bimini when he landed in Florida. Ponce de León wanted to find lands that he could claim for Spain.
  • In 1514 he returned to Spain, and King Ferdinand of Spain knighted him and then gave him back the governorship of Puerto Rico. It was at this time that Ferdinand also asked Ponce de León to begin settlements in Florida. When Ferdinand died, Ponce de León had to go back to Spain to defend his title and land, and two years later, he left for Puerto Rico.
  • Still following the instructions to create a settlement, Ponce de León headed to Southwest Florida. He and his crew faced battles with the Calusa Native Indians, and he was injured during one of the fights. They abandoned the attempt to colonize the area.
  • Ponce de León returned to Puerto Rico, where he died from his wounds. His burial tomb is in San Juan, Puerto Rico, inside the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista.

What did you learn?

How did King Ferdinand of Spain honor for Ponce de León?

knighted him

What position did Ponce de León have on Columbus’ second voyage to the New World?

gentleman volunteer

Why did Ponce de León become an explorer?

his military service was no longer needed

What myth is written about Ponce de León about his exploration search?

looking for the Fountain of Youth

Who did Ponce de León have a legal battle with over governorship of Puerto Rico?

Diego Columbus

How did Ponce de León die?

injury in a battle with natives