Top 10 accomplishments of Juan Ponce de Leon

Juan Ponce de Leon, a Spanish explorer, accompanied Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the New World, where he became known about the treasures and fortunes of exploring.

During his expeditions and explorations, he was able to discover various famous islands and lands, including Florida, Bahamas, and Puerto Rico.

He was also able to flourish his identity by becoming the first provincial governor of Puerto Rico and also as the first European to enter the land of Florida.

Along with the expeditions and explorations, Ponce also managed to end the rebellion with the help of the Native and was later given the title of Captain-General by the King of Spain.

10 most significant accomplishments of Juan Ponce de Leon are mentioned below.

10. Explored Puerto Rico

Juan Ponce de Leon explored the oldest colony settlement Puerto Rico in the year 1508-09 whose capital city, San Juan is one of the most popular cities of Puerto Rico.  

Ponce Leon, while serving as governor of the eastern province of Hispaniola decided on exploring an island located nearby which later became famous as Puerto Rico. It was filled with golds when discovered.

After the discovery, Juan went back to King of Spain and explored the island and colonized it. The island was then renamed as Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico, unorganized territory of the US, is located in the northeast Caribbean Sea. It includes one main island and many smaller islands, including Mona, Vieques, and Culebra. It was colonized during the time of Christopher Columbus ( 1943 ). 

9. Discovered and gave name to Florida

Juan Ponce de Leon Discovered and gave name to Florida
Image Credit: National Geographic

Juan Ponce de Leon first discovered Florida and the name – he gave la Florida, and it is famously known as Pascua Florida in Spanish.

Juan ruled Puerto Rico for two years as the governor and then was replaced by Columbus’s son. Since then he started exploring and moving towards Florida through the Bahamas in search of treasures and new lands.

During that time, people believed in the existence of a mythical Fountain of Youth whose water would make the older people young again — considering that, Juan also started searching for the Fountain along with the hope of finding treasures and new lands.

He then discovered Florida instead of the mythical Fountain of Youth. Since then, he is considered to be an explorer of Florida.

8. Discovered Bahama Channel

With the exploration of Florida and Puerto Rico, Juan went on exploring new areas including Bimini and Bahamas.

The Bahama Channel was explored for the gold and the mythical fountain of youth – which was never found. Though it was explored in 1513, the passage was not revealed until 1519, as the most advantageous route to return from Spanish Indies to Castile. It was the best route for shipping of gold and silver.

A pilot who worked under Juan Ponce revealed the passage while on the voyage to Florida. The channel was used by Juan to sail across during the journey from Island of Puerto Rico to Florida or beyond.

The Bahama Channel then became the official route for ships and plate fleets for carrying the wealth of the Indies to Castile.

7. The first provincial governor of Puerto Rico

With the discovery of the island – Puerto Rico, it was colonized by the Spanish Empire. Juan Ponce was then established as the first provincial governor of the island by himself.

The Spanish Monarchy was responsible for appointing the governor of Puerto Rico, and the person who was selected would be given the duty to develop the wealth of the island and to report the status of the colony to the government of Spain.

While Ponce was the provincial governor, he got information about the fertile land which had hidden treasure of gold and silver by the Tainos. He then started exploring the island after getting permission from Ovando – military leader and first royal governor of West Indies.

Juan Ponce remained the governor of Puerto Rico for three years and was replaced by the son of Columbus. His removal was due to his ill-treatment towards the Natives.

6. The first European to set foot on Florida and colonize

Juan Ponce de Leon is the first European to land on Florida peninsula. He was with his expedition when he landed on the East Coast.

The documented Europeans landed on the peninsula and the name, Florida was given by Ponce de Leon. He, along with his expedition, arrived in the peninsula in  1513 while he was searching for the Fountain of Youth.

In the year 1521, Juan returned to Florida again to try and establish a colony. He had brought about 200 settlers along with him.

The beautiful land consisted of lavish landscapes and beaches charismatic, which is why it was named La Florida – the area of flowers. 

5. Leader of European expedition for gold

Juan Ponce de Leon, one of the most famous conquistadores of Spain, led the European expedition for gold during his time.

While in search of gold, new lands, and treasures, he reached the southeast coast, which has now become the United States. He, along with his expedition, travelled to various places for the gold team and came up with many islands such as Puerto Rico.

Though he encountered some rough currents during his expedition, he continued with it and kept on discovering and naming different places along his way. A few areas include Cape of Current and Dry Tortugas.

One of the most significant expeditions of Juan is the one in the Hispaniola where he was able to find massive gold and other numerous opportunities. His journey to that place is taken as an enormous success for him and his soldiers.

4. Ended the rebellion by Natives

Juan Ponce was one of the most celebrated militaries officials during the 1500s of the Hisponiola’s colonial government. He was assigned to crush the rebellion of the Tainos – the native Taino people.

While he was a top military official, he was given a task to explore the islands that were near Puerto Rico (1508), and with doing so, he was able to be wealthy with all the mines and treasures he discovered.

After the discoveries, Juan parcelled out some of the native Tainos amongst settlers and himself with a system of forced labour which was known as Encomienda. 

The Tainos during that time were ill-treated by the Spanish and also were diagnosed with numerous diseases such as measles and smallpox. Ultimately, they were pushed to a short rebellion by Juan and his troops who were armed with arquebuses and crossbows.

3. Named as the Captain-General

Juan Ponce de Leon was able to achieve the highest rank in the Spanish Army, Captain-General during his time. It is the five-star rank with the NATO code OF-10 which is equal to a field marshal.

After discovering the beautiful land, Florida, Ponce returned to Puerto Rico and then ended the rebellion by the Natives – Tainos and finally returned to Spain. He was later named the Captain-General by the King of Spain.

Juan, as a captain-general played a crucial role which created history and was respected by all. Along with the discoveries, he managed to prove himself as a mighty military official having numerous qualities.

2. Permitted to search for Bimini ( new island )

Juan, after discovering numerous islands and new land was permitted to search for the next island which was considered to have the Fountain of Youth, just like in Florida.

The new island discovered was named as the Bimini, which unfortunately did not have the mythical fountain of youth but had numerous treasures and mines.

Juan went for the expedition along with his troops and was able to discover gold, new areas, and treasures in the Bimini.

Although the expedition could not achieve its primary intention of finding the fountain of youth, it was taken as a success just like his other discoveries with the discoveries of treasures. This search was also considered to be the fruitful searches of his life.

1. One of the top military official

Due to his brave deeds, greatest discoveries, and crush of rebellion, he was considered to be one of the top military officials.

Conclusion:

Juan, during his life, discovered numerous new lands and treasures and became one of the wealthiest people of his time.

He proved himself to be one of the most influential leaders by ending the rebellion, becoming the governor, and also getting a well-renowned rank of a captain-general.

Besides the mentioned accomplishments he had numerous other significant achievements and facts proving him as an impactful historian.

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Cite this article as: Richard Marrison, "Top 10 accomplishments of Juan Ponce de Leon," in HistoryTen, February 21, 2020, https://historyten.com/spanish-empire/juan-ponce-de-leon-accomplishments/.
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