Set­ting the Record Straight

Where First Coast - - WHERE NOW -

Many of to­day’s school­child­ren can tell you about Christo­pher Colum­bus and the pil­grims, but few know that St. Au­gus­tine was ac­tu­ally the first per­ma­nent Euro­pean set­tle­ment in the United States. With the city’s 450th an­niver­sary, ev­ery­one from his­to­ri­ans to lo­cal of­fi­cials to shop­keep­ers and chefs are ready to set the record straight. “We’re home to the first set­tle­ment, the first free-black set­tle­ment, the first school sys­tem, the first li­brary, the first port,” says Davis Walker, pres­i­dent of Florida Living His­tory, which per­forms his­tor­i­cal reen­act­ments around the state. “Florida has the most unique, most in­ter­est­ing and the long­est his­tory in the na­tion, yet it’s also the least known. U.S. his­tory has been con­sciously dis­torted. The coun­try was set­tled from South to North and not from North to South.” In April 1513 ex­plorer Ponce de León landed near St. Au­gus­tine, stak­ing a claim for the Span­ish crown. While he did not es­tab­lish a set­tle­ment, he sent word back that Florida was an ideal place for a colony. Fifty-two years later, Pe­dro Menén­dez de Avilés left Spain un­der the di­rec­tion of the king to es­tab­lish St. Au­gus­tine in 1565.

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