In March of 1565, Admiral Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés is awarded an asiento, or contract, by Felipe II of Spain. The contract, signed on the 20th of March, appoints Menendez as adelentado, governor of provinces or of the specific region he was charged with conquering. Such a role is often given in exchange for funding of the initial exploration and is the case here, Felipe would advance 15,000 ducats to Menendez and give him three years to complete the task. The contract also comes at a time when the French Huguenots where trying to establish a colony at in Florida at Fort Caroline, which incenses Felipe, as the country had been previously explored by the Spainiards they claimed it as theirs. Charged with removing the French, Menendez would sail on the 28th of July with the San Pelayo, ten sloops and 1500 men.
The fleet would make a stormy crossing after which the vessels met in Puerto Rico where Menendez gathered some of the scattered fleet, pushing onward. He would make Florida landfall on the 28th of August, the Feast Day of St. Augustine of Hippo and named the territory San Agustin. Sailing to the North the French would finally be encountered outside the mouth of the St. Johns River. There, after a brief skirmish, the French fled and Menendez fell back to the bay he had previously landed, San Agustin, and began to fortify the Timicuan village of Seloy.
It was here, on September 8th, 1565 that Pedro Menéndez de Avilés stepped ashore amidst the sound of trumpet and drum, the firing of cannon, and the shout of the six hundred which had accompanied him on his voyage. This landing of Pedro Menendez would mark Spain’s official possession of Florida!
Read More: Firsthand Account by Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales
OUR REENACTMENT OF THIS EVENT IN HISTORY
The Men of Menendez will be participating in a Thanksgiving at the Fountain of Youth. Please check our calendar for details.
The commemoration of Menéndez’ Landing, Founders’ Day and Thanksgiving event will be held on the weekend after Labor Day at the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park and at Nombre de Diós Mission grounds. A reenactment of Menéndez’ landing will take place at Mission Nombre de Diós on Saturday, at 10:00 a.m. Following that, a Catholic Mass will be held at the Rustic Altar on the Mission grounds. Salutes with cannons, pikes, flags, and arquebuses set up at the Fountain of Youth will accompany both Menéndez’ landing and his arrival at the Fountain of Youth from the Mission following the religious ceremonies. A reenactment of the First Thanksgiving will take place after the arrival of Menéndez entourage at the Fountain of Youth. Members of the Men of Menéndez will present living history demonstrations of weapons, material culture, military drills, and camp life on Saturday afternoon.
Tentative Itinerary: Saturday
9:00 a.m.: Muster at FoY cannon emplacement/watchtower for instructions, weapons inspection and organization of participants
10:00 a.m.: Volleys of salute by small arms and artillery, accompanied by flags waving and other celebratory demonstrations, as Menéndez and his entourage approach and land at Mission Nombre de Diós
10:15 to 11:45 a.m. (Approximately): Absolute silence by all re-enactors at Fountain of Youth during event-related ceremonies and holy mass at the site of the Rustic Altar at the Mission.
12:30 p.m. (Approximately): A procession led by Menéndez will form on the south end of the park where the utility shed is located. When the procession begins to move into the open field, cheers, flags waving, and another set of volleys by small arms and artillery will be fired as a salute to the adelantado and his entourage.
12:45 p.m. (Approximately): The procession having advanced to the site reserved for this purpose, a re-enactment of the First Thanksgiving will take place. Food will be provided by the Fountain of Youth.
1:00-5:00 p.m.: Regularly scheduled weapons demonstrations will take place at the Fountain of Youth artillery emplacement. Additional demonstrations and interpretive living history portrayals will be offered by event participants.
For more information about the Fountain of Youth visit http://www.fountainofyouthflorida.com. Standard park admission rates apply.