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St. Augustine Celebrates Florida’s 500th Anniversary

For the record, water from the Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine tastes like Hell, as in the “sulfurous pits of…,” thanks to its origins in Florida’s notoriously sulfur-laced artesian springs.

One retch-inducing sip and you’re thinking: Juan Ponce de Leon was searching for this?

Well, no.

It’s just one of many myths surrounding the legendary 16th century Spanish explorer whose name is commemorated everywhere in Florida, on subdivisions, a Panhandle town, the inlet near Daytona Beach as well as roads throughout the state.

Here’s what is true about Ponce de Leon: On April 3, 1513 — 500 years ago this spring — he first planted his boots on what would become a Florida beach.

In Juan Ponce’s honor, the state has kicked off a yearlong celebration of his landing called Viva Florida 500. In 2015, the focus shifts to the 450th birthday of St. Augustine, the country’s oldest European settlement. (Take that, Jamestown and Plymouth.)

Florida’s quincentenary makes a good time to re-visit this breezy city along Mantanzas Bay, where history has steeped into the coquina walls and brick streets, while also clearing up misconceptions about this fabled figure of Florida history, Juan Ponce de Leon.

For example, he named Florida but he didn’t discover it. Native Americans accomplished that 12,000 years earlier.

Read more: AJC


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