Florida’s Myth of the “Fountain of Youth” Decoded

From Delancey Place

This is an excerpt from Finding Florida: The True History of the Sunshine State by T.D. Allman: Ponce de Leon, Washington Irving, and the Fountain of Youth — and how the name “Florida” was chosen.

findingflorida-200If you go looking for the Fountain of Youth in its reputed location in St. Augustine, Florida], you’ll know you’ve almost reached your destination when you find yourself peering up at an ancient-looking arch. Across the top you’ll see displayed, in Ye Olde English-type lettering, an inscription. It reads: FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH. The lettering is meant to evoke long-vanished times of chivalry and derring-do, but one detail marks it as indubitably Floridian: the sign is made of neon tubing. In the gathering subtropical twilight, the FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH sign glows and sputters like the VACANCY sign on a state highway motel. According to press releases provided by the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, which is what this venerable tourist attraction currently calls itself, this is the very spot where ‘Ponce de Leon landed in St. Augustine in 1513 searching for a Fountain of Youth.’ …

Juan Ponce de Leon never visited and never could have visited St. Augustine: St. Augustine was not founded until forty-one years after his death, in 1565. Ponce did not discover Florida. Many Europeans had been to Florida before he got there; many more knew of its existence. The first European to sight Florida may not have been Spanish at all, but Portuguese or Italian. … Continue reading “Florida’s Myth of the “Fountain of Youth” Decoded”