“Viva Florida 500” initiative
Tallahassee Launches Florida’s 500-Year Commemoration of Spanish Exploration
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – While Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon set foot on Florida’s shores elsewhere in 1513, Tallahassee, one of the New World’s most significant early settlements, plays a central role in launching the state’s 500th anniversary of Spain’s arrival with the “Viva Florida 500” commemorative events.
The year-long commemoration begins with the reenactment of the first Christmas celebration in North America at Mission San Luis, a national historic landmark and the only reconstructed mission site in the Southeast. The only surviving site open to the public of the state’s original 100 missions, it originally served as the western capital of the Florida missions.
Additionally, other area historic attractions play year-round importance to the “Viva Florida 500” initiative, including the Museum of Florida History’s “Forever Changed Exhibit: La Florida 1513-1821” and the Florida Historic Capitol Museum with its exhibit called “Navigating New Worlds: Identity, Perception, and Politics in Florida,” highlighting rare maps (one dates back to 1493 and another is only one of four in existence in the world) from the Michael and Linda Fisher collection.
For three generations, more than 1,500 Apalachee Indians and Spanish colonists lived together at Mission San Luis. The Florida mission preceded those in California by more than 150 years. Mission San Luis includes a reconstructed Franciscan Church, Spanish fort, living quarters and five-story tall Apalachee council house.
Mission San Luis begins a series of commemorative events on Nov. 24, 2012 with Giving Thanks, a 17th Century Apalachee and Spanish Foodways event, featuring demonstrations of how people and foods from the Old and New worlds came together creating a cross-cultural cuisine. On Jan. 5, 2013, Mission San Luis hosts First Christmas in La Florida, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., celebrating Christmas the way explorer Hernando de Soto might have in 1539. Activities include a reenactment of the winter encampment and Christmas mass, as well as music, Spanish plays from the era and military arts including black powder musket shooting, cannon firing and archery.
The actual first Christmas celebration in the continental U.S. took place here at Hernando de Soto’s winter encampment site of 1539-40, located near the Historic Capitol Museum. In 1987, archeologists excavated the site finding many artifacts that conclusively pinpointed the location of the only documented site of the De Soto expedition.
The Museum of Florida History’s “Forever Changed Exhibit” features a 16th-century Spanish ship display that chronicles the era of Spanish exploration. Exhibits include artifacts from Mission San Luis, gold and silver coins, jewelry, porcelain and other period items uncovered throughout Florida and surrounding waters.
The Florida State Archives presents a selection of historical records illustrating significant moments in Florida’s history. Among these collections are Spanish Land Grants and the confirmed Spanish land grant claims related to the territory that Spain ceded to the U.S. in 1821.
Located just a short drive from Tallahassee at the confluence of the Wakulla and St. Marks Rivers, the San Marcos de Apalachee Historic State Park documents the influence of Spanish conqueror and soldier, Panfilo de Narvaez and his 300 men who arrived in 1538. The park, a national historic site, features a Spanish fort built in 1679 and a museum displaying pottery and tools unearthed near the original fort, as well as interpretive displays that explain the site’s history, from the Spanish explorers to the present day.
As Tallahassee celebrates 500 years of Spanish influence in 2013, join the celebration and experience the Capital City’s history, natural beauty, dining and nightlife. Situated just off Florida’s northern I-10 corridor in the state’s Panhandle, Tallahassee is a place where college town meets cultural center, politics meets performing arts and history meets nature – a place where the vibrancy of what to do is matched only by the city’s inviting hospitality.
For more information, visit www.visittallahassee.com or call Visit Tallahassee toll free at (800) 628-2866.