April 2 was the 502nd anniversary of the “discovery” of Florida by a European—the Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de Leon (1474-1521) was the first European to step ashore on the Florida coast. He was searching for the mythic “Fountain of Youth,” but that’s another story.
De Leon trudged through the Florida sand for the first time in 1513, nearly 21 years after Columbus didn’t “discover” America. Columbus “discovered” an inhabited island in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492, most likely San Salvador, and, in fact, he never set foot on the North American continent during any of his four voyages.
The first European to make a North American landfall in the Age of Discovery was the Italian navigator Giovanni Caboto (c.1450-c.1499), who claimed Newfoundland in 1497 for his sponsor, Henry VII of England (by the way, he called his favorite explorer “John Cabot”).
This is a rather roundabout way of mentioning that, when the Pilgrim Fathers went ashore in Plymouth Harbor in 1620, they very definitely were not beginning the European exploration and colonization of North America….and they probably didn’t step directly onto the “Plymouth Rock,” as our American legend would have it, but that’s another story.
Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015