Happy quincentenary to Florida! Florida is celebrating five hundred years since Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Léon arrived on land he named La Florida in 1513. The state of Florida has organized the Viva Florida initiative to promote the past five hundred years of Florida’s history – its people, places and events centered on “the place where the world’s cultures began to unite and transform into the great nation we know today as the United States of America.”
The five hundredth anniversary of Spain’s arrival in Florida certainly lends itself to interpretation directly related to Spain’s presence in Florida. Examples include Mission San Luis – of the more than one hundred missions Spain had, this is one of only two whose location is still known – and Florida’s state parks. Dr. Sam Turner, the Archeology Director at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum, is writing a series of articles biweekly on Juan Ponce de Léon’s arrival in 1513. The City of St. Augustine itself owes its title as the oldest continually occupied settlement of European origin in the United States to the Spanish. And for those attending NAI Region 3’s workshop this week, consider how the Timucua Indians reacted to the Spanish in the area around Wekiwa Springs State Park.
But the quincentenary is also being used a backdrop against which numerous other events are held. Examples range from stand-up paddle-boarding as part of Expedition Florida 500 to the Florida Lottery, dining in Pensacola to an April concert by the Melbourne Municipal Band.
The wide variety of ways in which Florida’s quincentenary is celebrated serves as a lesson to interpreters. As Freeman Tilden explains in one of his six principles, interpretation must relate to the visitor. As Larry Beck and Ted Cable describe their principles, not only does every place have a history, but interpretation should also attract support and instill in people a sense of beauty to foster resource protection. Broadening the quincentennial events to include paddle-boarders, lottery hopefuls, restaurant goers and concert attendees as well as history and archeology buffs touches on the interests of more people, secures more wide-ranging support and has already generated discussion about future funding priorities to protect both Spanish and American Indian sites.
So, join me in wishing Florida a happy five hundredth birthday, and many more! And consider how even everyday events in your area may help you deliver your message to a new audience.