Juan Ponce de León (Watts Library)
What I Learned Section 1 -- Answer the
1. What year was Juan
Ponce de León born?
1460. Juan Ponce de León was born in the town of Santervás
de Campos, in the Spanish kingdom of León. He was a younger
son of a noble family which means he would not inherit any wealth
or property. Younger sons often became priests or knights, and
Ponce de León decided to become a knight.
Noble families sent their sons to other
households to train to be a knight when they were seven years
old. Ponce de León went to live with Pedro Núñez
de Guzmán who was an important Spanish nobleman. Ponce
de León served as his page. A page's duties were to take
care of his master's clothing, help him to dress, and serve his
food. In exchange, Ponce de León learned to read and write,
ride a horse, hunt, and fight with a sword.
Ponce de León became Núñez
de Guzmán's squire at the age of fourteen or fifteen. As
a squire, Ponce de León cleaned and cared for his master's
armor and weapons, and fought beside him in battle.
In the late 1480's, Ponce de León
was a knight. He joined the military campaign to drive the Moors
out of Spain. Did you know
Moors were people from northern Africa who spoke Arabic and practiced
Islam? In 711, the Moors invaded Spain, and by 718, they had conquered
all of Spain except for the narrow mountainous region across the
north. The war between Spain and the Moors lasted several hundred
years. The Spanish regained control one province at a time.
In the 1480's, the Moors held the province
of Granada (in the far south) as their last stronghold in Spain.
King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain wanted to defeat the
Moors and reunite Spain under one rule. In January, 1492, the
Spanish armies captured Granada and drove the Moors out of Spain.
Did you know Ponce de León
fought at this battle?
2. Juan Ponce de León
sailed with Christopher Columbus on one of Columbus' four voyages
to the New World. On which voyage did Ponce de León sail
Second Voyage. Ponce de León sailed to the Americas on
Christopher Columbus' Second Voyage in 1493. The Europeans built
a settlement on Hispaniola called Isabella. They then moved to
Santo Domingo. While many of the Europeans wanted to get rich
quickly and return to Spain, Ponce de León decided to settle
in Santo Domingo.
In 1502, Ponce de León married a
Spanish woman named Leonor. She was the daughter of an innkeeper
in Santo Domingo. They had three girls and one boy. Their names
were Juana, María, Isabel, and Luis.
In 1504, the governor of Hispaniola, Nicolás
de Ovando, sent Ponce de León to put down a revolt in Higüey
(an eastern province of Hispaniola). Ponce de León was
successful. He was appointed deputy governor of Higüey and
was in charge of building two towns in Higüey. They are Salvaleón
(on the coast) and Santa Cruz de Aycayagua (farther inland). Ponce
de León and his family lived in a stone house in Salvaleón.
3. Who were the Taino?
The people who inhabited the Caribbean islands for thousands of
years before the Europeans arrived in 1492. Taino means noble
or gentle. Did you know the
Taino came to the Caribbean islands by canoe from South America?
The Taino lived in small villages. Each
village was ruled by a chief, called a cacique. The Taino slept
in swinging beds called hamacas which are similar to present-day
hammocks. The Taino hunted, fished, and farmed. They grew pineapple,
sweet potato, corn, squash, and cassava. Cassava is a bushy plant
with greenish-yellow flowers and long, thick roots. It is native
to the tropical region of the Americas. The plant grows up to
8 feet high, and the roots grow up to 3 inches thick and 3 feet
long. Did you know Ponce de
León grew cassava near his home on the eastern shore of
4. What year was Juan
Ponce de León appointed governor of Puerto Rico?
1509. Hispaniola Governor Nicolás de Ovando sent Ponce
de León to San Juan Bautista to look for gold. Ponce de
León took five ships and two hundred people. They found
gold, established a permanent colony, and created a foundry for
processing and refining gold.
On August 8, 1508, Ponce de León
founded the town of Caparra near a large, beautiful bay on the
north coast. He named the bay Puerto Rico which means "rich port"
in Spanish. Gradually people began calling the island Puerto Rico
instead of San Juan Bautista.
In 1509, King Ferdinand of Spain officially
appointed Ponce de León as the first governor of Puerto
In 1511, Diego Columbus was given the right
to govern all the lands his father, Christopher Columbus, had
discovered. Diego Columbus replaced Ponce de León as governor
of Puerto Rico.
Ponce de León had heard stories
about a beautiful island called Bimini, located to the north of
Cuba. He decided to look for Bimini. These stories included tales
of a fountain of youth.
5. What is the Fountain
A legend of a spring or stream whose clear, sparkling waters have
the power to restore youth. Anyone who drank from the imaginary
spring would remain young forever. It was believed to be located
on Bimini. Did you know Bimini
is an island located to the north of Cuba?
6. What year did Juan
Ponce de León explore Florida?
1513. In February, 1512, King Ferdinand of Spain gave Ponce de
León permission to locate and colonize Bimini. On March
3, 1513, Ponce de León sailed from San Germán, Puerto
Rico, with three ships and sixty people. The ships were called
the Santa María de Consolación, the Santiago,
and the San Cristóbal. They sailed northwest to
the Bahamas, a chain of numerous small islands north of Cuba.
Ponce de León explored the Bahamas for almost a month.
Ponce de León and his three ships
sailed north, and sighted land on March 27, 1513. The next day,
Ponce de León went ashore, claimed the land for Spain,
and named it La Florida. Many historian believe the name comes
from "Pascua Florida" (the Spanish term for Easter) because Ponce
de León was there during the Easter season.
Did you know
another significant discovery took place in the Americas in 1513?
Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa crossed Central
America and became the first European to see the eastern shore
of the Pacific Ocean.
7. What is the Gulf
A swift-flowing, underwater stream originating in the western
On April 8, 1513, Ponce de León
and his three ships sailed south along the east coast of Florida.
Although favorable winds filled their sails, a heavy current slowed
them down. Ponce de León had discovered the Gulf Stream.
The Gulf Stream is one of the world's most
powerful ocean currents. It flows into the Gulf of Mexico and
through the Straits of Florida (the narrow channel between the
tip of Florida and Cuba). Then the Gulf Stream carries warm water
northeast along the North American coast to the Grand Banks, off
Newfoundland. By riding the Gulf Stream, ships could sail quickly
to Europe. The Gulf Stream became an important trade route between
the Americas and Europe.
Did you know
Ben Franklin gave the Gulf Stream its name? Franklin believed
it originated in the Gulf of Mexico. He was the first scientist
to study the Gulf Stream extensively. He charted its course and
recorded its temperatures, speeds, and depths.
8. Describe ONE of the
following explorations of Juan Ponce de León:
Los Martires: Ponce de León continued south
along the Florida coast and rounded the Florida Keys (a string
of small islands). Ponce de León thought the islands' rocky
profiles looked like suffering people, and he called the islands
Los Martires, or the martyrs.
Dry Tortugas: Ponce de León thought Florida
was a large island, and he tried sailing around it. On May 8,
1513, Ponce de León and his three ships stopped at a group
of small islands. There were many sea turtles on the islands so
Ponce de León named it Tortugas which is Spanish for turtles.
The word "dry" was added to the name of the islands because no
freshwater was found. The Dry Tortugas are a cluster of seven
small coral islands about 70 miles west of Key West, Florida.
Did you know these islands
became the Dry Tortugas National Park in the United States in
Sanibel Island: Ponce de León sailed around
the southern tip of Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico. He made
his way north along the gulf coast of Florida as far as present-day
Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico: Ponce de León
landed on the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. He thought it
was another island.
9. What year did Juan
Ponce de León die?
1521. On February 21, 1521, Ponce de León set out to colonize
Florida. He took two ships and two hundred people. He landed on
the west coast of Florida, near Sanibel Island.
A fight broke out between Ponce de León's
men and a group of Indians. Ponce de León was struck in
his thigh with an arrow. He sailed to Cuba to receive medical
attention. In July, 1521, Ponce de León died from this
wound in Havana, Cuba.
In 1908, Ponce de León's remains
were returned to Puerto Rico. He is buried in the Cathedral of
San Juan Bautista, in the capital city of San Juan. The inscription
on his tomb reads: "Beneath this stone repose the bones of the
valiant Lion whose deeds surpassed the greatness of his name."
Did you know León is
the Spanish word for "lion?"
What I Learned Section 2 -- Define the
Colony: A territory that
is far away from the country that governs it
Conquistador: Spanish person who
explored and conquered the Americas during the late 1400's and
Expedition: A journey made for
a definite purpose or the group making such a journey
Moors: People from northern Africa
who speak Arabic and practice Islam
Ottoman: Another name for Turkey
or its people
Province: A part of a country having
a government of its own
Bonus Questions (Answer 1 of the
Following Questions for Your FREE
a. Why were the Europeans
looking for a new Trade Route to Asia?
In 1453, the Ottoman Empire closed the main overland trade route
between Europe and Asia.
The Europeans liked to trade with Asia
for its jewels, silks, and spices. The Spices came from the Moluccas
Islands which were located between the Philippines and Australia.
Did you know these islands
were also called the Indies or the Spice Islands?
The main overland trade route from Europe
to Asia passed through Constantinople. In 1453, the Ottoman Empire
captured Constantinople and closed the trade route. The Europeans
needed to find a new trade route to continue trading with Asia.
In 1415, Portugal looked for a sea passage to Asia around the
coast of Africa. In 1498, Vasco da Gama sailed from Portugal around
the tip of Africa and across the Indian Ocean to Calcutta, India.
Before da Gama was successful, Christopher
Columbus believed he could sail west across the Atlantic Ocean
to reach Asia. Although Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy, he
asked King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain to sponsor his
voyage. Once the fighting between Spain and the Moors ended in
1492, Ferdinand and Isabella agreed to finance the voyage. They
were hoping increased trade with Asia would rebuild Spain's wealth
and power that had depleted during the years of fighting the Moors.
Christopher Columbus' voyages, however, landed in the Americas
rather than Asia.
b. Describe Christopher
Columbus' first and second voyages to the Americas.
The First Voyage:
On August 3, 1492, Columbus sailed from
Spain with three ships (the Niña, the Pinta,
and the Santa María) and ninety men. On October
12, Columbus and his men reached land. They thought it was Asia,
and they called the people Indians because they believed the people
were from India. Columbus named the island Hispaniola and established
a small fort called La Navidad. Today, Hispaniola is known as
Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
After seven months, Columbus returned to
Spain with gold, exotic tropical plants, colorful parrots, and
six Indians. As it turns out, Columbus had not reached Asia. Instead,
he landed in the Americas. The Americas were two vast continents
previously unknown to the Europeans.
The Second Voyage:
Columbus made a second voyage to the Americas to establish a colony.
This voyage left on September 25, 1493, from Cadiz, Spain. This
time, there were seventeen ships and 1,500 men, including Juan
Ponce de León. The men included sailors, mapmakers, farmers,
artisans, and priests. The mission was to establish a settlement,
mine for gold, and convert the natives to Christianity.
The voyage stopped at the Canary Islands
to restock their supplies. It set sail again on October 12, 1493.
Did you know this was one
year after Columbus first landed in the Americas? After three
weeks, the voyage reached a new island, and Columbus claimed it
for Spain. He called it Dominica. At every new island, Columbus
claimed it for Spain and gave it a Spanish name. Later, Ponce
de León would do the same thing.
On November 19, 1493, Columbus reached
an island he named San Juan Bautista. This island would later
play an important role in Ponce de León's life. Today,
San Juan Bautista is known as Puerto Rico.
When Columbus returned to Hispaniola, Fort
Navidad had been destroyed. Columbus decided to establish another
colony about 75 miles to the east. He called this new settlement
Isabella. Ponce de León was one of the soldiers who protected
Isabella. Today, Isabella is located in the Dominican Republic.
Isabella turned out to be a poor location
for a town because it was built on marshy ground. The colonist
eventually abandoned Isabella and built a new town named Santo
Domingo near the southern coast of Hispaniola.
Read More about Christopher
Columbus and the Times
in Which He Lived.
c. What is the Epic
A long Babylonian poem written about 2000 B.C. It is one of the
oldest and greatest works of world literature. It is written in
ancient cuneiform script on twelve clay tablets. Cuneiform is
an ancient form of writing using a combination of wedge-shaped
marks to form syllables and words.
The poem recounts the many adventures of
Gilgamesh and his search for eternal life. Gilgamesh was the king
of the ancient city of Uruk. According to the poem, Gilgamesh
became afraid of death after his dearest friend, Enkidu, died.
He sought out a wise old man to learn the secret of immortality,
and the wise man reluctantly told him the plant of eternal youth
grew at the bottom of the sea. Gilgamesh dove into the water and
found the plant. On his way home, a snake stole the plant, and
Gilgamesh returned to Uruk to live out the rest of his days.
d. Define ONE of the
Coat of Arms: A set of colorful symbols a knight
painted on his shield to identify his family and indicated his
El Cid: One of the most famous Spanish knights.
In 1094, he captured Valencia from the Moors. The Song of the
Cid is a long poem composed in the 12th century celebrating
El Cid's deeds. Did you know
this is one of the oldest Spanish writings still in existence?
Alhambra: A palace and fortress in Granada, Spain,
built by the Moors between 1248 an 1354. It is famous as an outstanding
example of Moorish architecture.
Hispaniola: An island where Christopher Columbus
landed in 1492. Today, the western one-third is the Republic of
Haiti, and the eastern two-thirds is the Dominican Republic.
Smallpox: One of the deadliest diseases for American
Borinquén: The Taino Indian name for the
island now known as Puerto Rico. It means "land of the brave lord"
in the Taino language. Puerto Ricans still use the Taino word
to refer to their home and themselves. For example, Puerto Rico's
national anthem is called "La Borinqueña."
San Juan: The capital of Puerto Rico. It was founded
in 1521, by Spanish colonists from Caparra. It is also the largest
city in Puerto Rico with a population of about half a million
The Island of Bimini: Today, there are two tiny
islands in the Bahamas called North Bimini and South Bimini. The
two islands together measure nine square miles. They are located
off the lower east coast of Florida.
The Seven Cities of Cíbola: A story told
to Spanish explorers about seven rich cities in a land call Cíbola
where the streets of Cíbola were paved with gold and the
building were adorned with precious jewels. In 1540, Francisco
Vásquez de Coronado led an expedition in search of the
Seven Cities of Cíbola. He discovered six Zuni Indian villages
near present-day Gallup, New Mexico, and thought he found Cíbola.
However, Coronado never discovered gold or other riches at this
Saint Augustine: The oldest, continuously occupied
European settlement in the United States. In 1565, Spanish explorer
Pedro Menéndez de Avilés founded the city of Saint
Augustine, near the site where Ponce de León first stepped
ashore on the east coast of Florida in 1513. Today, about 12,000
people live in St. Augustine.
e. Make a Juan Ponce
de León Timeline.
1460: Juan Ponce de León born
1492: Spain defeats the Moors; Christopher
Columbus explores the Caribbean
1493: Ponce de León sails
with Columbus on his second trip to the Caribbean
1508: Spanish colonists led by Ponce
de León colonize Puerto Rico
1509: Ponce de León becomes
governor of Puerto Rico
1513: Ponce de León explores
1521: Ponce de León dies
in Havana, Cuba
1565: St. Augustine, Florida, founded
1908: Ponce de León's body
returned to Puerto Rico and reburied
f. Use five of the words
in Section 2 in a sentence.
was a colony of Great Britain
before it became a part of the United States.
Hernando Cortés was a Conquistador.
Sacagawea was a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
The Moors and Spain fought
The Ottoman Empire controlled
Constantinople in the 1450's.
Canada has provinces instead
g. Have a parent or friend give you
a spelling test with EACH of the words in Section 2.
More Valuable Information about Juan
Ponce de León:
Ponce de León (Enchanted Learning)
Ponce de León (Florida History)
de León and the Fountain of Youth (Social Studies for Kids)
Ponce de León (Discoverers Web)
Map and QUIZ (Enchanted Learning)
of the Conquistador (Florida History)