The ‘Sunshine State’ boasts the oldest and first European settlement that was continuously occupied in America, St. Augustine. Florida is the land of flowers and sunshine, and it has turned into one of the major tourist magnets in the world with Orlando’s Disney World leading all the way.
Florida’s crystal-clear springs, gleaming beaches, sophisticated cities, and great recreational offerings have turned it into a world-class destination not only for retired persons (the snowbirds) but also for tourists from across the globe.
The state’s moderate climate and a well-trained workforce have brought in an increasing number of businesses and industries, and to winter-weary folks from the north, Florida is a paradise where they still may hope to find the legendary Fountain of Youth of Ponce de Leon.
Quick Facts about Florida
– St. Augustine is North America’s oldest European settlement.
– In 1980-1990 Florida had the fastest growing population in America.
– Florida has the principal launching pad for space flights at Cape Canaveral.
– Leads America in citrus production.
– Disney World draws more visitors than any other attraction in the world.
– Florida boasts more than 25% of all major springs in the nation.
Florida brief history
On March 27th, 1513, Juan Ponce de Leon was visiting present-day Florida’s beaches for the first time. It is known that others visited this area before, but he is generally seen as Florida’s discoverer.
A map made in 1502 by Alberto Cantino is clearly showing Florida’s outline, but it seems Ponce de Leon did not know this, and in 1528, a large force commanded by Panfilo de Narvaez entered the area that we call Tampa Bay. It appears that just four of his 400-men strong group had survived the area’s ongoing hurricanes and some other disasters.
Then on May 30th, 1539, a very impressive expedition led by Hernando de Soto came ashore at present-day Tampa and his written message to the King of Spain is considered to have been the very first letter mailed from what is now U.S. soil.
In 1565, a captain named Pedro Menendez de Aviles sailed into a harbor on the feast day of St. Augustine, and he named the place after the saint. This place, St. Augustine, is America’s oldest continually populated settlement.
In 1586, English explorer Sir Francis Drake had captured the settlement of St. Augustine and he burned the place to the ground. Later the Spanish took control again and rebuilt the town completely.
The English returned though in 1763 and they captured the big island of Cuba from the Spanish, only to trade it back to the Spanish for Florida. Though Florida had remained a faithful England follower in the American Revolution, the English gave Florida to Spain and got Gibraltar and the Bahamas in return.
In 1819, Spain ceded the Florida region to the U.S. and final ratification took place two years later. In 1821, on July 17th, Andrew Jackson was overseeing Florida’s transfer from Spain to the U.S. as the Stars and Stripes were flying over St. Augustine’s Castillo de San Marcos, a site that never had been captured in battle.
Author Budd Schulberg wrote:
…The state of Florida is today to America what America was to Europe a century ago. It is a frontier, a melting pot, a place where you can improve your health, or your luck…