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Pensacola's 450th Anniversary Celebration

Throughout 2009, Pensacola celebrated the 450th anniversary of the expedition of Don Tristán de Luna y Arellano to Pensacola Bay in 1559, as the seed that eventually led to the establishment of the Spanish city of Pensacola during the late 17th and 18th centuries.  On this page I have selected several of these events to highlight, and have provided a historical timeline specifically relating to the Spanish settlement of Pensacola during the First Spanish Period.

While the Luna expedition between 1559 and 1561 ultimately failed to establish a permanent Spanish presence in Pensacola, and specific knowledge of Pensacola Bay was lost for some 125 years, the rediscovery of Pensacola Bay in 1686 and its successful settlement in 1698 was largely due to the same reason that Luna's expedition was originally outfitted: the fear of French colonization in southeastern North America.  Spanish forces in Veracruz returned twice to Pensacola Bay in order to establish a preemptive colonial settlement designed to ward off French designs: once in 1559, and once in 1698.  The first attempt failed, in large part due to an unexpected hurricane, while the second attempt ultimately succeeded, though not without considerable difficulty.  Three successive presidios were established by the Spanish on Pensacola Bay, and it was only the last one--San Miguel de Panzacola--which survives to the present day.  Nevertheless, in part through its long-term historical connection to the port of San Juan de Ulua in Veracruz, Mexico, the modern city of Pensacola traces its heritage straight back to the expedition of Tristán de Luna, where the seeds of Pensacola's colonial history were first sown.

Historical Timeline / Events


A Brief Timeline of Pensacola History during the First Spanish Period

The timeline below is a selection of major events in the history of Pensacola's exploration and settlement during the First Spanish Period (1513-1763).  Important notes on specific items are at the botttom of the page.

1519: Alonso Alvarez de Pineda likely passes by Pensacola Bay in his first circumnavigation of the Gulf of Mexico.

1528: Members of the expedition of Pánfilo de Narváez pass Pensacola Bay in barges on their voyage westward toward New Spain, including the famous survivor and later chronicler of the expedition Alvar Núnez Cabeza de Vaca.

1540-1543: Francisco1 Maldonado sails west from the winter encampment of Hernando de Soto in the Apalachee province and discovers the town/province of Achusi (Ochuse) on Pensacola Bay, establishing this as the rendezvous point for Soto's army during their exploration of the interior.  Multiple return visits from Havana produce no evidence of the lost expedition, the remnants of which finally arrived in Pánuco, Mexico in September of 1543.

1559-1561: Tristán de Luna establishes the first Spanish settlement on Pensacola Bay, named Santa María de Ochuse.  The settlement is garrisoned throughout the next two years, though most of the colonists spend several months inland in Alabama during 1560 before returning to the coast.  The remnants of the colony are withdrawn by the end of 1561.

1686: Juan Enríquez Barroto and Antonio Romero re-discover Pensacola Bay during their reconnaissance of the Gulf of Mexico in search of French colonists, adopting for the first time the name for the bay given by the local Panzacola2 Indians living there at that time.

1693: Andrés de Pez explores and charts Pensacola Bay in anticipation of its planned settlement.

1698-1719: Andrés de Arriola establishes the second formal Spanish settlement on Pensacola Bay, a presidio named Santa María de Galve.  The Veracruz-based settlement survives despite severe hostility from English-allied Indian slave raiders, until French forces from nearby Mobile capture Santa María in 1719 during the War of the Quadruple Alliance.

1719-1722: French forces occupy the site of Santa María while the Spanish garrison temporarily fortifies itself on the Bay of San Joseph, far to the east.

1722-17563: Spanish forces return after the end of the war with France to establish a new location for the Pensacola presidio on nearby Santa Rosa Island, named Isla de Santa Rosa, Punta de Sigüenza.  This third Spanish settlement is battered by hurricanes until it is nearly destroyed by one in 1752, after which a gradual transfer of families to the mainland location known as San Miguel de Punta Blanca is implemented between 1754 and 1756.  The Santa Rosa presidio is finally abandoned and fully transferred in 1756.

1756-1763: The fourth and final Spanish settlement on Pensacola Bay, ultimately known as San Miguel de Panzacola, is formally designated a presidio in 1756, fifteen years after a small warehouse and brick oven had been placed there in 1741, and two years after the first military families were granted authorization to relocate there in 1754.  The fort and village survive until the 1763 transfer of Florida to Britain after the Seven Years War, after which Spanish residents and their Catholic Indian neighbors evacuate to Veracruz.

1763-present: Under the simplified name of Pensacola, the city grows and expands under British rule.  After the city is recaptured from the British by Spanish forces under Bernardo de Gálvez in 1781, Pensacola continues to grow and flourish during the Second Spanish (1781-1821) and American (1821-present) periods to become a modern city of more than 50,000 inhabitants.

Notes

1 The correct name of Francisco Maldonado is well documented from contemporary records of the Soto expedition and elsewhere, but later Soto chronicler Garcilaso de la Vega (1605) incorrectly reported his first name as Diego, and this erroneous name appears frequently in the secondary literature about Maldonado's visits.  Garcilaso's account is famous for its exaggerations and misplaced names.

2 The name Panzacola is well-documented as an indigenous Native American name for the local group of American Indians living along Pensacola Bay during the last quarter of the 17th century (and the name appeared as an Apalachee Indian surname as early as 1657 near  modern Tallahassee), but some recent historians have instead speculated that the term was derived from Spanish origins, for which there is no documentary evidence at all.  Beyond this, since the name Panzacola does not appear in any of the 16th-century accounts of Spanish visits to Pensacola Bay (which all uniformly referred to the indigenous province or town of Ochuse in association with modern Pensacola Bay), the Panzacola Indians may well be one of the many Native American groups which relocated from elsewhere during the turbulent years of the 17th century, and thus may not be indigenous to Pensacola Bay or even Northwest Florida.  At present, there is no way to determine if the Panzacola descended from the Ochuse Indians or not.  In addition, although a number of modern scholars have attempted to translate the word Panzacola using the Choctaw language (which may be related), there is no direct documentary evidence regarding the Panzacola language, or the original meaning of the name.

3 Though the date of the abandonment of Presidio Isla de Santa Rosa is widely reported in the secondary literature as 1752 (immediately following the great hurricane which devastated the settlement), detailed review of the documentary record from this period make it clear that Santa Rosa continued to be staffed and occupied through 1756, although some families and others were granted formal permission to begin relocating to the safer mainland location at San Miguel (modern Pensacola downtown) beginning in July of 1754. 

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Pensacola 450th Anniversary Events

Royal Visit / Juan Sebastián de Elcano / Symposium


Spanish Royal Visit to Pensacola

February 19, 2009

King Juan Carlos I at Pensacola Naval Air Station, 2009On February 19, 2009, as part of the 450th anniversary celebration of the Tristán de Luna expedition, Pensacola was visited by King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sophia of Spain. 

Their historic visit included several stops across the city, ranging from lunch at the Pensacola Naval Air Station to a stop at the site of Fort George, captured by the Spanish from British forces in 1781 during the American Revolution.  The King and Queen also toured the exhibit on the Emanuel Point shipwreck and the Luna expedition at the T.T. Wentworth Museum.  At noon, His Majesty also delivered a speech from the museum's balcony to crowds gathered in historic Plaza Ferdinand.

The transcribed text of the speech is provided below, since it now forms part of the documentary record of the Spanish heritage of Pensacola, and was the first such event since the present King's ancestor King Phillip II first set in motion the Luna expedition to Pensacola Bay.  In a way, the visit of the King and Queen of Spain in 2009 represented the fulfillment of that early desire to establish a Spanish presence in Florida, as the text of the speech so eloquently implies.

Speech Delivered by King Juan Carlos I at Plaza Ferdinand, Pensacola, Florida, February 19, 2009

Thank you very much, Governor.  Governor Crist, Senator Nelson, Congressman Miller, Mayor Wiggins, Commissioner Young, dear citizens of Pensacola.  The Queen joins me in thanking you from our hearts for your kind invitation to this beautiful and dynamic city, which contains so much of the shared history of Spain and the United States.  My sincere congratulations for promoting Celebrate Pensacola 450.  We had always wanted to visit you.  This great celebration is a unique occasion to do so.  Thank you very much, once again.

We feel naturally proud and honored to be able to commemorate with you the founding of this first settlement in 1559.  First Place City, a title by which this special city is known, and which reflects your decision to promote your history, which is also the history of Spain.  As you know, four and a half centuries ago, during the reign of another King of Spain, my ancestor Phillip the Second, the navigator Tristán de Luna arrived on these shores with the aim of settling here.  He came with farmers, and soldiers, with missionaries, and craftsmen, with men, women, children, together with their pets and farming tools.  They were guided by the hope of achieving through hard work a better life for them, and for their children.  Thus they shared the same spirit of so many others who came later to the United States.  Here in this land, the seeds of that extraordinary adventure took root and flourished.  A new era began here in this great nation, a close friend and ally of Spain.  This is why the cultural heritage of Pensacola is amongst the richest in North America.

Today, we are in Pensacola to tell you that Spain values your commitment to preserving this Spanish legacy, and that we are proud of your ancestors, and admire how their descendants have helped to build this country.  Pensacola, the City of Five Flags, is an extraordinary example of Spain’s valuable contribution, first, to explore the territory of North America, and later, to support the American Revolution, and the independence of the United States of America.  At the Battle of Pensacola, two centuries after the city was founded, Bernardo de Galvez and his troops were a good example of Spain’s decisive help to North American independence.  Thanks to that battle, the patriots achieved naval domination of the Gulf of Mexico.  Furthermore, Spain was then able to send through Galvez financial aid, arms, and supplies to the American troops who were fighting under the leadership of General Washington, thus contributing to the crucial victory at Yorktown.

We proudly remember today our shared past, and the many Spaniards who have made history in this city, and we do so while looking towards the future.  The history of the Spanish presence in the United States began here, and continued in other places around the country during the sixteenth century.  Today, the Hispanic presence is a rich component to the diversity and strength of American society.  We are delighted to see how Spaniards are coming once again to this land of La Florida and to other U.S. states with the same innovative spirits, contributing to promote, with a vision of the future, new technologies for the twenty-first century.  We are also pleased that the Spanish military tradition lives on in this city nowadays through the presence of our young pilots who are being trained in Pensacola, the cradle of naval aviation.

Dear friends, the Queen and I thank you for your warm and generous welcome, one we will never forget.  Thank you again for your efforts in preserving our common heritage, for commemorating your town’s important place in the history of North America, and for your willingness to keep working together with Spain for a better future.

Viva Pensacola; long live Pensacola; thank you very much.  

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Juan Sebastián de Elcano" Visit to Pensacola

June 3-9, 2009

Another special event in the 450th Anniversary celebrations was the visit of the Spanish Navy training ship the Juan Sebastián de Elcano, named for the Spaniard who completed Ferdinand Magellan's planned circumnavigation of the globe after Magellan's 1521 death in the Philippines.  At 113 meters long, the ship is the third largest of its kind in the world, and its visit to Pensacola marked a rare opportunity to see a Spanish sailing vessel docked in Pensacola in modern times.

Elcano at dock Juan Sebastián de Elcano docked at the Port of Pensacola.
Rigging and sails Rigging and furled sails on board the Elcano.
Rigging Rigging.
Crowds waiting to board Elcano Crowds waiting in line to board the Elcano.
Figurehead of Minerva Figurehead of Goddess Minerva.
Main mast Main mast.

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Public Symposium "Conquistadors, Colonists, and the Crown: Stories of 16th-century Spanish Florida"

September 18-19, 2009

The final official event in Pensacola's year-long celebration of the 450th anniversary of the Luna expedition was a public symposium made possible by funding from the Spain-Florida Foundation and the Consul General of Spain in Miami, and also sponsored by Celebrate Pensacola!, West Florida Historic Preservation Inc., Solé Inn and Suites, the University of West Florida Institute of Archaeology/Department of Anthropology, the Florida Public Archaeology Network, and the Pensacola Archaeological Society.  The two-day symposium was well-attended, and brought together scholars in both archaeology and history to discuss recent findings and the broader historical context of Luna's 1559-1561 expedition.  The full schedule of events is provided below.  I hope to post photos of the event soon.

Conquistadors, Colonists, and the CrownFriday, September 18

5:00-6:30 pm, Reception and book signing (T.T. Wentworth, Jr. Florida State Museum)

7:00-8:00 pm,  Dr. Judith A. Bense, University of West Florida
Keynote Address (Old Christ Church)

Saturday, September 19  (Old Christ Church)

9:15-10:15 am,  Dr. Paul Hoffman, Louisiana State University
"Why We Don’t Speak Spanish: Thoughts About The Spanish South to Ca. 1650"

10:15-11:15 am,  Dr. Mary Glowacki, State of Florida, Bureau of Archaeological Research
"Anhaica Apalache and De Soto’s Winter Encampment: An Unfinished Story"

11:15 am - 12:00 pm,  Dr. John Worth, University of West Florida
"The Tristán de Luna Expedition in Historical Context"

1:00-2:00 pm,  Dr. Roger Smith, State of Florida, Bureau of Archaeological Research
"The Archaeology of the Emanuel Point I Ship"

2:00-3:00 pm,  Dr. John Bratten, University of West Florida
"The Archaeology of the Emanuel Point II Ship"

3:00-3:45 pm,  Dr. Kathleen Deagan, University of Florida
"After Luna: The Archaeology of the Pedro Menéndez Era in St. Augustine, 1565-1572"

Photos below taken by Irina Franklin.

450th symposium speakers Speakers in 450th anniversary symposium.
450th symposium venue Old Christ Church, venue for the 450th anniversary symposium.

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