Visit Ponce de Leon’s Statue in San Juan
At the Plaza de San Josem you will find a statue of the Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon overlooking the El Morro Fortress. The statue was first created in New York in 1882 using bronze collected from English canons that were salvaged when the English attacked San Juan in 1792. De Leon was born in 1460 in Santervás de Campos and died in 1521. He was also recognized for his contributions as a young man to the war that eventually conquered Granada on the Iberian Peninsula.
The statue was created in remembrance of de Leon who sailed with Columbus on his second voyage to discover the New World. Ponce de Leon joined Columbus in trying to discover the famous Fountain of Youth and while doing so found Florida in 1513. He later conquered Puerto Rico when he heard of its riches and it was in Caparra where he first took up residence.
Ponce de Leon was thought to have first landed on the Turks and Caicos Islands at Cockburn Town where he participated in the conquering of the Taínos. It was then that he was given the title of governor over the Higuey Province in Hispaniola. He forced the Taíno tribe to work as slaves and to help construct mines and fortifications after having promised the Spanish government that he would provide gold, slaves and land if he were given the chance to visit Bimini on another part of the Island.
The Taíno accepted Ponce de Leon and once he had control over Puerto Rico he was appointed Governor through the Spanish Crown in 1509. Ponce de Leon and his men brought many common European diseases to the native people of Puerto Rico and this resulted in many of the Taínos dying as they had no immunity to the diseases. Later in 1512 Ponce de Leon was removed as Governor when Diego Columbus, son of Christopher Columbus won the right to take up Governorship. Today you can find Ponce de Leon’s tomb in Old San Juan where he died after being injured by a poisoned arrow after he landed in Florida on the Caloosahatchee River.