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Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles
Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles

Pedro Menendez de Aviles (born 1519 in AvilÚs, Spain, dead in Santander on September 17, 1574), was the first Spanish governor of Florida. He founded the city of St. Augustine on August 28, 1565.

Pedro Menendez de Aviles was about forty-six years when he had risen to the highest rank in the Spanish navy; he was a man of means with a huge family fortune; an Hidalgo. In 1554, he commanded the royal galleon which bore his king Philip II of Spain to England to marry Queen Mary; and in 1561, he commanded the great treasure-fleet of galleons on their voyage from Mexico to Spain. When he had delivered the fleet in Spain, he asked permission to go back in search of one lost vessel, but was then refused. This was the vessel where he lost his son and other family and friends on. However after a lenghty delay, his request was granted only on the condition that he would explore and colonize La Florida as the king's Adelantado. He fitted out an expedition for the purpose at his own expense, but when he was about to sail, orders came to him to wipe out all Protestants he might find there, or in whatever corner of the Indies he should find them, on land or sea, in forests or marshes.

Don Pedro is credited as the Spanish leader who first surveyed and began the building of the royal fortresses at major Caribbean ports. He was appointed Captain-General of the Armada de la Carrera in 1554 when he sailed out with the Indies fleet 1555 and brought it back safely to Spain. The experience he gained assured him of the strategic importance of the Bahama Channel and the position of Havana as the key port for the annual run of the treasure galleons.

When Don Pedro arrived off the coast of Florida, it was August 28, 1565, the Feast Day of St. Augustine. Eleven days later, he and some 600 soldiers and settlers came ashore at the site of the Timucuan Indian village of Seloy with banners flying and trumpets sounding. He hastily fortified the fledgling little town and named it St. Augustine.

Pedro's brilliant military experience, allowed him to destroy the French outpost of Fort Caroline on the St. Johns River and, with the help of a hurricane, also defeated the French fleet. With the coast of Florida now firmly in Spanish hands, he then set to work building the town, establishing missions to the Indians for the Church, and exploring the new land.ast:Pedro MenÚndez d'AvilÚs


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