leon2Irony is the order of the day as we celebrate the state where this man sought the Fountain of Youth, which is now Geriatric Central, the place where old New Yorkers go to die. So rattle your walkers on


Juan Ponce de León (1474-1521) was born in Northern Spain; explorer, Conquistador and the first Governor of Puerto Rico in the early days of the Spanish Empire, earnestly bringing Inquisition, tyranny and syphilis to the unspoiled Paradise that was the New World.

North and South America were anything but “New” to their millions of inhabitants, whose greatest misfortune was neglecting to invent gunpowder before 1492.

Anyway, Governor de León was either very vain or very ugly, and became obsessed with the legends of a Fountain of Youth in a land just beyond the horizon, whose waters restored one’s youthful vigor. At the age of only 37, he set sail for Florida and, after duly claiming both the current inhabitants and their land for the King and Queen of Spain on April 2, 1511, he set out in search of eternal youth.

Rumor has it that the natives of Puerto Rico were just shining him on, and threw in the G-word (gold, irresistible to Conquistadors) just to get him out of their hair for a few years. Needless to say, de León never did find the Fountain of Youth or any gold in Florida over the course of several voyages, but he did get to name the place before dying in Havana, Cuba from the effects of a poison arrow wound suffered in a battle with Florida natives, a very old man of 47.

•Suggested Activities: Sunblock, sunblock, sunblock.

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