Looking forward to 2013? Celebrate the whole year with the State of Florida as we enter the 500th year since Juan Ponce de Leon's landing on the Atlantic Coast. Highlighting the first European explorations in the state, Viva Florida 500 is a year-long event commemorating the March 27, 1513 landing in St. Augustine. Our Floridian claims to fame include the first permanent European settlement in what is today's United States.
De Leon didn't find the gold he was looking for, and our state was pretty short on actual fountains of youth, but he did give the state its name by declaring (because of the Easter season and the pretty landscape) "Pascua Florida" or Feast of Flowers. He also ran into native Timucuan culture and some pretty nice beaches that still draw people from all over the world.
Celebrate with the Manatee County Library at our kickoff event 4-7:30 p.m. Jan. 30 at the Central Library. Kids and teenagers can make time capsules and adults can meet local authors and attend a reception with historical society members.
Florida was a part of Spain for a lot longer than it's been a part of the United States. Learn about Spanish Florida in "Artifacts of the Spanish Colonies of Florida and the Caribbean, 1500-1800" by Kathleen Deagan. Another description of early Florida can be found in Kevin M. McCarthy's "Native Americans in Florida," which covers the history of the Timucua, the Calusa, and many of the other "first nations" on our peninsula.
"A People's History of Florida, 1513-1876: How Africans, Seminoles, Women, and Lower Class Whites Shaped the Sunshine State" by Adam Wasserman details everything from Ponce de Leon's and Hernando de Soto's visits, to the Seminole Wars, the Civil War and Reconstruction.
For a more personal and humorous look at Florida, try "Dream State: Eight Generations of Swamp Lawyers, Conquistadors, Confederate Daughters, Banana Republicans, and Other Florida Wildlife." Diane Roberts, an eighth-generation Floridian, tells infamous tales of her family while incorporating Florida's recent history from 1799 to the 2000 election.
After learning about our history, this might be the year to plan a trip to see some of the state's best historic sites. Florida Heritage Trails include the Native American Heritage Trail, the Black Heritage Trail, The Women's Heritage Trail, and many others. You can download free 64-page guides at www.fla500.com/trails.php or call VISIT FLORIDA at 888-735-2872 to have one mailed to you.
Speaking Volumes, written by Manatee County Public Library System staff members, is published each Sunday.