Happy Pascua Florida Day! That’s right. April 3 is Florida’s state holiday, commemorating the anniversary of the discovery of Florida in 1513 by Juan Ponce de León. Most people know him from his hunt for gold and the Fountain of Youth.
He named the land “Pascua Florida,” or “Flowery Land” after the Spanish Feast of the Flowers which is celebrated around Easter.
When Ponce de León arrived in Florida with about 200 men, the group was immediately attacked by Native Americans, and he was hit by an arrow. The group fled to Cuba, where de León died.
Eventually, Florida was settled by groups from Spain and France, then eventually Britain. They constantly fought over land with each other and with the native tribes. Even nature wasn’t good to them: hurricanes and famine hit them.
During this time, however, Florida became the site of one of the first communities of freed slaves, offering freedom to slaves fleeing from the colonies if they agreed to convert to Catholicism.
When Britain acquired Florida after signing the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the Seven Year’s War between Britain, France, and some of the tribes ended. Other native tribes, including the Seminoles, continued fighting into the mid-19th century, leading to the First, Second, and Third Seminole Wars and the creation of Fort King.
On March 3, 1845, Florida officially became a state…which is the same day that de León first arrived on its shores hundreds of years before.
There are many interesting things to know about Florida. Did you know:
- There are no dinosaur fossils in Florida. That’s because during the dinosaur age, the Florida peninsula was underwater, which means that compared to the rest of the Earth, Florida is new.
- Some may think Kansas or other states in the Midwest are the flattest in America, but they would be wrong! Florida’s mean elevation is only 100 feet. Its highest natural point is Britton Hill, which is only 345 feet above sea level.
- Sorry, California! Florida wins! Florida produces the most oranges in America. In fact, the state provides 75% of the country’s oranges and 40% of the world’s orange juice supply.
- About 1,000 people move to Florida every single day. That’s a lot of people, which is why your neighborhood might look like it’s always building new homes. Yet, until the middle of the 20th century, Florida was the southern state with the least population. How things change!
- Clearwater, Florida holds the record for highest rate of lightning strikes in the US. Shocking!
- Like to quench your thirst with Gatorade? It was developed at the University of Florida, named after the school’s mascot. And when you’re watching the games outside, don’t forget another Florida invention! Suntan lotion was invented in 1944 in Miami Beach.
- World Kudos! Key Largo, Florida, has gained recognition as the Dive Capitol of the World and Ocala has been recognized as the Horse Capital of the World!