Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pedro Menéndez de Avilés – in Avilés

I´m in our sister city, Avilés, right now, and here are a few photos of our founder and first governor, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. 

Menéndez landed in Florida on September 8, 1565. He was born in Avilés, in the house below, which is now the city´s School of Ceramics, training young people in the great Asturian ceramics tradition. 


Menéndez wanted to search for his son, who had been lost on a journey exploring the Caribbean, and Felipe II permitted him to mount an expedition if he would also go to Florida to establish a permanent Spanish base there are make sure that the territory, already claimed by Spain, was not seized by the French or the British. 

He did so and remained in Florida for several years,  returning to Spain when Philip called him back to be the commander of the Armada that was preparing to set forth for the north. Unfortunately, Pedro Menéndez died of typhoid before this could happen. We have to wonder how history would have been different if he had lived; Menéndez was a phenomenally good seaman and would probably not have set forth at that time of year and lost the fleet, but instead would have waited for a better time to attack. In any case, Menéndez died in 1574, and is now buried in the Franciscan church in Avilés in this stone casket up in a niche in the wall  near the altar.

DSCN3051 There is a plaque next to the sarcophagus given by the City of Avilés, which gave a duplicate to St. Augustine. The plaque was lost for many years, but finally turned up again and is now at the base of St. Augustine´s statue of Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. But here is his statue in Avilés, in the plaza named for him.