CHICK HUETTEL: This Fountain of Youth legend will grow on you

Chick Huettel

Chick Huettel

Published: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 09:53 AM.

In a few more months, specifically April 3, 2013, your state will celebrate its 500th birthday — when, according to historical records, Juan Ponce de Leon placed his foot on our eastern shoreline in the St. Augustine area. But there is, of course, a bone of contention about where exactly his skiff was rowed ashore. Some say farther north, others say farther south.

But as St. Augustine later became a settlement, they established that here was where it all started. He called our state, “Pascue Florida“ (Festival of Flowers) as it was Easter season.

In regards to the legendary search for the “Fountain of Youth,” the real reason for Ponce’s adventure was first gold and second, settlement of new lands and thus his right to be governor to enrich himself.  The story of him searching for the Fountain of Youth wasn’t even attributed to him until well after his death. A Spanish historian wrote that he had heard Ponce was looking for an anti-aging cure. Another shipwreck survivor, Fontanda, lived with the Indians for 17 years and wrote that Ponce rescued him and inquired about the legend.

And that is the story of his search for youth.

But where did the “Fountain of Youth” first bubble up in the new world?

The fountain legend is believed to have come from the Bahamas. There is a vine there called the Bahamian Love Vine, which was noted by the island Indians in the Caribbean zone as an aphrodisiac potion. If that was the case, Ponce de Leon saw a great potential as a businessman and evidently made efforts to gain more information on the vine, which could possibly be more valuable than gold.

When he was living in Puerto Rico, he perhaps saw the Indians brewing a strong “brown tea” that gave some sort of kick! A noted historian, Arne Molander, surmised that the Spanish conquistadors misinterpreted the Indian word “vid,” which meant “vine,” for the word “vida” that translated  into “life.”

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