Juan Ponce de León (1460-1521) began his career of exploration in 1493 as a member of Columbus’s second expedition. Nine years later, he traveled to the West Indies. In 1508 and 1509, he explored and settled Puerto Rico, founding the island’s oldest settlement, Caparra, near what is now San Juan. Ponce de León served as the island’s first governor. Royal orders to colonize new lands and to acquire additional sources of gold, combined with the desire to discover the legendary Fountain of Youth, led to his discovery of Florida in 1513.
Florida was the first continuous Spanish settlement in the New World. Spanish admiral Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles founded St. Augustine, located on the northeast coast of Florida, in 1565. The settlement was named in honor of the saint whose feast occurred on the same day St. Augustine was established.