Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept.15-Oct. 15, by spending time at the 12 Florida state parks that focus on preserving Hispanic heritage.
These Florida state parks offer a window into Florida’s Hispanic heritage.
San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park, St. Marks: The site’s history began in 1528 when Panfilo de Narvaez arrived with 300 men. In 1539, Hernando de Soto, along with 600 men, followed the same route. In 1679, the Spanish built a fort to protect their missions. The museum at the park displays pottery and tools that were unearthed near the original fort and explains the site’s history.
Big Talbot Island State Park, Jacksonville: Named during the British period and originally used by the British grantees for citrus, sugar and cotton plantations, Big Talbot Island was used by Spanish settlers during the Second Spanish period.
Anastasia State Park, St. Augustine: More than 300 years ago, sites like the coquina quarries within this park were busy with workers hauling blocks of rock. With hand tools, they hewed out blocks of the soft shellstone and pried the squares loose along natural layers in the rock. The blocks were used to construct the Castillo de San Marcos and other buildings.
Fort Mose Historic State Park, St. Augustine: In 1738, the Spanish governor of Florida chartered Fort Mose as a settlement for freed Africans who had fled slavery in the British Carolinas. When Spain ceded Florida to Britain in 1763, the inhabitants of Fort Mose migrated to Cuba. Although nothing remains of the fort, the site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994 for its importance in American history.
San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park, Alachua: San Felasco is the mispronunciation by settlers and Indians of the name of a 17th century Spanish mission, San Francisco de Potano, which was in the southeastern section of the preserve, one of the few remaining mature forests in Florida.
Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, Micanopy: Rancho de La Chua, on the Prairie's north rim, is believed to be the site of Hacienda de La Chua, the largest cattle ranch in Spanish Florida. Established before 1637, La Chua was managed by the politically powerful Menendez Marquez family. Cattle and wild horses seen today are descendants of those brought over by the Spanish in the early 1500s and left to roam free after the British raids in the early 1600s.
De Leon Springs State Park, DeLeon Springs: Legend and folklore claim Juan Ponce de León sought and discovered the mythical Fountain of Youth at DeLeon Springs. The Visitor Center features exhibits on the park's 6,000-year history and presentations on Florida's Springs, the St. Johns River and the Everglades.
Tomoka State Park, Ormond Beach: Within the park is the Nocoroco Site, a Timucuan village reported by Spanish explorers in the early 1600s, where visitors can enjoy a half-mile nature trail through a hardwood hammock that was once an indigo field for an 18th century British landowner.
Sebastian Inlet State Park’s McLarty Treasure Museum, Melbourne Beach: In 1715, 11 Spanish treasure galleons sank along the east central Florida coast. One of the survivors’ campsites was on the present day site of the McLarty Treasure Museum. A second museum, the Sebastian Fishing Museum also provides history of the area.
Mound Key Archaeological State Park, Estero: This 125-acre island is in the Estero Bay, and was created more than 2,000 years ago by the indigenous tribe known as the Calusa, or “fierce people.” In 1566, the Spanish Governor of Florida established a settlement on Mound Key with a fort and the first Jesuit mission, known as San Antonio de Carlos. Today, interpretive displays can be found along a trail that spans the width of the island.
San Pedro Underwater Archaeology Preserve State Park, Islamorada: The San Pedro was a 287-ton, Dutch-built ship that sailed as part of the fleet of New Spain in 1733. Her discovery in Hawk Channel in the 1960s, beneath 18 feet of water, led to the recovery of small silver coins dated 1731 and 1733, as well as cannons trapped under the ballast pile. Today, this underwater archaeological preserve features a submerged shipwreck that is available for diving and snorkeling.
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, Key West: Fort Taylor played important role in Civil War and the Spanish-American War. The fort was one of a series built in the mid 1800s to defend the nation’s southernmost coastline. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1973.