PEDRO MENENDEZ DE AVILES,
ALONSO DE LA CAMPA
FIRST ADELANTADO AND
FIRST GOVERNOR OF “LA FLORIDA” (1565-1574)
13th GOVERNOR OF CUBA (1568-1574)
Adelantado of Florida, Governor of Cuba and of Florida. Born in Aviles, Spain, February 15, 1519. Son of Juan Alfonso Alvarez de Aviles and of his first wife Maria Alonso de Arango, both descendants of an ancient Asturian nobility. He had numerous siblings. As a child, he married his first cousin, Maria Solis de Cascos, who was 10 years old. At age 14, he enlisted in a flotilla against English and French corsairs. After selling his inheritance he purchased a “patache” sailboat and continued his marine pursuits until age 30 when the Spanish Crown granted him a patent as privateer.
In 1549, he dueled against and killed the greatest among the French pirates, Jean Alfonse Saintonge of La Rochelle, France. To achieve this, Pedro sailed into the pirate base of New Rochelle under a hail of cannon and musket fire. He boarded Jean’s ship, engaged in a sword fight with him, and killed him. Pedro returned to Spain with five “prizes” previously captured by Jean Alfonse Saintonge and his pirates. Jean’s son swore revenge, pursued Pedro, but was killed by Pedro’s marine forces in the Spanish Canary Islands, off the coast of Africa.
In 1554, Pedro was named Captain General of the Armada against corsairs. In July Pedro headed the flotilla which transported Spanish King, Felipe II, to England to marry his bride, Mary Tudor. He later provided armed escort to galleons in the West Indies. In 1557, he transported troops and funds to Flanders thus contributing to the Hapsburg (Spanish) victory over France at San Quintin, France. The following year (1558) his efforts also contributed to Spanish victory at the Battle of Gravelinas, France, upon repeating the feat with fishing boats.
After the war, he transported Spanish King, Felipe II, through perilous waters, from the Low Countries to Spain thus avoiding an overland gauntlet of hostile forces. From 1560 to 1561 he remained in Mexico advising Viceroy Velasco on Atlantic and Pacific navigation. He assembled the armada which conquered the Philipines. He was notified of the need to settle Florida and Santa Elena (known today as Parris Island, South Carolina). Upon his return, he was prosecuted by officials of the House of Contracting for having delayed departure of a fleet. He appealed to the King and the King named him Captain General of said fleet in 1562. His rivalry with the House of Contracting landed him in jail in 1563. There he met Father Avellaneda and both planned the settlement and evangelism of Florida on whose coast Pedro’s son, Juan, had disappeared.
The French had abandoned their Florida base to attack naval traffic from New Spain. Given these facts, Spanish King, Felipe II, agreed to contract Pedro Menendez de Aviles—on March 20, 1565—to Pacify and Settle Florida. As Pedro prepared the expedition, he was notified of a newly established French base on Florida soil and he received Royal orders to destroy said base filled with trespassers and heretics—in the eyes of the Spanish Crown. Surmounting various obstacles, he sailed for Florida in June of 1565 aboard a flotilla of eight ships. He arrived aboard five ships offshore from French Fort Caroline using the element of surprise in an attempt to prevail but this initial effort failed. Pedro sailed south where he founded St. Augustine, Florida, on September 8, 1565–the first enduring European settlement in what is now the United States of America. There he repelled an attack by the French Huguenots who were subsequently scattered by an unexpected violent storm. Pedro marched overland , thus surprising and overwhelming the French at Charlesfort near what would later be Santa Elena, South Carolina. Shortly after that the French surrendered unconditionally and except for a handful of faithful Roman Catholics were slaughtered with their leader, Jean Ribault at their head. Jean Ribault was a personality of great qualities and merits, a mariner and soldier comparable to his Spanish opponent. Jean Ribault was as religiously pious as Pedro and given a comparable opportunity would have treated Pedro and the Spanish in an equally cruel manner. This after all was the time of violent religious wars throughout Europe and these events ended the French Period of Florida.
In 1566, Pedro Menendez de Aviles landed within the domains of the fierce Native American chiefs, Carlos, and Tocobaga. Christian missions were built among the Guale and Oriste people of Georgia and adjacent lands. At Pedro’s request, the first Jesuit priests were sent to Florida and arrived there in 1567.
Pedro returned to Spain where he was appointed Governor of the island of Cuba. He rushed back to the West Indies with his family upon receiving news that the French Huguenot, Dominique de Gourges, had slaughtered the Spanish garrison at San Mateo. In Havana, he founded a school for the sons of Native American chiefs.
Recalled to Spain, he was assigned in 1574 to assemble the Invincible Armada against England but was struck down by a fatal infectious illness on September 17, 1574. Prior to his illness, he had written to his nephew that his final wish would have been to return to Florida and spread the Gospel among Native Peoples.
Pedro’s exploits were many. He traveled from the Azores to the Bahamas in 17 days. To achieve this, he invented a nautical instrument which measured longitude with precision and accuracy. He reformed and improved ships and introduced to the Caribbean a special galley ship which sailed efficiently even during moments of calm breeze. He mapped Florida and the Bahamas while discovering a parallel Gulf Stream current. He had a complex personality and a religious rigidity which mirrored European events of the early Reformation.
Note: Author is a Federal Court-certified descendant of Pedro Menendez de Aviles and his genealogy is filed with the US Federal Courts.
VIDEO LINKS CONCERNING SUBJECT MATTER
NOTE: 2015 MARKS THE 450th ANNIVERSARY OF THE LANDING OF THE MENENDEZ DE AVILES EXPEDITION AT MISSION NOMBRE DE DIOS, ST. AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA–SEPTEMBER 9, 1565. THE MENENDEZ DE AVILES EXPEDITION INCLUDED OVER 1,000 SAILORS, MARINES, AND SETTLERS ON 11 SHIPS. IT WAS THE SIXTH MAJOR EXPEDITION OF SPAIN TO ATTEMPT TO “PACIFY” AND “SETTLE” LA FLORIDA [AS STATED IN THE “ASIENTO” (CONTRACT) BETWEEN PEDRO MENENDEZ DE AVILES AND FELIPE II, KING OF SPAIN]. IT WAS THE FIRST SUCH EXPEDITION TO SURVIVE AND TO SUCCEED IN ESTABLISHING THE OLDEST ENDURING EUROPEAN SETTLEMENT (ST. AUGUSTINE) AND COLONY (LA FLORIDA) IN WHAT IS NOW THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
THE ASIENTO BETWEEN PEDRO AND FELIPE II, DEFINED “LA FLORIDA” AS ALL OF NORTH AMERICA EXCEPT FOR THE SOUTHERN 1/3 OF ALTA CALIFORNIA (WHAT TODAY IS KNOWN AS THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA).
THE FOUNDING OF ST. AUGUSTINE PREDATES JAMESTOWN, VIRGINIA BY 42 YEARS AND PLYMOUTH, MASSACHUSETTS BY 55 YEARS. MEMBERS OF THE MENENDEZ DE AVILES EXPEDITION CELEBRATED THE FIRST THANKSGIVING DINNER WITH TIMUCUA TRIBE MEMBERS OF ST. AUGUSTINE IN 1565-66–OVER ONE HALF CENTURY BEFORE THE THANKSGIVING DINNER CELEBRATED BY THE ENGLISH PILGRIMS OF MASSACHUSETTS WITH MEMBERS OF THE WAMPANOAG TRIBE OF MASSACHUSETTS.
PEDRO’S ASIENTO WITH SPANISH KING, FELIPE II, REQUIRED THAT PEDRO ESTABLISH MILITARY GARRISON/RELIGIOUS MISSIONS THROUGHOUT THE AMERICAN SOUTHEAST. SHORTLY AFTER 1565, NEARLY 40 MILITARY GARRISON/RELIGIOUS MISSION COMPLEXES EXISTED IN THE AMERICAN SOUTHEAST. THE NORTHERNMOST WAS KNOWN AS THE JESUIT MISSION IN “AJACAN” (VIRGINIA), LOCATED 1/2 MILE FROM WHAT IS NOW YORKTOWN, VIRGINIA. THE WESTERNMOST WAS LOCATED IN NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE. TO DATE, ONLY TWO OF THESE GARRISON/MISSION COMPLEXES HAVE BEEN STUDIED BY ARCHAEOLOGISTS: FORT SAN JUAN IN THE ANCIENT CATAWBA INDIAN VILLAGE OF JOARA, MORGANTON, NORTH CAROLINA AND SANTA ELENA (1566) IN WHAT IS NOW PARRIS ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA–TRAINING BASE OF THE U.S. MARINE CORPS. [PEDRO’S EXPEDITION WAS THE FIRST ENDURING MARINE AND NAVAL EUROPEAN PRESENCE IN WHAT IS NOW THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.]
IN 1572, PEDRO MENENDEZ DE AVILES EXPLORED KENT ISLAND, MARYLAND, LOCATED 40 MILES EAST OF DOWNTOWN WASHINGTON, DC.