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La Florida
Cabeza de Vaca

La Florida

The peninsula of Florida has been the point of origin for Spanish exploration in the modern United States and the site of intense conflict with Native Americans. Florida has existed under the flags of Spain, France, England, the United States, and the Conferedate States.

Florida has been divided by racial and cultural conflicts throughout its history, from Spanish enslavement of Indians and its role in the African slave trade, to the Seminole Wars and unification with the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. Florida has seen waves of refugees from Cuba and Haiti, the battle over Elian Gonzalez, race riots and voters' rights issues.

Florida's connections to Texas history include the rule of European powers, Spain and France, and the exploration of Spaniards, Cabeza de Vaca and Hernando de Soto. Florida shares a similar history of slavery and plantations, as well as an Anglo independence movement in the West Florida parishes (including Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana), called the Lone Star Republic, that predates the Republic of Texas.

Florida Timeline

c. 8,000 BC   Native Americans settle in Florida.

c. 3,000 BC   Native Americans manufacture large canoes capable of distant travel on rivers and oceans in production centers (such as one recently discovered near Gainsville).

1513 Juan Ponce de Léon begins mapping and exploration of Florida coast, claiming La Florida for the Spanish.

1528 Expedition under Pánfilo de Narváez (including Alvár Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca) lands on Florida's west coast and sets out to claim land for Spain on route to Mexico. Deteriorating relations with Native Americans force the Spanish survivors to retreat to the Gulf of Mexico, where they flee on barges. (Cabeza de Vaca will roam the Texas interior for five years before returning to Spain by way of Mexico City.)

1537 From the landing point Tampa Bay, Hernando de Soto begins an expedition of the interior. The expedition reaches Texas (though De Soto dies on the way).

1559 With 1,500 settlers from Mexico, Tristán de Luna establishes a Spanish colony at Pensacola, but destroyed by hurricane, the colony fails within a year.

1564 The French establish Fort Caroline on the east coast of Forida on the St. Johns River.

1565 The Spanish capture Fort Caroline, killing most of the Protestant French settlers, and establish San Augustin (St. Augustine), the oldest permanant European settlement in the modern United States. (The Spanish fort Castillo de San Marcos was completed in 1687 using African and Indian slave labor.)

1698 The Spanish establish Pensacola and build a fort within a year to defend Spanish interests against France. (France captured Pensacola in 1719, but soon left it to the Spanish.)

1704 James Moore (though his 1694 raid on San Augustin was unsuccessful) raided the Florida interior, burning missions and India villages. British attacks on San Augustin in 1740 and 1742 failed.

1763 At the conclusion of the French and Indian War, Spain grants Florida to Great Britain, as British forces captured Havana, Cuba. (Spain required the port of Havana for its trade with Mexico and the Caribbean.) The British established large plantations in Florida.

1781 With Spain and France siding with independence fighters against Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War, Bernardo de Gálvez captured West Florida and its capitol, Pensacola.

1781-1783 Spain regained control of East and West Florida after the Revolutionary War.

1803 With the Louisiana Purchase, France transfers its vast claims in the Mississippi Valley and Great Plains to the United States.

1812 During the War of 1812, between the United States and Great Britain, British troops captured Pensicola, but were driven out in 1814 by General Andrew Jackson. Left in ruins to the Spanish, Pensacola was again invaded by the United States in 1817 by Andrew Jackson.

1817-1818 Andrew Jackson's invasion marked the First Seminole War between United States and Seminole Nation. (The Seminoles harbored many escaped slaves who fought with them against the United States.)

1821 Spain cedes its Florida Territories (including parts of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana) to the United States.

1830 The U.S. Government implements its removal policy, forcing Indians to relocate west of the Mississippi. Seminoles who refuse to leave unite under English-Creek strategist Osceola.

1835-1842 Second Seminole War between United States and Seminole Nation. Osceola was taken prisoner during peace talks in 1837, but Seminoles continued their resistance for five years.

1845 Florida becomes the 27th state with 70,000 citizens (March 3). As a slave state, with cotton and sugar cane plantations, cattle ranches, and railroads, its population doubled to 140,000 by 1860.

1855-1858 Third Seminole War between United States and Seminole Nation. By its conclusion, nearly all Seminoles are forced to live in the West, but some escaped into the Everglades where they remained until today.

1861 Florida cecedes from the Union to join the Confederacy. Though Union troops occupied many of Florida's ports, only one major battle was fought on the state's soil, with Union forces retreating from Olustee to Jacksonville.

1865 Following the Civil War, Florida rejoins the Union under the control of the Union army.

1959 Fidel Castro overthrows Fulgencio Batista in Cuba. By 1979, more than 500,000 Cuban immigrants arrive in Florida, joined by Hatians and other refugees, as well as out-of-work Americans and retirees, ranking Florida near the top of the fastest growing state populations in the United States.

1988 The state legislature make English the official language of state government.

See other Regional Timelines.

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