500 Years of Genocide and Colonialism Protested in St. Augustine

6 Apr
Yes, this really happened.

Yes, this absurd and insulting re-enactment actually happened.

by Panagioti, EF! Newswire

This week marked one of the largest events of Florida’s “Viva 500” celebrations, a symbolic landing of Ponce de Leon in St. Augustine. Despite being a despicable individual to honor, no records even indicate that Ponce ever stopped there. Thankfully protestors where there to disrupt the program. The protest was organized primarily by participants in the Trans and Womyn’s Action Camp (TWAC) occurring in southwest Florida this week.

A blood-splattered Ponce painting from Lake Worth. Read the sad over-paid artist's whining here.

A blood-splattered Ponce painting from Lake Worth. Read the sad over-paid artist’s whining here.

Activists across the state, including Earth First! folks and other indigenous allies, have been following the Viva 500 schedule and intervening where the opportunities arise. For example, splattering fake blood on a painting of Ponce last month during Lake Worth’s Street Painting Festival.

King Juan Carlos with a dead elephant from a 2006 hunting trip

King Juan Carlos with a dead elephant from a 2006 hunting trip

“This is a historic time and I’m thrilled to witness this celebration. It’s too bad the king and queen of Spain aren’t here, but I hope they’ll come for the 450th commemoration in two years.” That was Brenda Romano of St. Augustine Beach, who also told the St. Augustine Record that she’d been looking forward to this since Jan. 1…. Just in case you weren’t already embarrassed enough by the idiots who you co-habitate this stolen land with.

Ponce’s original journey from Puerto Rico led him west-northwest to what he thought was an island. He arrived on April 2, 1513, supposedly at 30 degrees, 8 minutes north latitude, which he named La Florida. The following day he became who some historians believe to be the first European to step on the soil of the New World.

Anti-Viva 500 protests, St. Augustine, April 3 2013.

Anti-Viva 500 protests, St. Augustine, April 3 2013.

On Wednesday, Ponce was portrayed by St. Augustine actor Chad Light, who stepped from the launch, planted the Spanish flag into the bayfront grass and read a proclamation claiming these lands for King Ferdinand.

After the landing, the crowd followed him across the street to the statue where Mayor Joe Boles gave a pathetic apologist speech, including that in 1967, his first job was to portray Ponce de Leon by wearing a suit of armor and riding a white horse up and down St. George Street. He also declared April 3 as “Florida Discovery Day.”


Art from the recent NY Times, Ponce de Leon Exposed

Art from the recent NY Times article, “Ponce de Leon Exposed”

“His role in history, our history and my life is central and indelible,” Boles said. “He claimed and named us.”

But Boles also had to recognize a piece of the true history, thanks to the protestors. As Boles addressed the audience, which was full of dignitaries and bureaucrats, the protestors, began hooting, hollering and making retching sounds and chanting “Genocide, no cause for pride.”

One spokesperson of the protest was quoted pointing out that diseases, overwork and “genocide” by Florida’s Spanish conquerors stole the lives, labor, language, history and culture of the native peoples. Another, who was dressed as Ponce with a silver chalice handcuffed to his wrist, was forced to his knees by one of the women in the group.

 Deputy secretary of state, Kerri Post, also spoke, saying that 350 events about Ponce de Leon are being held around Florida. Post claimed to be working “very closely with the Seminole tribes of Florida.” But several years of persistent opposition to the Ponce de Leon celebrations from traditional Seminoles and indigenous solidarity activists tells a different story.

The United Urban Warrior Society of Florida released a statement earlier this year regarding their participation in challenging 450th Commemoration events saying the are “dismayed that during such a enlightened period of history when Florida, the United States and much of the globe struggles with a failing economy, that the City of Saint Augustine would even consider spending thousands of dollars commemorating,not the founding of their city  but the involvement of Pedro Menendez and Juan Ponce de Leon in the history of St. Augustine and Florida.

“Those funds  which could be better spent in the community in ways not offensive to the first citizens of this land.That  Federal Funds are being used to commemorate two of the first invaders of Indigenous people while the Federal Government owes billions of dollars to the tribes is reprehensible…
“We ask that the City of Saint Augustine do the right thing for once and show consideration for the feelings of Florida’s first citizens and  display some much needed fiscal responsibility to their own community.”

According to the City of St. Augustine: “On September 8, 2015, the City of St. Augustine, will commemorate its 450th anniversary as the oldest continually occupied European settlement in the United States. Quite a feat.”

But the commemoration will not be just one day; it is extending over a four year period which started in 2012 with the bicentennial of the Spanish Constitution and is continuing into 2013 with the 500th anniversary of the founding of Florida by Juan Ponce de Leon, culminating with St. Augustine’s anniversary in 2015. 

The City’s most recent draft of the 450th Commemoration Strategic Master Plan can be viewed here.

You’ll probably want to prepare your gag reflex for this video…

4 Responses to “500 Years of Genocide and Colonialism Protested in St. Augustine”

  1. Wm Coulthard May 1, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

    Hi Panagioti, The whole French Protestant Catholic Spanish calamity has recently been well published with TD Allman’s Finding Florida. The first three chapters almost rewrite the Conquistador attempt. St. Augustine’s true story is for an epic movie. Miami was the first Native American settlement discovered,the Tequesta took for the woods and warned the Calusa on the other side, They were the first people to check the advance of the Conquistador expansion. It is them we ought to be honoring. The Florida State Library has been exhibiting De Fry etchings. he was responsible for illustrating Bart de Casas’s eye wittness account of the Cuban genocide in 1512/3. Together they horrified Europe of the Spanish Caribean histories, that is why we have ridiculed Ponce and the fountain for so many decades. In 1994 the Columbus 500 got similar treatment , a whole host of publishers released de Casa’s writings. The Native south Florida Americans defeated the Spanish many times, We honor them not the slavers.


  1. A Giant Poisonous Penis Stuck Off the Coast of Ireland | Earth First! Newswire - April 6, 2013

    […] Panagioti is an editor at the Earth First! Journal. He spent several weeks in Spring 2012 traveling Ireland, Scotland and England visiting campaigns (including the Rossport Solidarity Camp) and offering presentations on the EF! movement in the US. He is also involved with the Everglades Earth First! group.. Oh, and excitedly preparing to become a father, of a half-Irish half-Greek (but mostly americanized) kiddo in his home town of Lake Worth, occupied Florida. […]

  2. TWAC Storms Prison Industry Giant GEO Group HQ in Boca Raton | Earth First! Newswire - April 9, 2013

    […] [Last week TWAC organizers confronted colonization and genocide in St. Augustine.] […]

  3. TWAC Storms Prison Industry Giant GEO Group’s HQ in Boca Raton | Internationalist Prison Books Collective - April 9, 2013

    […] legal support can be made here. For those who missed the story last week, TWAC organizers also confronted the history of colonization and genocide in St. Augustine by disrupting a re-enactment of Ponce de Leon "discovering" Florida. […]

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