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European Empires

European exploration of what we know of Florida began in the early 1500s. These early expeditions were fueled by the pursuit of the “3 G’s”: God, Glory, and Gold. As a catholic empire, the Spanish viewed it as their obligation to convert as many people as possible to their own faith. The Papal Bull of 1493 granted full authorization for conquest and colonization to both the Spanish and the Portuguese, providing them with the moral justification for the colonization, conversion, and enslavement of the Americas and its people.  Glory was sought in the conquest and exploration of new lands.  And finally, the search for gold and other precious metals was to pay for these conquests. 

While early Spanish expeditions to Florida were met with lush land and indigenous peoples – none found any gold. The sought after riches were instead found in Central and South America. All of the wealth that was extracted from these lands and people was gathered in the port city of Havana, Cuba, and then shipped back to Spain by way of the Gulf Stream. A Spanish controlled Florida coastline, with its jewel of St. Augustine, protected these ships and provided safe refuge in case of storms, shipwrecks, or pirates.  This growth and infrastructure required an enormous amount of labor and supplies.

The Spanish entry into the interior was spearheaded by religious missionaries. Jesuits made the first attempts to integrate into indigenous communities but were rejected and forced out. Franciscans came after and found greater success. The relationships the friars built with the Timucua and Guale allowed for these people to be drafted for hard labor and the production of foodstuffs, but after 100 years of disease, warfare, and exploitation, their populations had declined. As the need for food and labor continued, Spanish Missionaries moved ever deeper into La Florida to meet and engage with the Apalachee.