Press Brief

Viva Florida 500 is a statewide initiative led by the Florida Department of State (FDOS) to highlight the 500th anniversary in 2013 of the arrival of Juan Ponce de León to La Florida. The FDOS is working very closely with several core partners and leveraging public and private partnerships with many engaged individuals and organizations at the state and grassroots level to showcase Florida’s Spanish Colonial history and the many different cultures including Native Americans that have shaped Florida and contributed to its diverse heritage. 

Florida’s 500th anniversary presents a unique opportunity to strengthen tourism, spur economic development and educate the world about the state’s significant history and heritage. Viva Florida 500 is a once-in-our-lifetime opportunity to reposition and rebrand Florida by highlighting 500 years of history and unmatched cultural diversity. 

This anniversary will educate children and adults worldwide about Florida’s significant “firsts” in the foundation of the United States.  Viva Florida 500 will acknowledge and promote the state’s history to establish a legacy that will foster a better understanding of where we came from and inspire an even greater pride in Florida heritage. Every American should know that the nation’s identity began in Florida. From the first practice of traditions such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, to the establishment of powerful economic industries like cattle ranching and citrus farming, Florida’s Spanish settlers paved the way.  

By commemorating Florida’s history and heritage, Viva Florida 500 will generate new tourism opportunities on a global scale long after 2013. Commemorative activities will contribute to Florida’s unique tourism landscape – a clean, safe, family-friendly environment that appreciates the state’s cultural heritage, history and natural resources. Expanding Florida’s tourism marketing efforts to include 500 years of rich cultural diversity and history (that no other state can claim) will raise the state profile to increase resident, domestic and international travel.   

By reminding the world of the state’s historic role in international trade, Viva Florida 500 will promote the state’s business-friendly environment.  Viva Florida 500 will reintroduce Florida as the Gateway to the America’s and the place where the nation’s cultures first came together. Business incentives in Florida are improving, and international investment further strengthens Florida’s economy.  With over 400 Spanish businesses in Florida, and the expansion of the Panama Canal in 2014, opportunities are opening up for more global business and cultural exchanges.  

Spanish and Hispanic contributions to Florida in particular are deeply woven into the historic tapestry of the beautiful Sunshine State, though Florida’s cultural heritage is inextricably connected to many nations. This is passionately evident in the art, architecture, culture, cuisine, language and music shared throughout the state. Viva Florida 500 will share the distinct flavor of Florida with the nation and the world, strengthening the ties - the very old ties - between the Old and New Worlds.  

In what year did Columbus “sail the ocean blue”? (1492) In what years were Jamestown, Virginia and Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts established? (1607 and 1620, respectively.) Are we to think no exploration, arrivals or other settlements occurred in the 1500s? Really? Contrary to popular belief, Florida was the first place of European arrival in the continental United States in 1513 and it has the longest recorded history of any state in America.


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