People curious about Florida history, and Spain's role in it, will find plenty to interest them Sunday at Heritage Village, including an exhibit and lecture honoring explorer Juan Ponce de Leon.
Five hundred years ago this year, Ponce de Leon landed on the east coast of the state — the first group of Europeans to document a landing here — and gave the region a name: La Florida. Florida is marking the anniversary with a year-long, statewide celebration called "Viva Florida 500."
Pinellas' celebration from noon to 4 p.m. is co-sponsored by Heritage Village, the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative and the Pinellas County Historical Society.
When visitors first arrive, they will be invited to walk through an exhibit, "For God and Gold," created by historian Lester Dailey. It includes examples of the weaponry, swords and knives used by the Spanish explorers, as well as religious symbols like crosses and holy water fonts, depicting the conquistadors' attempts to convert the early Floridians to Christianity.
At 1:30 p.m., the library co-op will present a time capsule to Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice to be stored permanently at Heritage Village.
Inside the capsule will be items from co-op member libraries, including sponges from the Tarpon Springs Library, signifying that community's long history of sponging, and souvenirs from the Dunedin Blue Jays because of Dunedin's relationship with baseball and spring training.
The East Lake Community Library is contributing a creation made from Legos to ensure that future residents know of the successful Lego robotics program at the small library.
At 2 p.m. in the Pinellas Room, a discussion, "Early Footprints in the Sand: Pre-Columbian Settlements along the Pinellas Peninsula and the Legacies of First Contact,'' will be presented by Jim Schnurr, former president of the Pinellas County Historical Society, and Elizabeth Southard, who holds a degree in anthropology from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.
Schnurr will talk about Florida's indigenous cultures and the life of residents who inhabited areas like Manasota, Weedon Island and Safety Harbor years before the arrival of Spanish conquistadors.
Southard will provide an overview of how historians and scientists investigate the past using artifacts found around Tampa Bay.
"An interesting point that we'll discuss is how early settlements were virtually wiped out by diseases like small pox brought here by the Europeans. Because they were wiped out, there are very few records of life before the Spanish,'' Schnurr said.
There also will be music, crafts, storytelling and food vendors.
"We're hoping for Spanish beans and rice, and, of course, we'll be serving up Cuban bread,'' said RoseMarie Kafer, president of the Pinellas County Historical Society and one of the program's coordinators.
Contact Piper Castillo at [email protected] or (727) 445-4163.