Who is Juan Ponce de Leon? Does he deserve a place of honor in Punta Gorda?
Ponce de Leon was a Spanish explorer and conquistador. He led the first European expedition to Florida and served as the first governor of Puerto Rico. During his time in the Americas he led the effort to enslave the native Taino people. He and his men forced the Tainos to work in the gold mines, deprived them of the means to feed themselves and exposed the Tainos to a smallpox epidemic that killed 90% of the Taino population.
Knowing what we know about Ponce de Leon and his reign of terror in the Americas, should the residents of Punta Gorda maintain statutes and parks in his honor? Are the residents of Punta Gorda, in the year 2020, tacitly celebrating racism, economic exploitation, sexual violence, depravity and genocide? Is it time to take stock of what we believe is moral, just and fair and discard the mental bondage that binds us to historic and contemporary white privilege and racism?