Celebrating St. Augustine, the Birthplace of Latino Culture During U.S. Hispanic Heritage Month

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For more than 450 years, Hispanics have had a deep and positive influence on the United States through their clear-cut commitment to family, faith, hard work and perseverance. The impact of US Hispanic culture is evident in St. Augustine more than any other destination in the U.S.


“Hispanic culture and traditions were a central part of the early history of the Nation’s Oldest City and continues to be very much alive today,” said Richard Goldman, President & CEO of St. Johns County VCB.

Hispanic generations have enhanced and shaped the national spirit with centuries-old customs that mirror the multicultural traditions of communities. The achievements and contributions of Latinos, such as Sonia Sotomayor, Ellen Ochoa and Jorge Ramos, will be celebrated during during U.S. Hispanic Heritage Month. But where exactly was the soul and heart of Latinos born in this country?

By the time the first English settlement in the new world was established at Jamestown, Virginia, St. Augustine had been a thriving coastal town for more than 40 years. This historic place is the oldest city in the U.S. On September 8, 1565, Spanish Admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles came ashore to found the city of St. Augustine and claim the land for Spain. Menendez’ crew was made up of 800 Spaniards, Africans and Mediterranean people. Soldiers and sailors were joined by craftsmen, women and children, and Catholic clergy.

When Menendez and his fleet came ashore on the grounds of what is today the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, the Spaniards and the Timucua Indians who lived there, at that time, sat down together for the first Feast of Thanksgiving. A thanksgiving meal that came before the well-known New England Thanksgiving by 55 years! Hispanic Culture was born in St. Augustine.

In celebration Hispanic Heritage Month – Sept. 15 thru Oct. 15 – rediscover where the U.S. Latino spirit and soul were born and remain evident today.


First Thanksgiving Feast in what is now the United States. On 1565 Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and Spanish settlers founded the settlement of St. Augustine in Spanish La Florida. As soon as they were ashore the landing party celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving, and, afterward, Menéndez laid out a meal to which he invited as guests the native Timucua tribe of Seloy who occupied the site.

Commemorating the founding of La Florida by Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon and his legendary search for the Fountain of Youth, archeologists have discovered that the park is the actual site of the original Spanish settlement of St. Augustine of 1565. Spanish colonial military cannon firings, an authentic 16th century boat works, a recreated Seloy Indian Village and exhibits demonstrating how the Spanish explorers navigated the seas are part of this classic experience in St. Augustine.

On the day, Don Pedro Menendez came ashore and founded St. Augustine, Father Francisco Lopez offered the first Holy Mass at the Mission Nombre de Dios– a site that became the home of the first Catholic parish in the nation. The museum on site tells the story of the mission and visitors can light a candle in the shrine of Our Lady of La Leche.

First and oldest masonry fortress in the United States is the Castillo de San Marcos, built 1672-1695. Castillo de San Marcos – completed by the Spanish in 1695 to protect their treasure fleets from the English and pirates, it is the oldest masonry Fort in the U.S., the oldest structure in present day St. Augustine and a national monument and national park.

Established in 1573, the town square is named for its monument to the Spanish constitution of 1812. Soon after the monument was erected, when the monarchy was restored, all such monuments in Spanish territories were ordered to be destroyed. However, St. Augustine’s governor refused and the original monument that stands today is believed to be the only one remaining in the world.

Today, the influence of Hispanic history in St. Augustine is still evident, more than four centuries later. Visitors can explore the heritage of the diverse people who built the city and called it home for centuries before it became a part of the United States at historic sites, still standing, Castillo de San Marcos, Fountain of Youth Archeological Park, Mission de Dios, Plaza de la Constitucion and other attractions such as:

This year, St. Augustine continues to celebrate Hispanic Heritage month with these annual events:

Founder's Day on September 10th which will commemorate the 451st anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine, Florida's colonial capitol and the oldest continuously occupied European city, port and parish in the continental US. In partnership with the Mission Nombre de Dios, volunteers will re-enact the landing of Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés on Sept. 8, 1565, on the original site of the "Noble and Loyal City's" founding in September 1565. These anniversary commemorations will be held from 10 a.m.-noon at the Mission Nombre de Dios. The event is free and open to the public.

The S t. Augustine Spanish Wine Festival a four-day event – starting Sept. 8th – that offers something for everyone who loves Spanish wine. The festival kicks off on Thursday at noon with a luncheon at First Coast Technical College. Friday evening features Vino Veritas at The Treasury on the Plaza with passed hors d’oeuvres, entertainment, premium wines and Spanish wine experts. Saturday is the Batalla de Vinos, or wine fight, and Cochinillo Asado, suckling pig roast, at the Mission Nombre de Dios. Finally, the Grand Tasting is Sunday afternoon at The Treasury on the Plaza and includes 100+ Spanish wines.

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