A huge controversy has erupted in Brevard County Florida over the naming of a previously unnamed stretch of barrier island south of Cape Canaveral.
Many in the Hispanic community want to name it after Ponce de Leon, who probably landed somewhere south of Cape Canaveral in 1513. Next year will be the 500th anniversary of that first recorded European landfall on mainland America in modern times.
Notice all the qualifiers–“recorded” (slavers and pirates and fisherman probably landed before Ponce)–“European” (Indians discovered it first)–“mainland” (Columbus landed on islands such as San Salvador)–“in modern times” (the Vikings had settled in Newfoundland 500 years earlier).
Reacting against the “Ponce Island” push are a growing number of people who want to continue with no name at all or to name it after the Ais Indians, the most politically powerful chiefdom along the east coast of Florida prior to their sudden disappearance sometime around AD 1700.
Apparently, some people just don’t like Ponce! And some in the Hispanic community seem genuinely surprised that the word “conquistador” has taken on negative connotations over the last 40 years.
Supposedly the King of Spain is coming for the 500th anniversary. Or his delegate. Anyway, it’s gonna be huge.
The Brevard County Historical Commission (BCHC) initially approved the historical validity and relevance of naming the barrier island after Ponce de Leon.
At the time, there was no other naming proposal. Obviously, I prefer Ais. But it’s not our duty to nay-say naming choices as long as they are historically accurate and relevant.
Faced with the public outcry (people actually showed up at our meetings!) we refused to back either name until more input is received from the public.
The Ponce crowd was furious and stormed out. I walked out because I wasn’t sure my mother would make it to the bathroom if I didn’t.
All this controversy now goes back to the Brevard County Commission (not the BCHC, we’re just their appointed advisers, these are the people who actually run the county) on Tuesday, May 29th at 9:00 AM.
Romney would do well to come out strong for Ponce. Obama, of course, will be forced by his base (me) to go with the Ais Indians, alienating the entire Latin American community.
A few more Hispanic votes in Florida might change everything for Romney.
Ponce de Leon could change this whole frikkin election!
Alan Brech 2012
links, in case you don’t believe me: http://www.floridatoday.com/article/20120426/NEWS01/304260010/Melbourne-favors-naming-island-explorer-Juan-Ponce-de-Leon or http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2012/apr/26/stretch-from-sebastian-inlet-to-port-canaveral/?print=1 )