August 1, 2014

La Florida

The Mission Culture in Florida

North Florida was once the seat of Hispanic culture in Florida.

Lilly Rockwell | 5/2/2013

End of an era

The mission period ended swiftly as the British began encroaching on Spain's territory beginning in the late 17th century, motivated in part by a lucrative fur trade. The British had their own native American allies, whom they supplied with guns. Spain did not supply natives with firearms, and many missions had few defenses.

Attacks on the missions began in 1680 and escalated between 1702 and 1706. The attacks were gruesome, with scalpings, beheadings and burnings. To the surprise of the Franciscans, many of "their" natives chose to join the English forces, lured by firearms and other material goods. The English also played upon the poor treatment some natives had received from Spain, according to Gannon.

The missions got little help from Spain, which, in a major strategic blunder, had left a force of only about 290 soldiers in Florida, Gannon says. The Florida missions were gone by 1708. The natives scattered, some ending up as slaves to the English and others escaping to St. Augustine.

A brief attempt in the 1720s to reignite the missions failed as Spain focused on protecting its colonies from invasion. All that is left of the 100 years of Spanish missions are archaeological remains at a handful of mission sites including the one at Ichetucknee Springs.

The most notable attempt to portray mission culture is at a living history museum in Tallahassee that re-creates the Mission San Luis, considered the "capital" of Florida's missions; thousands of Apalachee Indians lived there, beginning in 1656, and hundreds are buried on the grounds. The mission, occupied for 48 years at the present-day site, was abandoned in 1704, two days before the English arrived to destroy it.

Today, re-enactors reproduce mission life at the site, which was extensively renovated in 2009.

Tags: La Florida, Hispanics in Florida

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