SECRETS OF SPANISH FLORIDA (PBS doc, 2017)


 

Greetings again from the darkness. Most of us have been spoon-fed the same basic history of the first settlements in the United States. Sure, you’ve heard mention of the Vikings, but it’s more probable your textbooks referred to the Plymouth Rock landing and the British settlement of Jamestown as “the beginning”. This latest entry in the PBS series “Secrets of the Dead” explores the relatively recent information that has been compiled in regards to the role of Spain, France, Britain, and the Native Americans in the state of Florida some five decades prior to the Pilgrim landings.

St. Augustine, Florida has long been recognized as the oldest city in the United States, and it’s only recently that more of the details of its place in history have been discovered. It occupies a central role in the story told here by Historians, Archaeologists, and Archivists as they guide us through a timeline of events that should definitely be taught to U.S. students. It seems clear we have inherited the British version of American history, which ignores the importance of Spain and the melting pot of nationalities that first settled.

The documentary kicks off in September 1565 and carries us through the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and into the mid-19th century. We are informed of such key figures as Pedro Menendez de Aviles, Jean Ribault, Sir Francis Drake, and the most fascinating story of Francisco Menendez. The realities of British slavery vs Spanish slavery is detailed, specifically the first settlement of free Africans which occurred 125 years prior to the Emancipation Proclamation.

One of those interviewed refers to this as American History “Revised”, and it should more likely be referred to as American History “Corrected”. With so much attention and action occurring in Florida, we should all be educated on how the various battles and settlements played a role in establishing the foundation of this country. In this two hour window, PBS provides an enormous amount of new information … presented in a manner that makes sense for most anyone old enough to understand the importance.

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