ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- St. Augustine celebrated Florida's 500th anniversary with a full day of events Wednesday.
Wednesday morning, re-enactor Chad Light portrayed Juan Ponce de Leon, coming on a boat along the bayfront downtown and to the shore next to the Bridge of Lions. He was joined by other re-enactors.
Muskets and cannons were fired as the boat made its way in front of the crowd.
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A commemorative wreath was set next to the Ponce de Leon statue, just across the street. Various dignitaries, including one from Spain, spoke to the crowd which had gathered.
A group of protestors chanted as the dignitaries spoke. The group yelled that the city was celebrating the genocide of native Americans.
City leaders, including Mayor Joseph Boles, acknowledged the protestors and their concerns. Dana Ste. Claire with the City of St. Augustine told the protestors and the crowd, "Yes, it led to the decimation of native Americans who were a sophisticated society, but it also represented a moment when the world changed forever. The old world and the new world came together, and it's never been the same since."
A mass was held at 11 a.m. at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine.
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The replica of the 15th century baptismal font used to baptize Ponce de Leon in Spain will be blessed and dedicated.
The U.S. Postal Service unveiled a postage stamp in St. Augustine. It is a 2013 La Florida Forever stamp. It is a sheet of 16 stamps with flowers on them.
Florida is celebrating because 500 years ago today, Juan Ponce de Leon claimed Florida for Spain. He's believed to be the first European to set foot on the North American mainland.
First Coast News