Beaches, alligators, oranges, Disney. These are some of the first words that come to mind when someone says, “Florida.” For most of us, our knowledge of the Sunshine State’s history is pretty shabby before the year 1970 when air conditioning and Mickey Mouse made living conditions a little more attractive. What few people know, however, is that the state of Florida has been baptized in the blood of martyrs, and before theme parks were built or hotels erected, there stood the cross of Christ on the shores of this state; a cross that would herald the coming sacrifice of its peoples for the sake of the Gospel in our country.
The fifteenth to eighteenth centuries witnessed one of the most prolific and far-reaching expansions of civilization in world history. What began in the late 1400s as a harrowing conquest into the uncharted waters of the West Atlantic reached a staggering peak by 1700, resulting in the rapid colonization of the New World. Between the Spanish and British empires, interspersed with the occasional French or Portuguese excursion, the American continents became European frontiers heralding promises of wealth and fortune.
The Kingdom of Spain was particularly successful in these decades, claiming territories throughout the Western Hemisphere with a special interest in the Caribbean Islands, Mexico, and the Americas. Unfortunately, these times in Spanish antiquity have become synonymous with the violent and corrupt actions of the infamous conquistadors. Every high school student who takes an introductory world history class is bound to study the not-so-benevolent activities of Columbus’ landing in Hispaniola or Cortez’s conquest of Mexico. What is worse, students are led to believe this cruelty was the modus operandi of the Spanish empire. Yet the truth is quite the opposite. Contrary to the revised histories proliferated throughout our educational systems by Prentice Hall or Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the real story of Spanish evangelization (not colonization) is among one of the greatest stories of human rights and Christian endeavor in Western civilization. The best example of this fact is found a lot closer to home than many know.
Read more at Word on Fire.