While exploring the Bahamas in 1513, Juan Ponce de León landed somewhere near Cape Canaveral, named the landmass “La Florida” and claimed it for Spain. This was only 21 years after Columbus first set foot in the Bahamas and initiated Spanish colonization of the Americas. Ponce de León explored the east coast of the Florida peninsula, including Biscayne Bay, before returning to his base in Puerto Rico.
Several other expeditions further acquainted Spain with its new possession. In 1528, for example, Pánfilo de Narváez landed near Tampa Bay and headed north; Hernando De Soto arrived on the Gulf Coast in 1539 and began a four-year trek across Florida and the American South. Narváez, De Soto and many other members of these expeditions died, but survivors made it to Mexico to relate their experiences.