Sunday, March 13, 2011

WTF: De Soto and Columbus

Every once and a while I come across a conquistador related news story that just cries out, WTF!

Sunday Favorites: Being Hernando de Soto is a Privilege and an Honor
The Bradenton Times

by Merab-Michal Favorite BRADENTON --

-- Curt Mahoney doesn’t like to talk about himself, but get him started on Hernando de Soto and he will talk your ear off. He knows about de Soto’s birthplace, he’ll tell you why de Soto left an impoverished town of Barcarrota, Spain. He’ll tell you how de Soto and Columbus were friends and roommates in Honduras and how Columbus tried double cross him and steal his gold. He’ll even tell you about the treacherous path de Soto’s army was subjected to while exploring Florida. Ironically, Mahoney is de Soto.

The folks at the Hernando de Soto Historical Society are a nice enough bunch. They do there thing and I do mine. But some of the facts I hear just make me shake my head inside my helmet. I'm not all that worried about nuances as to Soto's birthplace, which most scholars consider to be Jerez de los Caballeros rather than Barcarrota. But this Columbus claim defies all logic. Christopher Columbus died in 1506, Soto was born around 1500 (his DOB much his birthplace simply isn't recorded) and didn't leave for the New World until 1513. Although Columbus did visit Honduras on his last voyage and his bones did kept getting moved such that there's some dispute as to his final resting place, I don't believe that Soto and he ever crossed paths much less became roommates.

Nor, do I think its a case of any involvement with any of Columbus' descendants whose direct involvement in the New World had ceased by the the time Soto had gained any prominence. Rather I suspect that the kernal of truth behind this tale is based on Soto's involvement in a partnership with one Ponce de Leon, but it's not the Ponce de León famed for his discovery of Florida and the Fountain of Youth legend. Soto and this Ponce had a partnership dating from their time together as captains in the conquest of Central America. Lawsuits related to this partnership include an amazing amount of detail about the Florida entrada that would otherwise be lost to history. Soto, as then Governor of Cuba, had confiscated a Peruvian tent of cotton and llama wool from Ponce. It is reported in the testimony that Soto brought this tent to La Florida and that within a month it had begun to mildew and rot.

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