In 1565, a ship of Governor Pedro Menendez de Aviles escaped the danger of a storm by seeking refuge in Biscayne Bay. They renewed contact and trade with the Tequesta. A year later, the Tequesta rescued several shipwrecked Spaniards, and this convinced Menendez to order the establishment of a mission on the north bank of the Miami River. A noteworthy historical fact is that Menendez was married to a Calusa woman that adopted the Christian name Doña Antonia.
Brother Francisco Villareal, a Jesuit, began living in Miami and attempting to convert the Tequestas in March 1567. The mission was comprised of approximately 30 structures and 40 Spaniards. The mission only lasted a year, but Villareal’s letters survive, thus many details of this year are known. He describes producing a spiritual play for the Tequesta, and this is widely considered to be the first ever European theatre production in the US.
Menendez took three Tequesta back to Seville with him. They were baptised in the cathedral of Sevilla.
In 1568, the Tequesta attacked the Spanish mission in retaliation for the murder of one of their elders. Although the mission was rebuilt, another confrontation occurred in 1569. In 1570, the mission was abandoned.
In 1575, for example, geographer Juan López de Velasco gathered as much information as he could and created an official description of the Miami River. “At the very point of Tequesta,” he explained, “there enters into the sea a freshwater river, which comes from the interior, and to all appearances runs from west to east. There are many fish and eels in it. Alongside it on the north side is the Indian settlement that is called Tequesta.” The site, he said, retained geographic importance. “A settlement of Spaniards was established here in the year of 15, which was abandoned later, in the year of 70. They say it would be advantageous to build a fort there for the security of the ships that might have to come out of the [Bahama] Channel and because the land is good for settlement.” Frank, Andrew K.. Before the Pioneers (Florida in Focus) (p. 44). University Press of Florida. Kindle Edition.
EDITORS AND LAST UPDATE
John William Bailly 14 February 2021
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