In 2013 the Florida Humanities Council brought to together scholars to discuss still unexplored paths in the state’s early history and life. Taking my place alongside far more revered scholars, I made a case for Florida’s vast colonial literature.
The poetry especially remains an intellectual frontier. Most people think of early Florida literature through the writings of conquest and the encounter, stopping at the famed Relaciónof Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca or La Floridaby El Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. Much of the verse, however, was still untranslated: Bartolomé de Flores’ Happy Victorydescribing Pedro Menéndez de Avilés’ 1565 victory over the French; Juan de Castellanos “Elegy to Ponce de Leon,” or that great white whale of Florida literature, the epic La Floridaby Alonso Gregorio de Escobedo.
I am happy to report that my pitch to the Florida Humanities Council succeeded and I received a start-up grant to build a website, Early Visions of Florida. Working with my students at USF St. Petersburg [www.usfsp.edu], we can now report that the early literature of Florida is no longer visible. The texts are now out there. Including the poems!