Signed letter from Juan Ponce de León
One of the earliest surviving letters from the Americas
In one of the earliest surviving letters from the Americas, Juan Ponce de León (1474–1521) reports to a Spanish official on conditions in present-day Puerto Rico. Ponce de León had accompanied Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the Americas in 1493 and rose through the ranks until he was appointed governor of Puerto Rico, then known as Borinquen.
In this letter dated October 7, 1511, Ponce de León promises to "send the gold that has been cast every four months." Spain's primary reason for establishing colonies in the Americas was to extract gold and silver for shipment back to Europe. Just eighteen months later, Ponce de León left on his first journey to what would become known as Florida.
Courtesy Harlan Crow Library, Dallas
Time Period: BCE - 1518
Exhibit: Collectors' Gallery: Harlan Crow Library
This artifact is currently on view.