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The year 2009 marks the 490th birthday of don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés (1519-1574), Admiral of the Ocean Seas and the first Governor of Florida, who on behalf of the Crown of Spain founded the colony of St. Augustine in 1565. The Founder's birthday is celebrated each year in St. Augustine by a Noche de Gala or Grand Masked Ball, held in the magnificent Lightner Museum. This year's gala is on Saturday, February 28.

attention of King Philip II, who promoted him to command of the Spanish fleet. When Philip decided to strengthen Spain's colonial presence in Florida and the Caribbean, he called upon Menéndez, who sailed from Cadiz, Spain, on June 29, 1565, with eleven vessels and over 1,500 men. After some preliminary skirmishing with French ships, Menéndez founded St. Augustine on September 8, 1565. A statue of Pedro Menéndez de Avilés stands prominently atop a high pedestal in front of the

St. Augustine was the capital of the only colony in the United States settled by people who spoke Spanish and who did not share English traditions. That is what distinguishes St. Augustine from all other urban places in the United States and it is that cultural tradition from which the Menéndez Gala derives it inspiration, illustrated in its music, costuming, and activities. And, it gives us a great excuse to throw a sixteenth century masque, something no other city in this country can do. Over the years, more and more of the guests who attend the ball have adopted costumes of that era. It makes for an elegant affair, held in a magnificent setting. Generally, a delegation from the City of Avilés, birthplace of the Founder, attends the event. Also in attendance every year is the Consul General of Spain in Miami, representing the Government of Spain.

The Department also is the conservator for a large collection of artistic, docu mentary, cartographic, and other material resources of historical significance. One example of such artistic resources i s this oil painting of the King of Spain, Philip II, who in 1565 sent Admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés upon the expedition to Florida that resulted in the founding of St. Augustine. The original portrait of Philip was painted by the artist Sánchez Coello during the King's lifetime and now hangs in the Prado Museum in Madrid. With the permission of the Prado Museum, this copy was painted in the early 1950s by Professor Jacinto del Caso of Madrid. The portrait was acquired by the Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board in 1976 and has graced the walls of Government House ever since. After 60 years, the painting, along with those of Philip's third wife, Isabel of Valois, and their daughter, Princess Catalina Micaela, required extensive and costly conservation work. These three valuable works of art had gathered mold and grime over the years. Thanks, in part, to funds raised from the 2008

historic Alcazar Hotel, which now contains the municipal offices of the City of St. Augustine and the Lightner Museum. A gift of the people of Avilés, the statue was placed there in 1972. It is an exact replica of the statue that stands near the tomb of Menéndez in his ancestral home of Avilés.

Department of Heritage Tourism

Pedro Menéndez de Avilés

Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, who led the expedition from Spain that founded the City of St. Augustine, was born in the city of Avilés, in the northern province of Asturias, Spain, in 1519. He rose from less than noble origins and, through his mastery of sailing, attracted the

In 1997, the Department of Heritage Tourism took responsibility for 33 restored and re constructed buildings that, from 1959 to 1997, had been acquired by the State of Florida. These buildings include three separate museums--the Colonial Spanish Quarter Museum, the de Mesa Sanchez House, and the Government House Museum of History and Archaeology.

Menéndez Noche de Gala, all three paintings have been restored to their original clarity. In 2009, profits from the Menéndez Gala will be dedicated to the restoration of the Flagler Fountain in the West Garden of Government House. For information and reservations, please call 9048255033.


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