The “collective biography” of Spanish Florida is interactive and dynamic

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An American professor has joined a Spanish technological firm to show through a “collective biography” in English and in an interactive and dynamic way what life was like in Florida in the more than three centuries he was Spanish.

Instead of reveling in figures of History with capital letters, “Florida, The Interactive Digital Archive of the Americas” (laflorida.org) rescues from oblivion and gives name and face to bakers, picadores, shoemakers, tailors, house and many other colonizers of what is now the southeastern United States.

In addition, the web, presented this month, is putting together for its audience the news that throws the ongoing research on the thousands of old documents relating to Florida found in European and American archives and studied for the project.

“The existing information is incredible because of both the quantity and the quality,” says J. Michael Francis, professor at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg (USFSP) and executive director of the project, when asked if It is true that the Spanish Empire recorded everything that happened in their possessions.

The USFSP, the Edriel Intelligence company and the Nauta foundation, these two Spanish companies, are the partners of “La Florida: the Interactive Digital Archive of the Americas”, which until now has data on almost 4,000 people who lived in San Agustín, the city ​​founded in 1565 by Asturian Pedro Menéndez de Avilés.

Francis, a Canadian resident in Florida for 20 years and a frequent visitor to the Archivo General de Indias in Seville, underlines that the project is based on two pillars: high-quality technology and new research.

On the second of the pillars there are countless samples on the digital page and Francis himself is a living encyclopedia.

If you are asked, for example, how Holy Week was celebrated in Florida in the sixteenth century, respond immediately with processions and cannon salvoes.

“In 1688 St. Augustine had seven different brotherhoods with 500 members, the main one being the Most Holy Vera Cruz,” he says.

Thanks to this project it has been possible to know that the first Christian wedding in the continental territory of what is now the USA. it was celebrated in 1565 between a segoviano, Miguel Rodríguez, and a free black woman from Andalucía, Luisa de Abrego.

The researchers led by Francis have also discovered that in 1601, a century before the Irish of Boston and New York celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, an image of the patron saint of Ireland was taken in procession through the streets of St. Augustine.

The oldest city in the United States of those that have been inhabited uninterruptedly to the present day is central to this project because of the information stored in its parish archives.

The Interactive Digital Archive of the Americas has 9,000 digitized pages of those archives of San Agustín, corresponding to the period 1594-1840.

Undated photograph by La Florida, The Interactive Digital Archive of the Americas, showing an original 16th century document found in the Cádiz archive (Spain), and one of thousands of old documents related to Florida found in European and American archives and studied for the project. An American professor has joined a Spanish technological firm to show through a “collective biography” in English and interactively and dynamically how life was in Florida in the more than three centuries he was Spanish. EFE / Dig Int Archive of the Americas.

However, in other archives, such as Seville or Simancas, also in Spain, there are countless files relating to Florida, which was officially Spanish until 1821, although there was a parenthesis between 1763 and 1784 when it passed to the British Crown .

One of the things that has most surprised Francis is the variety of origins of the people who arrived in the first expeditions to Florida.

Not only are practically all the Spanish provinces represented, but there were settlers from Ireland, France, Greece, other European territories and even North Africa and even someone from the city of Dubrovnik, now Croatia.

Among the attractions of the page are the video biographies of characters like Miguel Mora, who gave name to an area of ​​the Bay of Biscay (Bocas de Miguel Mora) from a map of 1605, but little was known about. now.

Francis and his team discovered that he was a young man from Cádiz who arrived in this land in 1565 and was captured by the Tequesta Indians after a shipwreck. Mora managed to escape after ten months of captivity, traveled to Cuba and then to Spain.

The “gusanillo” of America had it already inside, because it ended in Peru.

Edriel Intelligence and the director of Innovation of the project, Francisco Guitard, have created a pleasant and easy-to-use website, with lots of information, illustrations and videos and some “winks” to younger history lovers, as an application that allows writing messages with the calligraphy of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Edriel has also developed a technology that allows you to “read” and understand the old documents contained in the page. efe

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