St. Augustine, FL, Celebrates Hispanic Heritage All Year Long With Its Living Spanish, Afro-Caribbean and Latin American Cultures
St. Augustine holds its Hispanic heritage close to its heart throughout the year. The tales of the adventures of Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon, who first claimed the land of this town April 3, 1513, and its later settlement by another Spanish explorer, Pedro Menendez de Aviles in 1565, are commonly told in the town. In addition, its 16th century Spanish architecture — complete with narrow, brick-paved streets — is similar to that found in other renowned cities of its kind and time, such as San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; Cartagena, Colombia; and San Juan, Puerto Rico, the other oldest city in the U.S. Today, visitors to St. Augustine will find that this is a city where Hispanic culture and history are part of daily life. Historical locations include the legendary Fountain of Youth Archeological Park; the Mission Nombre de Dios the actual location where Pedro Menendez de Aviles and the Spanish settlers celebrated the First Mass and Thanksgiving in the history of the U.S.; and the Castillo de San Marcos, the first masonry fortress built in the country. Another extraordinary, stand-out location Fort Mose, where freed slaves established the first legally sanctioned free black settlement in the U.S. in 1738. Some of St. Augustine’s most iconic and beloved restaurants take their culinary direction from Hispanic kitchens. Columbia Restaurant, for example, offers diners a traditional Spanish setting in the city’s historic district. The restaurant is more than 100 years old and has a menu of award-winning Spanish and Cuban cuisine. Major Hispanic heritage events, some connected to cuisine, take place throughout the year in St. Augustine. On September 9, 2023, the City of St. Augustine will celebrate the 458th anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine by Pedro Menendez de Aviles, who along with 800 settlers including artisans, soldiers men, women and children established the settlement of St. Augustine. The commemoration takes place at Mission Nombre de Dios and the Fountain of Youth Archeological Park. Activities include a reenactment landing of Menedez and his men, greeted by the Native Timucuan Indians, A Celebration of Mass at the Rustic Alter, a reenactment of the first Thanksgiving and Spanish military encampments. And, the annual St. Augustine Spanish Food & Wine Festival that takes place in February each year to coincide with the celebration of Pedro Menendez de Aviles birthday, the Spanish culinary and wine influences found throughout the city’s dining establishments. This festival features tapas, wine and spirits, as well as a cava dinner reception and grand tasting. More than 100 Spanish wines are available to sample throughout the three-day event, along with Spanish-inspired cuisine prepared by local chefs. In May, Unidos en la Musica: A Latin American Festival celebrates the wide variety of Latin American music and pairs beats perfectly with authentic dance, food and games, From mid-November through January each year, the celebration of St. Augustine’s Hispanic heritage continues during Nights of Lights. Locals and visitors enjoy the city-wide display featuring millions of tiny white lights, a practice inspired by the Spanish tradition of lighting candles in the windows during the holiday season. During Nights of Lights, on December 15, Noches de Navidad” and Las Posadas, a live nativity, Eucharistic Adoration, and a 16th-Century Spanish procession of “Las Posadas” (the Inns) takes place at Mission Nombre de Dios. For more information, call 1.800.653.2489 or go to the Visitors and Convention Bureau website at www.FloridasHistoricCoast.com and www.viajaStAugustine.com.