La Florida, the new book by Kevin Kokomoor, represents a comprehensive look at Colonial Florida. The work focuses on the central role Florida played in the origin of the United States. The book proves an indispensable work about Florida.
Some of the research Kokomoor ties together in his work has been available in the past. However, this research has always been tough to locate. Much of it is disparate locations be it historical journals or books about other topics or even on The Florida History Podcast, a weekly show which I host.
Much of his research and perspectives presented though are brand new. Additionally the themes covered be they newly researched or not have never been tied together in quite this readable and logical fashion.
As I have discussed regularly on various episodes of the Florida History Podcast, the American origin story which if it had been written objectively would revolve largely around Florida. In Kokomoor’s work he explains in great detail how Florida is central in the American story and that Spanish lust for religious conversion, gold and developing a society with slaves led to the development of La Florida.
Spain’s settlement of Florida, was probably a fait accompli since 1513 when Ponce de Leon “discovered” Florida from a European perspective. But the motivation to finally lay down governance and a permanent colony in 1565 came down to Spain wanting to either convert, or massacre French Huguenots settled on the St Johns River at Fort Caroline.
The Spanish mission culture of 17th Century Florida was designed both to convert native people to Catholicism and to create production that would help Florida be more self-sustainable. As Kokomoor points out, the mission culture eventually exterminated the native population completing the process that had begun with Hernando de Soto’s expedition across Florida in 1539 and 1540.
A particularly interesting part of the book focuses on the foundation of Roanoke Colony. The foundation of the colony and its main protagonist Sir Walter Raleigh are celebrated in American history. Kokomoor argues Raleigh’s colony wasn’t an effort to build a settlement along English lines in the America’s but a “pirate colony” meant to intercept Spanish fleets carrying gold from the New World back to the Iberian peninsula.
In the years leading to Roanoke’s founding, St Augustine along with other Spanish possessions had been sacked by a noted English pirate – Sir Francis Drake. This is not unrelated to the foundation of the Roanoke colony and represents the prevailing attitude toward Spain’s colonies in Elizabethan England.
Kokomoor fuses together an accurate telling of religious zeal, violence, slavery, food, culture with shipwrecks, a native history and discussions of the Caribbean and Central America at the time to create a masterpiece. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in Florida history or Colonial american history
La Florida is currently available via Amazon as well as at local bookstores including the Barnes and Noble on Glades Road.