The Calusa – Keys – Cuba Connection
In 1513, when the Calusa of Florida’s Gulf coast were first visited by Juan Ponce de León, Spanish-speaking Indians that had fled the Caribbean were among them. Initially greeting Ponce with ambiguity, the Calusa mortally wounded him eight years later as he attempted to colonize Florida in their territory. An expansive, tributary chiefdom, the Calusa governed over 50 towns including those of the Keys Indians from their seat of power at Mound Key. Subsequent Spanish expeditions avoided this large territory until Pedro Menéndez de Avilés sought a treaty with the Calusa chief in 1566. This alliance would last only three years and be fraught with hostility leading the Spanish to abandon their south Florida interests. By the eighteenth century, the Keys became a safe haven for remnant Florida tribes and the Spanish, their salvation. Between 1711 and 1760, refugee Calusa and other Florida Indians were evacuated to Havana.
Theresa Schober is an archaeologist, educator, and museum consultant. During her nine-year tenure as Director of Cultural Resources on Fort Myers Beach, Florida she raised over $4.5 million to convert an archaeological and historical site into the Mound House museum. Currently, Theresa is Executive Producer of a forthcoming documentary film about the Calusa capital of Mound Key, is co-curator of the traveling art exhibition ArtCalusa: Reflections on Representation, and provides workshops on Florida history through the Florida Humanities Council. She is president of the Florida Anthropological Society, vice president of the Archaeological Research Cooperative, and member of Lee County’s Historic Preservation Board.
Share with friends