Among documents of Florida's Spanish colonial period, few eyewitness accounts exist. One of these, the 1595 narrative by Fray Andres de San Miguel, expertly translated by John Hann, describes the two-year odyssey of a teenager from Spain across the Atlantic to Mexico, Havana, and Florida and finally back to Spain. The future friar's account of his experiences as a young sailor brings to life the fleets of the Golden Age of Spain and reveals how those adventures would change his life forever. After Andres's ship passed Cape Canaveral, it was battered by a four-day storm and separated from the fleet. The officers commandeered the only launch and escaped; the crew kept the ship afloat and improvised a box-like vessel in which 30 survivors reached shore near the mouth of the Altamaha River. The author offers detailed descriptions of the Guale Indians and of Mission San Pedro Mocama on Cumberland Island. He also provides vignettes of life in St. Augustine and, on his way to Havana, of encounters with South Florida Indians. The adventure closes with Fray Andres' return to Cadiz, where he witnessed the 1596 British siege and burning of that port.
Only seventeen years old at the time of the voyage, Fray Andres presents a cold-eyed view of the sailing experience in the 16th century, trenchant observations on the behavior of the ship's officers and the circumstances of the survival of the crew, and insight into the ambitions, concerns, and religiosity of the Spaniards. The book includes Hann's translation of a brief introductory essay written by Fray Anders' Mexican publisher, telling of the young man's entry into the Carmelites and the accomplishments of his later life as a church architect, builder, and hydrographic expert involved in the drainage of the valley of Mexico City.
John H. Hann is site historian at the San Luis Archaeological and Historic Site in Tallahassee. He is the author of A History of the Timucan Indians and Missions (UPF, 1996), Missions to the Calusa (UPF, 1991), and many other books and articles.
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