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The School of the Sixteenth Century

     The School of the Sixteenth Century is held yearly to train reenactors in the various aspects of portraying Spanish explorers and colonists during the Age of Discovery.   This event serves as a comprehensive introduction to newcomers to this era of living history and as a refresher to more experienced hands.  Museum professionals and educators are invited to attend, and often members of the general publicare on hand to observe as well.  Classes on sword, pike, arquebus, crossbow and cannon cover the basics of 16th C. military life and modern reenactment blackpowder safety.  The school is not limited to just military drill however, other subjects include food, games, recreation, clothing, comportment, and history.  The emphasis is hands on learning for the participants. Many of the classes are taught stressing the importance and techniques of interpreting history to the general public.

     Traditionally the School has been held at the the Fountain of Youth Site in St. Augustine.  In January of 2000, however, the School was held on the west coast of the peninsula, at the Heritage of the Ancient Ones (HOTAO) brand new site at the Camp Bayou Nature Center, in Ruskin, Florida. Through the efforts of HOTAO, Native American culture at the time of the first contacts between the Europeans and Indian groups such as the Calusa, Timucua, and Apalachee have long been part of the School.  West coast contact era history, was a theme for this event, especially that of the Tampa Bay area, in deference to the new location rather than that of  St.Augustine as in years past.

Conquistadors as the Food?  No, Just a reenactment of the story of Juan Ortiz.

     The highlight of the event was Saturday afternoon's performance of  four short skits depicting the sixteenth century history of Tampa Bay.

More photos from the event.

More photos on the HOTAO website: and scenes from the play:
Tampa Bay in the 16th Century
1500-1600   Tampa bay was inhabited by the aboriginal people known as the Tocobago, affiliated with the Timucuan who populated most of central Florida.

1519     Alonzo Alvarez de Pineda explores the coast of the gulf of Mezico, drawing the first known map of Tampa Bay.

1528      Panfilo de Narvaez, with five ships, lands an army of  some 500 men abd 40 horses and marches north along the coast.  Juan Ortiz searching for Navarez is taken captive by Indians. 

1539     Hernando de Soto, with nine ships, leads to Tampa Bay an expedition of  600 men and 220 horses.  A Base Camp is established and occupied with a garrison of men at a native village, while the rest of thearmy proceeds inland.

1549     Leaving from Vera Cruz, Mexico , father Luis Cancer Barbasto  attempted to establish a mission.  Ignoring the warnings of Juan Munoz,  a soldier of the Soto expedition who had been captured by the natives 10 years before; Father Cancer was beaten to death upon landing. 

1567     Pedro Menendez de Aviles, Spanish Governor of Florida, sailed into Tampa Bay and was granted permissiion to leave a small garrison of thirty men under Captain Garcia Martinez de Cos; Nine months later a supply ship returned to find that all thirty had been massacred. 

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Timothy Burke