Secrets of Spanish Florida

About the Film

New documentary premieres Tuesday, December 26 at 9 p.m. EST on PBS (check local listings)

The first permanent European settlement in the United States was founded in 1565–two generations before the settlements in Jamestown and Plymouth–not by English Protestants, but by the Spanish and a melting pot of people they brought with them from Africa, Italy, Germany, Ireland and even converted Jews, who integrated almost immediately with the indigenous tribes. Secrets of Spanish Florida – A Secrets of the Dead Special uncovers one story of America’s past that never made it into textbooks. Follow some of America’s leading archaeologists, maritime scientists, and historians as they share the story of Florida’s earliest settlers. It’s a story that has taken more than 450 years to reveal.

Buzzworthy Moments

  • With claim to the east coast of the New World contested by both the French and the Spanish, a community of settlers from Spain and elsewhere arrived in 1565 and laid claim to an area that is now St. Augustine, Florida.
  • America’s original European forefathers were a melting pot of races that more closely resembled today’s population than was previously understood.
  • The discovery of 1,000 pages of manuscripts written by members of the Timucuan tribe in the late 16th century indicates that these people, who lived in Georgia and Florida, had achieved a level of literacy among indigenous peoples that has not been recognized before.
  • Nearly 125 years before the Emancipation Proclamation—in 1738—a colony of 100 former slaves had already been given their freedom and their own land in Spanish La Florida.
  • A “lost tribe” of indigenous people known as the Yamasees, survived extermination by hiding in the colony’s swamps and blending in with other tribes for generations, though their existence is still not recognized by the federal government. The documentary interviews two members of the tribe.

Secrets of Spanish Florida – A Secrets of the Dead Special is a production of Small Planet Pictures Inc., Investigative Media Group Inc. and 1186 Pictures in association with the University of Florida Historic St. Augustine Inc. and THIRTEEN Productions LLC. Narrator is Jimmy Smits. Producer/Writer is Robbie Gordon. Associate Producers are Josh Wallace, Jenny Mottier, and Jaime Greco. Director of Reenactments is Tony Haines. Director of Photography is Joe Karably. Senior Editors/Sound Design are Tony Haines and Ed Delgado. For Secrets of the Dead: Director of Programming Operations is Jane Buckwalter. Executive-in-Charge in Stephen Segaller. Executive Producer is Stephanie Carter.

Underwriters

Funding for this program was provided, in part, by The Lastinger Family Foundation; The Hough Family Foundation; The Weaver Family Foundation Fund, through the Community Foundation of Northeast Florida; and The Joy McCann Foundation. Funding for Secrets of the Dead is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and by public television viewers.