On September 8th, 2015, thousands flocked to St. Augustine's Mission Nombre de Dios to watch Pedro Menendez de Aviles re-claim this land for Spain. It's St. Augustine's 450th birthday, and the reenactment of the Spanish landing is one of the final commemorative activities scheduled. All weekend, the Nation's Oldest City put its best foot forward with a variety of musical acts, cultural displays, fireworks and birthday cake.
But not everyone welcomed Celebrate 450!.
Environmental and social justice groups criticized the City of St. Augustine, saying the weekend's events are insulting to native peoples whose history here extends much further than 450 years. Resist 450, a coalition of activists, protested the celebration, including Menendez's landing at the Mission. The group asked the City for more sensitivity to indigenous peoples whose ancestors were illegally captured, imprisoned, and killed by Europeans—and Americans—over the last 450 years. "When you’re editing history, especially in an official, public event," says Resist 450 supporter Benjamin Franklin (yes, his real name), "then you are explicitly endorsing some points of view and erasing other ones."
How should we commemorate historical milestones like this? What can we learn from the stories we tell about ourselves? Today on Watershed, we grapple with these ideas to spotlight our cultural landscape, and the different ideas of history weaving through it.
-St. Augustine soup: St. Augustine's 450th Commemoration Director says we're a melting pot of multiculturalism.
-Telling a more inclusive story: great coverage of the 450th demonstrations in Folio Weekly by St. Augustine's own Greg Parlier, and an article from the Florida Times-Union. Also, hear Bobbie C. Billy's full presentation to the St. Augustine City Commission in 2013. Billy is a spiritual leader and member of the Council of the Original Miccosukee Simanolee Nation of Aboriginal Peoples.
-400 years young: how we celebrated the quadricentennial.
-Expanding the St. Augustine story: eight things you may not know about the Oldest City. Knowledge = power.