Recalling the events of 450 years ago, two French sailing ships arrived Monday Downtown as part of the celebration of the arrival of French explorer Jean Ribault on May 1, 1562.
The officers and crews of the Belle Poule and the Etoile, a pair of 123-foot schooners that are used as training vessels, were welcomed by Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Consul General of France Gael de Maisonneuve and Mayor Alvin Brown.
“It’s really a privilege for me to be mayor during such a unique time. Few cities throughout America can claim the distinction of a 450-year history,” said Brown.
He described the arrival of the French ships as a “symbol of rekindled friendship with the roots of our history.” Brown said the community should celebrate its history.
“We need to invite the nation and the world to join us. This is a unique opportunity to show Jacksonville as a city of diverse and international roots. We’re proud of that and we want the world to take notice,” Brown said.
Detzner said the celebration of Capt. Jean Ribault’s arrival at the mouth of the St. Johns River near what is now Mayport is part of a larger event.
That event, “Viva Florida 500,” is the 2013 celebration of the 500th anniversary of the landing on Florida’s East Coast of Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon.
“Jacksonville is the first of many commemorations led by cities, organizations and individuals throughout Florida in advance of the commemoration of Florida’s 500 years of history and heritage,” he said.
Detzner said the state will use the opportunity to unite entrepreneurial relationships and expand business opportunities for the state’s Spanish, French and British counterparts.
“To our French friends who are here today, hearing your story and commemorating the French culture in Florida is a new beginning for building our shared legacy over the next few years and even beyond,” he said.
For more information about Jacksonville’s 450th anniversary celebration, visit www.commemorate450.coj.net.
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