MIAMI, FL (EFE).- The new cultural center at Mission San Luis in Tallahassee, which during the 17th century was an important Spanish military and religious enclave in Florida, will now serve to showcase the importance of the Hispanic historical legacy in the United States.
In the new cultural center covering 2,200 square meters (23,650 square feet) that was inaugurated over the weekend are exhibitions of objects from the Spanish colonial period, lecture halls for workshops and seminars, as well as a gift shop.
The new building and museum will give the mission new purpose and will arouse interest among history lovers who want to learn about this unique legacy of Spanish colonization, director Bonnie McEwan said.
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist at the inauguration referred to the importance of the cultural center in this "new chapter in the 350 years of history of the Mission San Luis," the only such establishment in Florida besides St. Augustine's still-surviving Mission Nombre de Dios.
Spanish Consul General in Florida Santiago Cabanas said that the new cultural center "is a highly important archaeological relic of Spain's historical legacy in the United States."
The cultural center "first, puts San Luis on the map and, secondly, shows the state of Florida's commitment to its colonial past and its interest in preserving its history," Cabanas said.
More than a century before the first Spanish mission was established in California, the San Luis settlement in Tallahassee, the capital of Florida, was already prospering, the frontier of the colonial empire that in 1650 traded with Cuba and other Latin American colonies.
San Luis was also one of the few settlements where the natives of these lands, the Apalachee Indians, and the Franciscan priests, Spanish colonists and soldiers coexisted in harmony for close to three generations.
"It was an excellent example of the coexistence of colonists, clergy and the Apalachee Indian population," Cabanas said, adding that the archaeological value of the mission is evident in the simple fact that it has been declared a national historical monument by the U.S. authorities.
Conversion to the new religion was voluntary there and the Spanish colonists, unlike the British in the northern United States, integrated with the natives of the area, experts say.
The Spanish Crown, in fact, at that time promoted interracial marriages between Spaniards and natives, which rapidly created a mixed race that observed both European traditions and indigenous customs.
At its height, close to 1,400 Apalachee Indians and hundreds of Spaniards lived together at Mission San Luis, built around the church and the military fortress that have been restored.
At the beginning of the 18th century, after a series of British attacks and invasions launched from the Carolinas, the mission was abandoned and burned by the Spaniards and their Apalachee allies.
With the new cultural center at Mission San Luis, the state of Florida aims to preserve the Spanish historical legacy on the occasion of the 5th centennial of the arrival in Florida of the Spaniard Juan Ponce de Leon in 1513. EFE