Florida Keys News - Islamorada/KL Free Press
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
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Local man claims lineage to explorer Ponce de Leon

A Key Largo business owner says he is the 14th generation bloodline of Florida's founder Juan Ponce de Leon -- and he has the documents to prove it.

Delio Mir, whose full name is Delio Emmanuel Mir Pupo, travels to Warm Mineral Springs in North Port almost every year to give a speech about his ancestry.

Since the 1940s, the water-filled sink hole has marketed itself as the original Fountain of Youth the Spanish explorer sought 500 years ago, a claim also made by a tourist attraction in St. Augustine, Florida's oldest city.

"It's kind of a joke, maybe he did find [the Fountain of Youth]," said 64-year-old Mir, who added that he expects to live at least another 30 years.

Reaching a very old age is common in the Mir family, he said, joking that his family members don't need the latest and greatest prescription pill to forestall aging or sickness.

"We just live long lives," he said.

Ponce de Leon was a world explorer for Spain in the early 16th century, who previously sailed under Christopher Columbus on Columbus' second excursion from Europe. Ponce de Leon made many trips across the Atlantic Ocean to the New World in seatch of gold and new lands.

Whether or not he used the legendary spring, whose water was said to prevent aging, as an excuse to secure government funding for his travels is disputed among historians.

The state of Florida is celebrating 2013 as the 500th anniversary of the conquistador's landfall here. Like much of America's early history, precise accounts are not available, but historians tend to agree that Ponce de Leon came ashore on the Atlantic coast of Florida. St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra or Melbourne Beach are commonly identified as likely locations.

Sketchier accounts suggest the explorer may have sailed through the Florida Keys or up to southwest Florida.

Several Viva Florida 500 events took place in April around the state, including the unveiling of a bronze statue of Ponce de Leon near St. Augustine.

Mir says he is just one of many 14th generation descendants of the explorer, and he said he shied away from claiming his lineage for many years until his late wife convinced him to do so.

Now, at his Overseas Market 103 antique shop, Mir hangs a banner announcing his celebrity.

"Have you ever met a direct descendant of a famous explorer?" Mir asks those who will listen to his story.

Mir's current wife, Karen, once mentioned to her future husband that she was from a five-generation Florida family. Mir replied that he had a bit of an advantage.

"Well, my family found this state," he said he boasted during their courtship.

Mir provided the Free Press with a folder of papers tracing his ancestry back to the Spanish explorer and shrugs off those who might question his family tree.

"I know who I am, and you can take it to the bank," he said.

jgore@keysnews.com

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