St Petersburg Food History: Pinellas Point Temple Mound & Juan Ortiz rescue story
The first real settlers in this area were Native Americans who fished, hunted, grew crops and built the mound here. Legend has it was here that Juan Ortiz, a captured Spaniard, was nearly “barbequed” to death by a local chief as revenge for the brutal treatment of his people by the Spanish explorer Narvaez Panfilio in the previous year. Ortiz was supposedly rescued from the “barbacoa,” a rack used for smoking and drying meat and hides, by the chief’s daughter who later helped him escape to a friendlier tribe across the bay. Ten years later, Ortiz joined up with the De Soto expedition and worked as a translator. His tale was included in various reports that eventually made their way to England.
It’s possible that John Smith got the idea from the Ortiz story to fabricate his own “rescue” tale involving another Indian princess, Pocohantas, eighty years later.
Of the more than a thousand archaeological sites in the Tampa Bay area, this is one of the best preserved. Visiting the site set in the midst of a prosperous suburban neighborhood has been made easier in recent years as you can now walk to the top via a wooden boardwalk and stairs. Signs along the way explain the history and natural features of the site.
Mound photo via stpeterealestateblog.com