Dominican Republic – Juan Garrido, Black Conquistador

Juan Garrido was born in West Africa circa 1480. He moved to Portugal and later Spain as a free man, before joining one of the expeditions to the New World. Considered the first Black conquistador, Garrido left Seville around 1508 and arrived on the island of La Española (now known as Hispanola), first staying on the Dominican Republic side and then moving to the Haiti side.

Juan Garrido then went on to Puerto Rico and in 1513 joined Juan Ponce de León’s expedition of Florida in search of the Fountain of Youth. Garrido’s arrival on mainland Florida makes him the first documented Black person in what is today the United States of America.