Colonial South Carolina
The Latino presence in South Carolina dates to the early sixteenth century. Spanish exploration of the region of present-day South Carolina began when Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon, a sugar planter and official in the Spanish colony on
Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic), commissioned Pedro de Salazar and Francisco Gordillo to search for new sources of indigenous labor for Spanish colonies in the Caribbean in 1514 and 1521, respectively. The explorers landed somewhere between present-day Georgia and Cape Fear, North Carolina. A few years later, De Ayllon was made adelantado (governor) of Spain’s La Florida and established the first European colony in what is now the United States: San Miguel de Guadalupe.
The exact location of De Ayllon’s colony is disputed by scholars: some insist that it was in Georgia, others say South Carolina. Regardless, the colony was short-lived: De Ayllon died of a fever, and Spaniards were led to abandon the effort by factors like disease, desertion, division in Spanish ranks, a lack of supplies, and problems with local Native Americans.
Another Spaniard, Hernando de Soto, visited the area in 1540. Along with 600 men, De Soto traversed South Carolina, visiting the indigenous province of Cofitachiqui and strengthening Spain’s claims to the region. Spain’s energies were focused on other areas of its New World empire until the 1560s, when Spanish agents built a fort, San Felipe, and established a colony, Santa Elena, on Parris Island, near present-day Beaufort, South Carolina. The primary aim in establishing a settlement so far north of St. Augustine was to protect Spanish shipping routes from marauders. Santa Elena became the capital of La Florida. The community also served as a base of operations from which Spanish military officer Juan Pardo attempted to pacify local indigenous groups and searched for sources of wealth and for an overland trade route to New Spain (Mexico) in 1566 and 1567.