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Spain maintained strategic control over the region by converting the local tribes to Christianity.
The earliest known European explorers came with the Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León.
In 1738, Governor Manuel de Montiano established Fort Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose near St.
Augustine, a fortified town for escaped slaves to whom Montiano granted citizenship and freedom in return for their service in the Florida militia, and which became the first free black settlement legally sanctioned in North America.
Please help to improve this article by fixing the sandwiching of text between two images or charts, by reducing indiscriminate gallery sections and moving images to adjacent text, in accordance with the Manual of Style on use of images.; Spanish for "land of flowers") is the southernmost contiguous state in the United States.
The state is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the northwest by Alabama, to the north by Georgia, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, and to the south by the Straits of Florida. Jacksonville is the most populous municipality in the state and the largest city by area in the contiguous United States.
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It is the only state that borders both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. The American alligator, American crocodile, Florida panther, and manatee can be found in Everglades National Park in the southern part of the state. Since the first European contact was made in 1513 by Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León – who named it Florida, informally La Florida ( – Florida was a challenge for the European colonial powers before it gained statehood in the United States in 1845.