St. Augustine founding descendants visit to documentary premiere

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By KIMEKO MCCOY
[email protected]

St. Augustine welcomed two very special guests Wednesday for a very special occasion.

“America: Revised” will be the premiere documentary for St. Augustine’s 450th commemoration, and for the show’s opening night, Don Álvaro Armada, Count of Guemes and Count of Revilla-Gigedo as well as Don Javier Ángel Cancio-Donlebún Ballvé will be in attendance.

Both men hold a distinguished place in St. Augustine history since both are descendants of important people in the city’s history.

Armada descends from St. Augustine’s founder, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, while Ballvé is a direct descendant of Florida’s sixth Spanish governor, Gonzalo Mendéz de Cancio.

While many are familiar with the story of Menéndez, Florida’s sixth Spanish governor had great influence over the city that many do not know.

Gonzalo Méndez de Cancio ruled over the province from 1597 to 1603. He established St. Augustine’s first market place, the Hospital of Santa Barbra and designed the city plan among a host of other accomplishments.

A few months ago, both Armada and Ballvé were invited to participate and be interviewed for the documentary that premieres today at 7:30 p.m.

“Both of them were very gracious to invite the documentary film crew into their homes to film original records related to St. Augustine that they both have in their archives,” said historian Michael Francis, who has been working closely with the film.

Armada has archives that date back centuries. In addition to having volumes of information, the archives include important sources for the early history of Spanish Florida including documents from Menendez’s brother-in-law’s original chronicle of the founding and settlement of St. Augustine.

“The truth is in the documents,” he said.

Ballvé also has priceless archives like the original documents that record the early history of Asturias, Puerto Rico and Florida. One of the dearest to St. Augustine is one of the last known signed documents from Sir Francis Drake.

Ballvé said he agreed to participate in the documentary because it is important that the history of St. Augustine and overall of the United States be told from an objective angle.

“The history belongs to the humanity,” Ballvé said, “not just to the countries who write the history.”

Jamestown (Virginia) was important, but St. Augustine is important as well, he said.

“I think that the main goal of the documentary is to review the history of Florida before Jamestown,” Ballvé said.

While the two have been enjoying their time in St. Augustine, Armada says there’s a broader picture that brought him here.

Armada said the 450th celebration is going to be a big event and it may also be the opportune time to reinforce the relationship between Spain and the U.S., particularly between Asturias and St. Augustine.

“We hope that from the Spanish side, that we can achieve the objective that we’re going to try (for Spain to help) St. Augustine in the celebration,” Armada said.

Armada hopes the relationship that was initiated with Joe Boles continues with new mayor Nancy Shaver. He said that as a descendant of Menendez he is willing to cooperate with the city in any way.

After tonight’s premiere, Armada is traveling to South Carolina because he’s been designated as a member of the board of the Santa Elena Foundation. The foundation’s goal is to rewrite the history of the U.S., and Armada’s plan is to join them and provide them with documentation about the true settlement of America.

“We have the papers, the original papers, the family papers that demonstrate the real story,” he said.

This year, Ballvé and Armada said their trip wouldn’t have been possible without Francis or other St. Augustine organizations that helped them, and that next year, they hope to return for the city’s celebration.