Dr. David Moore, executive archaeologist of the Exploring Joara Foundation Inc. and professor at Warren Wilson College, took advantage of a unique invitation to share the story of Joara and Fort San Juan with members of the Spanish Embassy and the World Bank in Washington D.C. on Feb. 26-27.
He joined leaders from the Santa Elena Foundation of Beaufort, South Carolina, who oversee the site of the first Spanish colonial capital established there in the 1500s, as well as faculty members from the University of South Florida.
Moore said the invitation came to SEF when he was visiting there to share research with them. The Spanish embassy had set up an archaeological exhibit of Spanish colonial items called “Designing America: Spain’s Imprint in the U.S.,” and were scheduling programs to coordinate with the exhibit.
“I told them (SEF), ‘This is an invitation you can’t really turn down,’” Moore said. “We decided we all needed to be a part of it, so we started making plans.”
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Members of SEF asked Moore to travel with them to present information about findings at the Berry site in Morganton and the work of EJF. They teamed up with faculty at the University of South Florida to present a comprehensive picture of 16th century Spanish colonization in North America, starting with St. Augustine, Florida, and ending up in western North Carolina.
Shortly after receiving the Spanish embassy’s invitation, the organizations were contacted by The World Bank in D.C. and asked to present their work there as part of a program on “cultural heritage tourism” around the world.
“It was an unusual set of circumstances (to receive back-to-back invitations), but we were delighted to share our story,” Moore said. “We make a great case study of how cities in the U.S. are doing cultural tourism. We’re linking with folks at the Santa Elena Foundation to create a cultural destination point for heritage tourism.”
Moore said part of that destination point for Morganton will be the living history village EJF is creating at Catawba Meadows Park, which will offer educational programming for local schools as well.
Moore explained that the three archaeological sites of St. Augustine, Santa Elena, and Joara/Fort San Juan delineate the path that Spanish explorers took in an attempt to claim the North American continent as their own. Gov. Pedro Menendez Aviles set up a base in St. Augustine in 1565, and then traveled north to present-day South Carolina to found Santa Elena, the first European colonial capital. From there, Menendez-Aviles sent Juan Pardo to establish a road to Mexico. Pardo established six forts in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee before likely perishing at the hands of Native Americans. One of those forts was Fort San Juan, built near the ancient Native American city of Joara, located in present-day Morganton.
“It was a fascinating story, and very well received,” Moore said. “It’s always a great opportunity to meet a new audience.”
Moore emphasized the impact that Spanish colonial efforts had on future events.
“It’s important to share early Spanish colonial history, which is poorly known outside of St. Augustine,” Moore said. “No one understands that there was a Spanish army here 40 years before Jamestown, and that their presence and interaction with the Native Americans had a huge impact on the frontier. This is history that helped shape our country. Our story isn’t just about Morganton or Burke County, it’s part of American, and ultimately, world history.”
To learn more about the Exploring Joara Foundation, visit www.exploringjoara.org.
Tammie Gercken can be reached at email@example.com.