Los Floridanos

Florida’s First Families

The nation’s oldest city, St. Augustine, founded in 1565, is the hometown of Florida’s oldest families. Solana and Sanchez are the two surnames that have been documented in the state since the 1st Spanish Period.

Alonso Solana arrived from San Martin de Valdeiglesias, Spain in 1613 and married Francesca Peres. Francesca was born in St. Augustine to parents whose records were lost to fires, hurricanes, pirates, and war but they were present in town by 1588. Jose de Ortigosa Sanchez arrived in 1713 from Ronda, Spain, and married Juana Theodora Perez. Juana was born in St. Augustine and her family arrived in the 1690s. Thus, both family names connect back to even earlier families in the oldest, continuously occupied, European settlement in the present-day US.

How do we know this? Thanks to the preservation work of the Sisters of St. Joseph for the Diocese of St. Augustine, the St. Augustine Historical Society (SAHA) and the cousins club that grew into Los Floridanos Society, Inc.; Florida’s First Spanish Families, 1565-1764.

Floridanos Sign“Los Floridanos” referred to the children born to the Spanish settlers of St. Augustine during the First Spanish Period (1565-1763). Translated it means “The Floridians” and record of this title can be found in many Spanish Government documents, including the Spanish censuses of the time.

In 1565, Pedro Menédez de Avilés, along with 600 soldiers and colonists, arrived in “La Florida” to explore and colonize for Spain. The settlers who arrived during the First Spanish Period, whose last names included Aguilar, Diaz, Rodriguez, Sánchez, and Solana, began their new lives in the Presidio de San Agustín. Enduring the Florida elements, diseases, fires, and attacks by pirates, French, English, and Native Americans, their efforts established St. Augustine as the first continuously occupied European city in the United States.

In 1763, Spain ceded the Florida Colony to Britain after the Seven Years War, ending the First Spanish Period. The majority of the Spanish St. Augustine residents, approximately 3,100, relocated to Cuba. Only a few “Los Floridanos” remained in St. Augustine to handle unsold property and settle affairs. Two of these were Manuel Solana and Francisco Sánchez. Their descendants still reside in St. Augustine.”

The Sisters and SAHA have preserved and copied for the public’s use, those ancient documents, records of baptisms and burials, marriages, and court documents. The originals can be seen by appointment at their Sister House in St. Augustine. The Research Library for SAHA holds many donated family documents as well as certified copies of the original church and legal documents held by the Diocese. These same records were digitized as part of the Slave Societies Digital Archive hosted online by Vanderbilt University and created by Dr. Jane Landers and includes all extant records.

Los Floridanos Society was created to share research and family stories, promote camaraderie among the cousins, and host reunions. Originally it was composed only of families descended from those two surnames, Solana and Sanchez. This was because Manuel Lorenzo Solana and Francisco Xavier Sanchez were the only two Spanish citizens who remained behind in St. Augustine and had families after the entire city sailed away to Cuba, all of their families and friends, in 1764, as the British arrived.

With the arrival of the internet, research and communication became easier. Suddenly, descendants of those thousands of people exiled from St. Augustine were able to trace their families’ migrations and discovered they came from here! Naturally, Los Floridanos Society made the decision to update bylaws and expand membership to include those long-exiled families and truly consist of Florida’s First Families.

The history of our families reflects the history of the state itself. One of the oldest, private cattle brands belongs to the Solana family. Clam and oyster farming began on Cedar Key, by members of both the Solana and Sanchez families. A Sanchez cousin family, the Hernandez branch, captured Osceola and was the first Hispanic elected to Congress. Descendants worked for NASA to put Man on the moon and others built the causeways to the stars.

Contact information: