This past week, the Santa Elena Foundation had the pleasure of introducing Senor Don Alvaro Armanda Barcaiztegui, the Spanish Count of Güemes to Beaufort. The Count is the direct descendent of Pedro Menendez, the 16th Century founder of Santa Elena (on Parris Island). Menendez established the first continuous European settlement in what is now the United States, on Santa Elena in 1569 and, as governor, Menendez also made Santa Elena the first capital of Spanish La Florida.
One of the Count’s first stops in Beaufort County was to the Santa Elena site on Parris Island where he emotionally placed a bouquet of roses on what is believed to be the site of his ancestor’s home. He suggested that this tradition can be continued with a Pedro Menendez Day every year in Beaufort County.
Besides conferring with Santa Elena Foundation Board members, he also met with officials from the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island as well as the mayors of Port Royal and Beaufort, their councilmen and officials.
One of the highlights of Senor Armanda’s trip was meeting with local middle and high school students on Wednesday afternoon. Students from Robert Smalls International School and Beaufort Academy were able to spend an hour with him, asking questions, learning about Spain’s role in colonizing our country and the important role of Pedro Menendez. He also encouraged the students to learn all they could about the formation of their country so they could take pride in all three colonial cultures, Spain, France and England.
The Count is in possession of the historical documents from Pedro Menendez, including letters from him to King Philip II recounting information about Santa Elena and other important 16th century documents. He is working with the Santa Elena Foundation to share these papers.
According to Dr. Andy Beall, Executive Director of the Santa Elena Foundation, the next step is to acquire a temporary home so documents and exhibits can be shared with the public.