The Hernando de Soto Historical Society is an organization that contributes to Manatee County in many ways. The organization is a not-for-profit, community organization of 225 Conquistadors (volunteer members) who celebrate the historical significance of Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto’s landing near the mouth of the Manatee River in May 1539.
With his 600 Conquistadors, de Soto claimed possession of La Florida on behalf of the Spanish crown and later began his lengthy exploration of what is now the southeastern United States. The Hernando de Soto Historical Society is responsible for maintaining the Sister City relationship with Barcarrota, Spain, De Soto’s hometown.
The Hernando de Soto Historical Society is involved in fund raising and heritage celebrations throughout Manatee County. Leslie Wells and her agents participate often in the fun and festivities at the Seafood Festival and auction off items to raise money for the North River Relay for a Life!
In 1938, the U.S. Government-appointed Swanton Commission determined that Shaw’s Point at the mouth of the Manatee River was the most likely spot for the Spanish explorer to have come ashore in Florida. Just one year later, the Hernando de Soto Historical Society was formed to produce the first-ever De Soto Heritage Festival.
Fast-forward 76 years and the 225+ members of the Hernando de Soto Historical Society are some of the busiest volunteers in Manatee County. Our organization is responsible for producing the largest and most well attended events in the region.
The annual De Soto Heritage Festival (and several other annual special events held throughout the year) serve to unite Manatee County while educating the community about the historical significance of Hernando de Soto’s landing on the shores of the Manatee River on May 30, 1539.