ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Juan Ponce de Leon led fellow re-enactors and walked St. Augustine city streets Saturday.
The man donning the conquistador uniform Saturday was Gilbert Medina... that's Father Gilbert Medina.
He smiled and said, "I'm having a blast."
Medina is really a Catholic priest. When not in costume, he is the pastor at the St. Mary of the Lakes Catholic Church in Eustis, Florida.
"For me to be Juan Ponce de Leon is an honor," Medina commented. "It's an opportunity to connect with history, not just history but Catholic history. For the conquistadors who came over during Ponce's era, their whole world was Catholic. Their vision, the philosophy of life and living was Catholic."
He continued, "This for me, as a Catholic priest of the church, gives me an opportunity to live it, and to live it in the present and connect myself to the past. It seems to be fading away for so many, but it's right before our very eyes."
Medina has re-enacted before... as a priest. Just this past week, he played the role of the priest, while a different man, Chad Light, portrayed the role of Ponce de Leon during another event marking 500 years since the explorer landed in Florida.
Saturday, Father Medina strolled through St. Augustine as Ponce de Leon himself. As he did, he caught people's attention. He stopped, shook their hands, spoke with them, and posed for pictures.
"I feel like I'm giving them the opportunity to connect with history and to whet their appetites to go into the history books and to get onto the internet and explore the world." Then he urged, "Be connected with your history because it forms and frames who you are as a person, no matter what part to the world you come from."
The Ponce de Leon Celebration continues Sunday in St. Augustine with events scattered around downtown St. Augustine.