The term La Florida signifies not only the present state of Florida, but a much larger area. Under the term we include, in addition to the territory which still retains the name, most of the state of Georgia and a significant coastal area of the present state of South Carolina.
At the period which is the focus of our study, roughly the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, various groups ofaboriginal native Americans – the so-called Indians – inhabited the territory. Perhaps we may accept as being a balanced appraisal the figure given by Robert Allen Matterin his The Spanish Missions of Florida, who concludes his discussion of the topic by saying: "Possibly only 30,000 Indians occupied all of Spanish Florida in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries."1
The native people of La Florida were generally fierce and warlike and their cultural heritage did not approach that which flourished in Mexico – geographically not too distant – or in Peru. Against adverse natural conditions they struggled to wrest a living from an inhospitable land. Intertribal warfare was constant. Life was hard and scarcely calculated to inspire or further any incipient urge toward developing a sense of the True and the Beautiful. The native people have left few evidences of distinctive creations of artistic inspiration.
Robert Allen Matter, "The Spanish Missions of Florida: The Friars versus the Governors in the 'Golden Age,' 1606-1690," (Ph.D. diss., University of Washington, 1972) 15. See below, 14, 48.