King Juan Carlos in US on 450th anniversary of Spanish settlement

The king and queen of Spain will visit Florida Thursday to celebrate the 450th anniversary of the first Spanish settlement in Pensacola, believed to be among the earliest European colonies in the United States, dpa reported.

King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia, who will be in the US after a state visit to Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, haven't elicited much media interest.

That this royal trip went quite unnoticed was in striking contrast to the flurry of media attention during the May 2007 visit of England's Queen Elizabeth to Jamestown, Virginia - the first British settlement in the US.

Juan Carlos and the queen will spend a mere 17 hours in the US, during which time they will also wine and dine at the Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival in Miami, with celebrities such as Grammy Award winners Gloria Estefan and Julio Iglesias.

The monarchs will not, however, be meeting US President Barack Obama who will be in Canada on his first foreign trip since his inauguration on January 20.

On Friday, Obama spoke to Juan Carlos and conveyed "his desire to build on the close relationship the United States and Spain enjoy," according to a White House statement.

As the story goes, Spanish sailor Tristan de Luna Arellano arrived from Mexico in Pensacola on August 15, 1559 on 11 ships with a contingent of more than 1,400 soldiers, domestic help, settlers, priests and Mexican Indians from Veracruz.

But a hurricane lashed the area a few weeks later and the Spaniards stayed on for barely two years before fleeing. Most of the survivors moved to South Carolina on the Atlantic coast or returned to Mexico.

Arellano, who had embarked on the journey from Mexico under the new title of governor of Florida, was dismissed on his return to Spain for his failures. The Spaniards did not attempt to settle in the area again for another 135 years.

The monarchs' visit "will bring our city international attention, confirming the significance of Pensacola's place in history as North America's first major European settlement," said the city's mayor, John Fogg, in a statement on the city's website.

In Pensacola, located in the westernmost part of Florida, the Spanish monarchs will be received by Florida Governor Charlie Crist and the two Florida senators - Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Mel Martinez.

The king and queen are to tour the Pensacola Bay Area and other historic landmarks such as the Naval Air Base and the TT Wentworth Jr Florida State Museum.

On Friday, the royal couple will attend a business meeting on renewable energy, open the Spanish pavilion at the food and wine festival and then fly back to Spain.

Earlier on in their visit, the king addressed the Jamaican Parliament and paid tribute to those "who gave their lives in the fight against slavery."

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