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Doña Maria Melendez

Museum of Florida History

Doña Maria was a powerful Timucuan cacica, or woman chief, of the First Spanish Period. She was an early convert to Christianity and lived at the mission of Nombre de Dios, near St. Augustine. She became an important bridge between the Spanish and Natives by using her influence and language skills. By 1606, she had married a Spanish soldier, Clemente Vernal, turning Spaniards into allies and supporters. Her life demonstrates the blending of cultures which occurred between the Spanish and Native communities.

The Museum of Florida History has created a ‘life-cast’, a life-like model, of Doña Maria and recreated several buildings common to mission-era settlements. Visitors to the Museum of Florida History can view this ‘life-cast’ and learn more about the experiences of Native people, Europeans, and enslaved people during Spanish settlement.