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It drove Ferdinand and Isabella to look more closely at the New World. Columbus was only the start. He opened the New World, but others would pull the wealth from it. Columbus’s real contribution, in fact, was in setting 31 32 JUAN PONCE DE LEÓN up a Spanish base of operations. He founded the first Spanish colony on the island of Hispaniola. From there, explorers could fan out in search of gold, the gold that Columbus reported as being everywhere in the Americas. He made it seem as if all you had to do was reach down and grab it.

Portugal invaded Castile, and a five-year war broke out. This was double trouble. While battling her niece, Isabella and Ferdinand still had to go against the Muslims. Their armies had to fight against two enemies at the same time. They soon pushed back the Portuguese. At the same time they captured one Muslim stronghold after another. The Portuguese soldiers, after a while, went back to their kingdom. The Muslims found themselves bottled up. The Muslims held a mere handful of cities. Ferdinand and Isabella were on the edge of victory.

His squire was certainly ambitious, and eager to learn. He was 14-year-old Ponce de León. Ponce de León stayed in Nuñez de Guzman’s service for five years. During that time he lived through a good deal of combat. No official records of his service exist. It appears, however, that he saw serious action during the campaign to retake the city of Granada. He was almost certainly present during the actual capture of the city in 1492. Like every Christian in Spain, he was happy to see the Muslims go.

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