When Spanish settlers first arrived on the shores of ''La Florida' in 1565, they would soon be immersed in one of the most dramatic struggles in human history.
At first Florida seemed so inviting. A virgin tropical wilderness would be settled and cultivated to yield riches rivaling the bounty of gold and silver that treasure ships already brought back from Mexico and South America. And, the Spaniards hoped, the peninsula might be inhabited by primitive natives who would quickly embrace Christianity and happily raise a bounty of crops and food animals for the tables of Europe.
No better man could King Philip II pick to lead the Enterprise of Florida than fearless, swashbuckling Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. Instead, Menéndez and his men found themselves confronting fierce and fearless native Americans who had forged a proud kingdom older than Spain itself.
The Cross and the Mask follows the Spanish seafaring settlers as they struggle for a tenuous foothold on Saint Augustine, then move south to Cape Canaveral, Jupiter Inlet, the Miami River, and finally on to the Calusa island stronghold on an island near today's Fort Myers Beach.
The same journey chronicles the clash of religions, weapons and wills as a documentary novel faithful to actual dates and events. Through the eyes of the Spanish Menéndez and the young Indian Lujo, we see two irreconcilable perspectives that led to death and devastation for both peoples.
Eventually, Spanish force would prevail, but only in another century.