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Jorge Acevedo / Photo by Terrence Duffy

 

As superintendent of De Soto National Memorial in Bradenton, Jorge Acevedo, a native of Puerto Rico, presides over 30 historically and ecologically important acres. Located on a spit of land (80 percent mangrove estuary) where the Manatee River meets Tampa Bay, the site marks a likely 1539 landing spot for Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto’s expedition across the southern United States.

 

Sparking Curiosity “I get to talk about nature, science, ecology, history, but I don’t have to be an expert; I just have to spark that inquisitive bug. We rangers, the flat-brim hats, our job is to present important information, without bias, so that visitors have a cathartic experience and come to believe the importance of protecting our heritage.”

 

De Soto Destruction “The conquistadors didn’t march through vacant land; people were living here. De Soto’s tactics were brutal, but some of the damage was indirect. Take the pigs De Soto brought to feed the expedition. Like the Europeans, [they] carried germs that indigenous people had no resistance to, and when the pigs got loose, they competed with native species.”

 

Boardwalk Empire “I’d like to leave sustainable infrastructure, particularly replacing our elevated boardwalk. We have to compete for money for big ticket items. In fact, the first thing I had to do as acting superintendent was to reduce our budget by 10 percent. But the boardwalk [makes] our site accessible to people who use wheelchairs and walkers, which tend to get stuck in the sand.”

 

Hispanic Heritage “We have a place for park history, with pictures of the superintendents, and about six months ago, guys hung mine, with a beginning and no end date. That’s when I realized I’m the first Hispanic superintendent of this Hispanic heritage site. I thought, ‘I have to be on better behavior!’”

 

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