Florida has launched an ambitious program of more than 200 events this year to commemorate the 500th anniversary of its discovery by Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon.

This is a "celebration that not only recalls the arrival of Ponce de Leon in this land, but also reaffirms the value of all who have contributed to the history of Florida and enabled it to become what it is today," Chris Cate, communications director for Viva Florida 500, told Efe.

Viva Florida 500 has the backing of more than 14,000 organizations involved in the commemorative events that will take place across all of the state's 67 counties.

The celebration is above all about the "cultural diversity that people have given this state since then, their influence, what we remember and celebrate," Cate said.

"This is a wonderful chance to talk about Florida's long history, its diverse cultural heritage, and to increase tourism and attract business to the state," Rachel Porter, special programs coordinator for the Florida Department of State, told Efe.

The arrival of the first Spanish explorers in 1513 meant the "first documented contact of Europeans with (what is today) the United States," she pointed out.

Porter confirmed that Florida Gov. Rick Scott has sent an invitation to Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia asking them to preside over the anniversary's principal events. EFE