Spain's foreign minister emphasized here Wednesday the continuing importance of the Spanish legacy in the United States, although he acknowledged that much remains to be done to "recover" the value of the Hispanic presence in this country.

"The Spanish legacy in the United States is extremely important" and it should serve to "tighten" Spain's relations with this nation, "which are very good," said Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo at a press conference within the framework of celebrating the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Florida by Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon.

The minister is in Miami to participate in a series of official activities related to the anniversary.

The first event was a tribute - and the placing of a floral offering at the monument - to Ponce de Leon, which Garcia-Margallo attended along with Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and Alfonso Gomez Fernandez de Cordoba, the commander of the Spanish navy training ship Juan Sebastian Elcano, which sailed to the Florida coast for the occasion.

Later, the foreign minister went to the dock where the Elcano is moored and offered a brief press conference at which he spoke about the enormous lack of knowledge in the United States about the Spanish presence in this country.

Garcia-Margallo said that "there remains an enormous amount of room to get to know us better and to have even better relations," adding that the efforts that began this year with the commemoration of Florida's discovery by the European world are on the right track.

On Thursday, the foreign minister will inaugurate the 5th Convention of U.S. Hispanic Leaders, sponsored by Spain's Carolina Foundation along with other entities.

The Carolina Foundation was founded in 2000 to promote cultural relations and educational and scientific cooperation between Spain and the countries of Latin America, as well as with other countries having special ties to the Iberian nation.

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