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On Monday, February 14, 2022, the St. Augustine City Commission will honor Maria “Ria” and Robert “Bob” Alvarez with one of the city's highest awards, the de Avilés Award. The Alvarez’s have been instrumental with their dedication and leadership within the living history interpreter community in keeping history quite literally “alive” in the Nation’s Oldest City.
The presentation will be held at 4:30pm in The Alcazar Room, City Hall, 75 King Street., just prior the City Commission’s regularly scheduled meeting which begins at 5:00pm, and may be seen live online at www.CityStAugTV.com where it is also available for on-demand viewing the following day.
Vice Mayor Nancy Sikes-Kline nominated the Alvarez’s referencing their many years of providing “support and leadership in many of the city's important living history activities including the September Pedro Menendez de Aviles Landing Day, the Drake and Searles Raids, the School of the 16th and 17th Century as well as the periodic downtown history "Saunters".” She also recognized their critical role in the success of the 200th Anniversary Celebration in July 2021 which drew the attendance of dignitaries from Spain, including the Spanish Ambassador to the US, the Consul General of Spain, high-ranking Spanish military, as well as the State of Florida Secretary of State, Laurel M. Lee.
“Having known them and worked with them both over a long period,” Sikes-Kline stated, “I firmly believe that they have earned the honor of the de Aviles Award.”
In 2011, when Alvarez innocently asked a National Park Service Ranger at the Castillo de San Marcos how he could get involved with cannon demonstrations, he had no idea where the answer would lead him. “It started as a reenactment hobby,” remarked Alvarez, “and never could I have imagined it leading to this tremendous honor being bestowed upon me and Ria.”
The Alvarez’s attended re-enactment events before participating in their first 1740 Garrison period event, followed by 16th century events like “The Landing” and Drakes Raid, then Searles Sack of St Augustine, which also was a 17th century reenactment. After joining the St. Augustine Garrison in 2011, they learned to shoot cannons, getting certified in black powder cannon and musket firing.
The Colonial Night Watch, a reincarnation of the former British Night Watch, the monthly Changing of the Guard ceremonies, and the “History on the Streets” saunters, were brought to life under their leadership. The annual Founder’s Day celebration, which marks the September 8, 1565, landing by Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés in St. Augustine, also continues today as a result of the Alvarez’s commitment to keeping history alive in St. Augustine.
Over the past 10 years, Bob served eight years as President of the St. Augustine Garrison. He also currently serves as the Chief Operations Officer of the Historic Florida Militia (HFM), and Ria serves as the Chief Financial Officer. HFM is a not-for-profit umbrella organization supporting re-created historic interpretive units and representing a number of cultures and time periods. These units include Men of Menendez, St. Augustine Garrison, and Searle’s Buccaneers.
Most recently, in July 2021, the Alvarez’s were a driving force behind the coordinated efforts of the 200th Anniversary Celebration, a county-wide commemoration event marking the establishment of St. Johns County as a United States Territory.
The de Avilés Award was initiated by the commission in 1988 and, since 2002, its presentation has been limited to one per year. Since its inception the award has been presented 35 times to recipients who have been “...identified in the field of public service or those well-known and respected by the citizenry who have dedicated and honorable service to the community of St. Augustine and St. Johns County.”
A nomination for the de Avilés Award originates with a member of the city commission that is presented to the city manager who then puts it before the entire commission for confirmation.
Questions and media inquiries may be directed to Melissa Wissel, Communications Director, at 904.825.1053 or via email. A list of all recipients of the de Avilés Award is available here.