FLORIDA


Some years ago I was  in Florida visiting a relative. We stayed at a comfortable bungalow of acquaintances who had moved to Missouri to escape the hottest season. Their home was a single family residence,  built in a style that’s typical for the region. Most homes in that neighbourhood of upper middle class residents have a swimming pool encased with screening materials, so no bugs land on your bare skin and spoil the pleasure. The landscaping is park-like and is maintained by the strata. A grapefruit tree and a lemon tree grew in the back yard from which I had daily delicious tasting, freshly squeezed juice. The channels surrounding the homes were said to be possibly containing crocodiles, so are not suitable for swimming.

The state of Florida consists for large part of the pan handle stretching out into the Gulf of Mexico at its west coast and into the Atlantic Ocean to the east; the Bahamas and Cuba islands are its closest neighbours to the south. Florida is mostly swamp land, so mosquitoes and other bugs thrive in its humid, warm environment, with plenty of water to breed among mangrove stands along its coasts. Florida is also the location of the novel Swamplandia by Karen Russell, as well as the location of the orchid hunters of the movie Adaptation, based on the non-fiction book The Orchid Thief by Susan Orleans. 

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This is me swimming in the tepid water (23 degrees centigrade) of the heated pool. The cage is visible overhead. Water evaporates at quite the rate in this temperature, so we were tasked with the job to check and top up the water level of the pool daily, so the pump won’t run dry and get damaged. A nice job to have; coming from Canada where it was still winter at that time, I was not complaining.

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No swimming in the channels: crocs! In the South of Florida crocodiles, as well as alligators exists in the brackish, mixed freshwater-salt water environments. Incidents of attacks by these reptiles on humans are on the rise, as people continue to expand waterfront homes into the croc territories and their status as protected species had led to significantly increased alligator and crocodile numbers.

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We made a trip to the Everglades and I found it interesting, but smelly.

 

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The trip on board of the notorious air propelled boats were a lot of fun, although I was worried about scaring the animals away. Apparently, they are so used to the boats that the most lazy alligators do not even move out the way very fast. The other typically local species we did not get to see were the manatees. They are the gentlest animals and often are injured by the propellers of the speed boats that cruise in their territory in somewhat deeper water. No motor boats were allowed in the Everglades, only the flat bottom, air propelled boats.

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On this occasion I was in Florida together with another niece and my sister visiting my resident niece. It was a cooler, windy day. That was fine with us as gnats or mosquitoes couldn’t bother us.Image

My trips to Florida were a few years back and the constellation of our travel groups have changed substantially since. My niece got divorced and left Florida and the step mom died of breast cancer. I look back with nostalgia and remember today to enjoy every moment while you are living it.

We also travelled to the city of Miami and did some sightseeing there. 

The beautiful grounds of Vizcaya Museum are open to the public. This Italian-style Renaissance villa is set on the waterfront in Biscayne Bay, accessible by land. One imagines to be somewhere else in a  previous century, in a gentler and more beautiful world. The property is surrounded by a wall that shelters it from sight and the winds. Extensive gardens surround the building where a restaurant is located with delicious, delicate lunches.Image

 

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A muse close-up.

 

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The water gardens

 

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The boat launch and Venetian boat (decorative, made of stone, not going anywhere)

 

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The front of the property is shown here. The museum, a National Historic Landmark was once the home of James Deering from 1914 to 1916, and was built by F.Burrall Hoffman, Diego Suarez and Paul Chalfin for the Chicago industrialist, having made his money and retiring to a nicer climate. My companions did not want to explore the museum inside, so that’s left for another day.

 

We also had a look at Biscayne Key, a tiny island within Miami proper, but as it was going to close at sundown, we had to run through it. Basically it’s beach, a very long beach that curls all around the island, where Miami’s families spend the day away from the city, but very close to it anyway.

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Fat frog climbing in, or out of the fountain? Magnificently done, he seems alive. At the Viscaya Museum gardens.

 

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The next day we were back to the normal world, my niece’s apartment with community pool and Lanai–nothing to sneeze at, considering I am currently sitting inside on March 1, no sunshine, and no sign of spring temperatures outside yet. I thought I take a mental trip back to the Florida sun, to comfort my soul with memories.

On another trip with my sister and nieces, we also visited South beach and the keys, and stayed at Key West a couple of nights. During those trips we stayed in hostels for a very reasonable price, with lots of social interaction with other travellers. I can recommend the Clay Hotel on Miami Beach to explore that beautiful and exquisitely preserved Art Deco district. Unfortunately, when I tried to upgrade my computer, I lost many of my photos.

 

 

 

There is much more to say about Florida. Such as, it screwed up the presidential election for Democrat Gore in 2000 and ascribed the win to Republican George W. Bush, with accusations of vote rigging and a recount proposed by the Florida Supreme Court, but in the end overruled by the US Supreme Court and so the election was won by a very narrow margin by George W. Bush. The design of the ballot form was blamed for over-counts and under-counts. As little as 154 votes difference were counted between George W. Bush and Al Gore when the US Supreme Court stayed the recount.
A movie was made in 2008 about this tainted presidential election, that many say should have been won by Al Gore; the movie is directed by Jay Roach, starring Kevin Spacey, called Recount.

Many Caucasians retire to Florida, because of its relative low cost of living and its climate that ranges from sub-tropical to tropical. There is a history of rich people living off the avails of trade and plantations.

Florida used to have a large population of indigenous nations (Creek, Yamasee, Timucan, Apalachee) when the Europeans (Spanish and French) explorers and soldiers arrived in 1513.
Later, African slaves fled from British-occupied North America to Florida where they were given freedom in exchange for conversion to Catholicism. Like all over the world, when the then-powerful nations sought to expand their territories into far away, uncharted territory, the original population of Florida as well was attacked, diminished, but in this case vehemently resisted occupation by the US army longer than most.

The British and Spanish used the Seminoles as well to advance their own political positions during the so-called First Seminole wars of the US army against the indigenous peoples. In a 1819 treaty, Spain let Florida go to the USA in exchange for $5 million and for the Americans giving up any claims on Texas. (They acquired it later anyway, but that’s another story).

In 1830, the Indian Removal Act was passed to remove Seminoles from their lands. Many black slaves had already fled from plantations in Georgia and found refuge with the Seminoles on their lands. They were together resisting the army as they did not want to become part of the USA–rebels, we would call them now…or independence fighters, depending on whose side you are.

Five years later the Second Seminole Wars began with US army forces trying to get the Seminoles off their lands when they would not sign forced treaties giving their lands to white settlers.
Over a period of 5 years, between 900 and 1500 Seminole warriors waged a guerrilla war against the US army. The Dade Massacre is named for the US Army officer killed when a group of Seminole fighters tricked and killed 110 soldiers, their leader, Major Dade, and seven other officers in an ambush. There is no mention of how many Seminoles and their supporters were killed, as if these were negligible, maybe not that important at the time.

Seminole wars continued as settlers continued to arrive in Florida. The Third Seminole War ran from 1855 to 1858 after which most Seminoles had been removed from their lands.
Nowadays, there are some Seminole reservations and communities left where their descendants still live a rather marginal existence in unwanted swamps around the Everglades. They refused to leave then and are still there.

By 1860 Florida had 140,424 residents, of whom 44% were enslaved. The cotton plantations required numerous labourers. There were fewer than 1000 free African Americans before the Civil War.(Wikipedia)
Before 1845, when Florida became officially the 27th state of the United States of America, segregation of blacks existed as the norm in Florida and continued after the end of the Civil War in 1865. Until the civil rights movement of the 1960s arrived in the Southern US and with it the factual end of segregation, the history of post-European contact in Florida has been and still is very much one of discrimination and denial of human and civil rights to the non-Caucasian residents in that state.

In modern times, Florida has one of the harshest immigration policies within the USA discriminating against so-called “undocumented” immigrants, meaning Mexicans/Hispanics that very well might have lived and worked in the US for many years. However, they are refused the documentation permitting them residency status–and rights–the largest segment of non-Caucasians within the population. From the roughly 18 million residents in Florida, over 11 million are Caucasian, 4 million are Hispanic and almost 3 million African-American (http://www.Statehealthfacts.org). Pretty close to half of all Floridian residents are non-Caucasian.

If one looks around while spending time in Florida, it is very obvious that all service personnel everywhere are of a different culture, non-Caucasian–probably Mexican or South American, or African. There are many, many people of that background in Naples where I spent most of my time.

It was rumoured that Naples is the city with most millionaires within its boundaries. Judging at the extraordinary number of new Jaguars and other luxury cars I saw roaming its streets, I don’t doubt it.
If the Florida ruling class likes all “illegals” to leave, I just wonder how the Caucasian locals imagine that their pools, homes, and gardens will be cleaned, their children babysat and taken to school, or their groceries be packed and cash registers in stores be managed? Who will work on the fields and in the fruit groves to pick the oranges and lemons? I guess by keeping their wages bare minimum and below the level of a living wage, the Caucasian “masters” are pretty much keeping their service personnel in a modern-day serfdom situation, which is disgusting to me, especially when so much wealth exists among the Caucasian population.

So yes, if this spoils your view, I am sorry, but not really...

What do you think about Florida politics?
Have you spent some nice time on its beaches?
How about Disney world?

I would love to hear anything at all from you.

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About BABYBOOMER johanna van zanten

My name is Johanna van Zanten. I am a baby boomer, interested in writing and connecting with other writers and readers to engage in discussions and information sharing, to share a point of view about current global issues, writing, and publishing, diversity, immigration, travel, music, life, specific baby boomer issues, and dating/relationship issues. I have written a novella, ON THIN ICE about baby-boomer Adrienne and will link this blog with the information website for this novella. Right now, I am trying out the blog.
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