April 2, 2013 marks our 500th anniversary of Juan Ponce de Leon naming our state after La Pascua Florida, or 'The Blossoming Easter'. Although he was not the first European to set foot here, he was the first European to claim it for Motherland Spain. Florida has a unique and diverse history of cultures and peoples, many of them sadly forgotten or ignored by American history books who in reality viewed them as inferior or ‘unimportant’.
Those who Fought to conquer a forever unconquered land, Those who Fought to preserve their freedom, Those who Fought to stay, and ultimately those who Fought and lost. That already sounds like only the story of Florida’s native peoples, right?
It’s every Floridians story.
Today’s Florida is a mega melting pot inhabited mostly by people who are foreign born, victims if you can say, of Florida’s deadly urban sprawl. It has become the place for people who are unwanted or were forced here and have no place to go.
A place of Exile.
However, that is not something new. Our Florida has always been like that.
It’s first bunch of colonists in St. Augustine composed of mostly Cuban misfits and hoodlums, unloyal friars, and New Spain’s excess of “Freedmen” population. And later on, once Florida’s original native peoples were exterminated by disease of the Spaniards and the final blow was the genocide committed by the English and their Native allies in 1702, was again repopulated by other natives from the American deep south who eventually became known by the name “Seminoles”. Another group of Exiles were others who sought freedom; runaway slaves of the British southern colonies who used Florida as an underground railroad and got their freedom once they converted to Catholicism and served in the Spanish military. Lets throw in the Crackers too, everyone forgets about the Crackers. Once Florida became underpopulated as Spain ceded it’s former province under the Adams-Onis treaty to become an American territory, who were the ones who had to go and populate? More outcasts. The poor whites of Georgia and the Carolinas. The unwanted, uneducated folks who although had fairly controversial social views, were tough as nails and solely independent.
I think that’s what makes this day special. Today celebrates the history, many cultures, and people of the outcast state.
Que Viva La Florida!