What are the origins of American culture

Florida history

How Florida became a peninsula

Florida, it is said, is different from the rest of the US: Not only is the lifestyle here Caribbean, but also the earth you stand on. The prehistory of Florida shows that this southern peninsula of the North American continent did not always belong to North America. It was part of a volcanic chain that gave birth to the Caribbean islands.

Volcanoes erupted here for millions of years. What they spat out was washed over by the sea. Some parts then reappeared as islands. Florida was thus connected to the North American continent.

The conquerors are coming

Archaeological finds have shown that humans lived in the wetlands of the Everglades more than 10,000 years ago. Their culture was highly developed: they owned pots made of clay and tools made of clam shells. They hunted with reeds and had fish and turtle ponds built.

To this day, it is still not known why this culture no longer existed at some point. It was only around the turn of the times, around 2000 years ago, that the wetlands were inhabited again by the Calusa. Like the Tequesta in southern Florida, they probably lived from fishing. The Tamucua in the north, on the other hand, lived from agriculture.

Juan Ponce de Léon, a Spanish navigator, was the first European to reach the Florida coast in 1513. Then came Spanish conquistadors. They were looking for gold and tried to colonize the area.

A group of Huguenots came as early as 1562. They built a fort to take possession of the area for France. But that shouldn't go well: Spanish troops destroyed the fort in 1565 and killed the invaders.

In the same year, the winners founded the city of St. Augustine. It is the oldest still existing city of the Europeans in the USA. At the time, the Spaniards were only interested in Central and South America, while the English, French, and Dutch tried primarily to take over North America. The conquerors of America rarely got in each other's way.

The Spanish conquerors brought not only Christianity into the country, but also diseases. The Indians were not prepared for this, and many of them died. While the English in North America rarely married an Indian, this was quite common with the Spanish.

Problems between Indians and Spaniards did not arise until more and more Indians pushed south: refugees who had been displaced in the north by American pioneers.

They settled near Tallahassee and mingled with the slaves who had fled north America to Florida from their tormentors at the time. A mixed people developed. They were later called the Seminoles. From the 18th century they were the predominant ethnic group.

How the conquerors conquer each other

The English wanted to expand their newly conquered colonies southwards. This prompted them to declare war on the Spanish in Florida. The war lasted seven years before they could actually take power in 1763.

But in the American War of Independence, which began in 1775, the cards were reshuffled: Now it was a matter of the colonies wanting to break away from the respective mother country in order to be able to form independent states.

In this war the Spaniards fought on the side of the French against the English and in this way got West Florida back. Two years after the British surrendered in 1783, the "Peace of Paris" guaranteed the Spanish all of Florida and the British and French colonies in the north independence.

Five years later it was official: on June 21, 1788 the "United States of America", the USA, was founded and the constitution came into force. Now it was no longer the individual European states that were fighting for larger territories in America.

Now the United States of America went on the offensive. In 1810 they announced that West Florida was subject to American law: It was part of the area they had bought from Louisiana in 1803.

The slaves who had escaped from the north had since intensified the enmity between the Spaniards and the USA. A voluntary takeover was therefore out of the question.

So the US troops marched into the Spanish colony and occupied western Florida. The Spaniards gave in and in 1819 sold their entire territory to the United States. It is said to have been an emergency sale to pay off old debts in the millions.

Displacement of the Indians and Civil War

White settlers moved in and decided that all Indians had to leave the country by January 1836. It was about the majority of the population, the Seminole Indians. They were supposed to be deported behind the Mississippi according to the "Indian Removal Act" of 1832.

That led to another war, called the Seminole War, and finally to a third. For six years they tried to break the resistance of the Seminoles and get them to retreat.

One of the most famous Seminole chiefs was Osceola. He was officially invited to negotiations by the USA, but in the end he was captured and kidnapped. The chief Coa Choochee continued to fight.

He too was betrayed. The remaining Seminoles were forcibly expelled. Only a few managed to escape to the Everglades. During these wars, Florida was officially admitted to the Union as the 27th state on March 3, 1845.

In the political tussle between the US parties, the Democrats had split. This changed the balance of power, and that led to eleven states breaking away from the Union: the southern states, including Florida.

This caused the American Civil War in 1861, which could only be victoriously ended for the Union of Northern States after four years.

In 1868, three years after the end of the war, the United States passed a new constitution that established the abolition of slavery and the right to vote for blacks. At the same time Florida and the other southern states became members of the USA again.

"Railway baron", circus elephants and speculators

After the years of war, the economic boom began. The population doubled between 1870 and 1890.

Tourism gained more and more importance since the 1880s. The cultivation of citrus fruits on large plantations also increased. But in the icy winter of 1894, the orange blossoms in northern Florida froze to death. Quite a few farmers were ruined.

Then the "railroad baron" Henry Morrison Flagler had the idea that the railroad had to be continued south in order to be able to relocate the cultivation area. The first train went to Miami as early as 1897, where only a few hundred people lived at that time.

In addition, there was a rail link to the northern US states. It attracted the sun-seeking vacationers from the north. In 1925 there were already a million and a half.

The tourism boom in turn promoted the real estate boom. Acquiring land became more and more expensive. Between 1920 and 1925 prices doubled. Flagler had luxury hotels built wherever there were railroad stations.

Starting in St. Augustine via Palm Beach to Miami. The rich stayed at the Flagler hotels: the Rockefellers, Ghettys, Rothschilds and Astors.

The extension of the railway line had also paid off for a man from Indiana named Carl G. Fisher. With the help of two circus elephants, he cleared the mangrove jungle on the island off Miami and enriched it with tropical plants and exotic birds. He had tennis courts and a racecourse laid out and erected stately splendid buildings.

After the destruction by a hurricane in 1926, an architecture in the style of French Art Deco was built. After that, there were 480 hotels and apartment buildings in Miami Beach.

The glamorous place not only attracted respectable business people and wealthy vacationers, but also dodgy characters like the gangster king Al Capone. He wanted to take control of Miami Beach. His last abode was less luxurious: he died in 1947 on the Alcatraz prison island near San Francisco.

Is Florida "bursting at the seams"?

It is not the tourists who "burst" Florida. It's the people who want to stay here, the immigrants. You are not welcomed. In 1929 there was another boost: it began with the so-called Black Friday.

The Wall Street crash plunged many into economic ruin and even more into unemployment. Thousands of unemployed people from the northern states came to Florida to start over here. In the sunshine state it was getting tighter.

Then in 1959: After the revolution in Cuba and the subsequent takeover by Fidel Castro, many opponents of Castro fled to neighboring Florida. The onslaught of refugees created a Cuban neighborhood in Miami.

To this day it is the largest Cuban community outside of Cuba. Immigrants from Europe and large parts of the United States also came in the 1960s. In the 1980s and 1990s, thousands of immigrants from Central and South America populated the Miami area in particular.

In 1997, another wave of refugees from Cuba spilled onto the Florida coast. Florida threatened to "burst at the seams" on its 151,670 square kilometers, infrastructure and the environment suffered from this burden - at least its residents fear.

In 1900 Florida had only 528,000 inhabitants, in 1960 it was almost five million, in 1970 just under seven million and in 2017 it was almost an estimated 21 million. This means that Florida has the highest population density in the United States.