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Published: September 20th 2011
My friends around China and my students at Taizhou Teachers College are especially interested where I spend my much of my time, when I visit Florida, USA. This is Part I of a "three" part visit to the areas in Florida, America's "Sunshine State", where I enjoy, travel and relax during my vacation weeks.
In this TravelBlog #136, let me offer "45 photos" of the loving home, the colorful flower-garden and friendly surroundings, that bring me much joy and relaxation with family and friends during my return visits to Florida, USA.
A "VERY" BRIEF INTRODUCTION AND HISTORY OF FLORIDA, USA:
Florida is farther South than any other state except Hawaii, so the state is the farthest South in mainland United States. At twenty-five degrees north latitude, a line that passes through Saudi Arabia, the Sahara Desert, Egypt, Baja-Mexico; but unlike most of these dry and arid places, Florida is wet, warm and alive with unique plants and animals.
Florida is very flat. Its highest point is only 245 feet (105 meters) above sea level, and many places are only ten feet (3 meters) above sea level. Many of the new glass-towers in Miami are higher than the
highest natural point in the state.
It is said, that billions of years ago, Florida was actually a string of underwater mountains. The seawater slowly wore away the mountains, leaving the flat land Florida is today.
In size, Florida ranks twenty-third. It is a peninsula, a piece of land bounded on three sides by water. It is a long state, more than 500 miles (805 km). There is no place in the state that is more than 60 miles (97 km) from a beach.
Florida has more than 1,350 miles (2,172 km) of sandy beaches and is the 4th largest state in population (16 million). Only California, New York, and Texas have more people.
Florida is also known as the "Sunshine State" and it has acquired this name for good reasons: There is no true cold winter, as experienced in most other parts of the USA. Florida has hot and humid summers, and very mild winters. Even in January, the temperatures across the state average 60 Degrees Farenheit, or 16 Degrees Celcius.
Anyone wishing to escape the chills of the winter-months will seek out the white-sand beaches and clear-blue skies and the smiles of friendly
people in Florida. For this reason, and many others, Florida attracts millions of tourists from around the world each year, and retirees find it the place to settle in the later years of life.
People first arrived in Florida about 10,000 years agao and we now call them "hunter-gatherers". They "hunted" animals and "gathered" berries, fruits, and nuts. When the food became scarce in one area, the people moved on. They didn't build villages; instead, they camped near their food supply.
Around 3,000 B.C., these hunter-gatherer clans started building villages along the coast. The main food for these people was shell-fish. The mounds of these are still studied by archeologists.
By 1500 A.D., more than 10,000 Native Americans lived in what is now called Florida and were gathered into 5 main tribes.
The first rough map of the peninsula's outline was first produced by Henry Cabot in 1498.
The first European to land is Juan Ponce de Leon, in 1513, and was known as a brutal man. He said, that he was searching for the fabled "Fountain of Youth", though the truth is, as that of all the greedy explorers, he was looking for gold.
He found no golden cities in Florida, but did name the area "La Florida", Spansh for "full of flowers".
On his second visit he started a colony, while battling the natives. During the fighting he was hurt and soon died of his wounds.
Other explorers came to Florida in the 1500's, but the heat, mosquitoes, disease and the local native tribes made settling difficult.
The French also tried to claim Florida, but were defeated by the Spanish.
The arrival of the Europeans was the beginning of the end for Florida's Native Americans. They fought, but could not defeat the brutal Spaniards, and many of the natives were sold as slaves, or died of diseases, brought by the Europeans. Within a little more than 250 years, all the tribes were wiped out.
The British too wanted Florida, but by the end of the Revolutionary War (1775-1783), Florida was controlled by Spain.
More Americans now moved into Florida, but encountered Native Americans who called themselves Seminole. The Seminole were a mix of native and African people fleeing slavery in the Southern United States. (Sim-in-o-li means "wild people.)
The tribe refused to allow the U.S. Army
to take away their African members and fought a war, the Seminole War in 1817. After loosing this war, large parts of Florida had to be turned over to the Americans.
In 1819, Spain had to give Florida to the United States once and for all.
On March 4, 1824, Tallahassee became the official territorial capital and Andrew Jackson became the first territorial governor.
A second Seminole War was fought for 7 years, in 1835, when the U.S. government tried to move the Seminole to Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma. It was a bloody and destructive conflict.
About one thousand American soldiers fought and defeated about five hundred Seminoles. When the war ended, less than a hundred Seminoles were left in the Everyglades swamp.
On March 3, 1845, Florida entered the United States as a slave state and made freeing slaves illegal.
When Lincoln was elected president in 1860, many people in the southern states began to worry, fearing that Lincoln would take away their state-rights to slave ownership and bring an end to slavery.
Many Southerners thought that only slave labor made growing crops, like cotton and tobacco, profitable. The
economy in the north was based on manufacturing products, and people worked in factories and were paid wages.
The South also felt that state governments should be stronger than the federal government, while the North believed in a stronger federal government.
These differences led to the Civil War between 1861-1865, and Florida joined the southern Confederate States of America.
It is recorded, that 15,000 Florida men fought on the Confederate side during the war. In all, 5,000 people died, and at least 5,000 more were wounded in battle. Florida also contributed food, such as beef, sugar, and fish, to the Confederate cause, but the Confederate Army finally surrendered its troops in 1865.
But only in 1868 did Florida finally accepted the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, giving citizenship rights to former slaves. In Florida, the right to vote, own property and freedom of movement continued to be limited by the white law-makers.
In the 1800's, another conflict with the Spanish over the Island of Cuba was fought, known as the Spanish-American War. Cuba is only 100 miles from Florida, and Americans were keen to help the island, struggling for independence. The sinking of the US Battleship Maine was blamed on Spain, and the war began in 1898.
Miami and Tampa became camps for training troops. The war only lasted for 2 weeks, and Spain had lost Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam to the United States, and Cuba was free from Spanish rule.
Once the war had ended, many soldiers and sailors brought their families to Florida to live.
Henry Flagler and Henry B. Plant began to build railroads and hotels in Florida to transport large mineral deposits, citrus fruit and encourage tourism.
Flagler just about created the city of Miami when he built roads, and electric plant, and water and sewer lines. He changed Miami from a little town of a few stone buildings and shacks into a place where visitors would want to go.
By spending money to improve state transportation and industry, these men helped Florida grow, and of course made them super-rich.
The invention of the air-conditioner, South Florida's hot and sweaty summers became bearable and Florida prospered.
In World War I, Several places in Florida became training sites and ports for war ships. Great numbers of the military settled after the war.
Florida's economy grew tremendously and land prices rose, as cities exploded with new residents. For example, only 1,700 people lived in Miami in 1900. By 1925, that number had jumped to 70,000. Overall, Florida's population grew from 145,000 in 1860 to almost 5,000,000 by 1960.
In September, the great hurricane of 1926 struck the Miami area.
Winds of 135 miles per hour snapped telephone poles and even lifted a huge ship and set it down in the center of Miami. Hundreds of people lost their lifes and almost 50,000 people were left homeless.
The newcomers to Florida had never encountered anything like a hurricane. For the next weeks, roads were packed with people heading back north. The booming economy came to a halt.
As we have learned "many" times, with "booms" there also come "busts", and land speculations and greedy speculators and increased costs of living brought down the economy. The whole country was heading into the Great Depression in 1929. (Sounds so familiar, but we have never learned the lessons.)
Along with the rest of the country, Florida businesses closed and thousands of workers lost their jobs. As so many families lost their homes, thousands were left with nothing.
World War II brought prosperity back to Florida, as parts of the state were used for training and staging areas for naval bases and naval air stations.
After the war, Florida once again enjoyed a booming economy. As transportation improved, so the cities grew. A new interstate highway system made it possible to drive from the northern areas of the state to Miami, and tourism exploded. Northerners returned to Florida beaches in the winter.
In the 1950's, Cape Canaveral, later Cape Kennedy, and then again re-named (for political reasons) as Cape Canaveral became the staging area for America's space program. From here, in 1969, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, became the first men to walk on the moon.
In 1959, Castro toppled the government of Cuba, and over 125,000 Cubans arrived to settle in South Florida, especially Miami. Many people still risk their lives to cross from Cuba to South Florida in small boats and rafts.
The 1990's brought another disaster to Miami as Hurricane Andrew raked across Florida. I was living in Miami at this time, and will never forget the damage and misery this catastrophy brought to my area.
Efforts were made to restore the Everglades during the 1990's and for the first time, school vouchers for Florida's worst schools were offered to students, to attend magnet schools, private schools, or religious schools.
And in the year 2,000, Florida played the most important role in electing George W. Bush as president of the United States, instead of Al Gore. A ballot-dispute left the election up to the US Supreme Court to decide.
I still don't know to this date, if "my" vote was ever counted, and for me personally, it was one of the darkest hours in the political history of Florida.
Since 2006 I have been living in China, on the campus of Taizhou Teachers College, and though the distance has kept me from many of the events in Florida, my friends and family continue to inform me of the happenings. But my thoughts and heart are always in the "Sunshine State" with my caring family and my loving friends.
Our Freshmen have arrived on the campus of Taizhou Teachers College and they are now having their "Military Training". It will last until China's National Holiday on October 1st. After returning from their holidays, they will then begin their academic period. This semester I have been asked to also teach German, not something I had expected. It is a difficult language for our Chinese students, as they have no prior exposure to this language. I miss my English students, and my oral English classes, but I have been told, that this favor, to also teach German, was only asked of me for one semester.
There are now also many preparations, to combine several of Taizhou's colleges into ONE "Taizhou University". A new campus will be under construction sometime this year, and over the next 3-4 years, this dream for the city of Taizhou should become reality.
For those of you with college degrees, who are having a difficult time finding a teaching position, there are opportunities for you to teach in my college or other schools in China. Feel free to contact me for further information, or visit my "TravelBlog #125", for all the information you may need.
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