Tuesday, March 28, 2017

La Florida

La Florida: Five Hundred Years of Hispanic Presence
©  2016 Viviana Díaz Balsera & Rachel A. May
312 pages

Florida, like many places in the United States, bears the name given to it by another culture.  The Spanish, setting first foot on the peninsula in the 'flowery season of Easter',  Florida Paschal,  named it after the flowers of the season. While the Spanish flag has long been removed from the heights of St. Augustine and Pensacola,  Spain's legacy lives on in a new form, its language having made a dramatic return to the land through Cuban and Puerto Rican immigration.  La Florida collects historical articles written on the Spanish heritage and continuing presence in Florida, spanning from Jared Milanich's attempt to fix the actual landing sight of Ponce de Leon, to from Susan Eckstein'ss  analysis of changing Cuban political sympathies. (Few outside of Tampa itself probably appreciate the long history that Cuban immigration has played in that city -- concentrating there long before the Castro coup.)   In between readers are treated to the turbulent history old Spanish Florida,  articles on distinctive aspects of Florida in the South (its role as a haven for escaping slaves, for instance), and Florida's re-flowering in the 20th century.  This then is not a straightforward history, but a collection of very different pieces rooted in Florida's Spanish heritage -- a heritage abandoned, spurned, and then revived.    Midway, for instance, we find an article on the Spanish craze in the United States which manifests itself in Mission Revival architecture across the southwest and old Spanish gulf.   For a student interested in colonial Spain, here are bits of history not only forgotten by standard texts (the 1812 invasion of Florida by Georgia volunteers), but those forgotten by everyone, like the  time Amelia Island was taken over by a pirate and declared a republic.

Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States


  1. Amelia island? maybe that's where the fountain of youth is...? i wonder how that myth got started?

  2. Officially, the Fountain of Youth is in downtown St. Augustine, which is an hour or so (by car) south. The origin of that particular story is one worth exploring...I've assumed it's something Greek, like the One Ring.


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