Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Title: Finding Florida: The True History of the Sunshine State
Author: T. D. Allman
Genre: non-fiction, Florida history, American history

As a Florida native, this book caught my eye while browsing the new books section of my local library. As the title suggests, Allman revisits Florida's origins and decimates the myths of Florida that the nation has been subject to for the past 100 years (it never freezes in Florida, Florida is a "paradise," etc.) While revisiting Florida's history Allman sprinkles fun (and not-so-fun) facts about Florida mixed in with some dry wit. The middle section that deals with the Seminole Wars drags a bit but that's because I really don't enjoy reading military history, but someone who loves military history might find this section of the book fascinating.

Florida facts:
* Florida is the only state with no metals (p. x)
* The lack of real soil in Florida limits crop production
* Florida was not named because of floweriness but because of Spain's religious calendar. Ponce de Leon reached Florida's shores a month after Palm Sunday and named the "new" land Pascua Florida.
* de Leon named the Florida Keys, "The Martyrs" because the chain of islands reminded him of decapitated heads. (Living during the Inquisition probably gave a lot of people a morbid outlook on life)
* de Leon was never looking for the Fountain of Youth- this story was spread hundreds of years after the fact by Washington Irving
* "Most of what seems typically Floridian originated someplace else (oranges, flamingos, palmettos)
* Jules Verne predicted space travel would be "in a projectile-vehicle launched from Florida."

Military campaigns in Florida during the 1800s would affect U.S. policy even into the 21st century. Strategy: claim an area/town/village is composed of outlaws and criminals who are a security threat. Ramrod your way into "enemy territory" on a secret mission sanctioned by the President that ignores the Constitution. When the military campaign doesn't go as planned, the press finds out and the President denies any complicity in the matter. (Chapters 8-10) Sound familiar? This happened at the Negro Fort and during the Seminole Wars and happens nowadays when the US becomes involved in modern political hotspots.

Allman also goes into detail about the murky origins of Disney World. The "happiest place on earth" has been allowed by the Florida legislature to permanently damage the environment of Central Florida, be exempted from paying taxes, and allowing loopholes that only gives voting power to stockholders- many of whom do not reside in Florida. After reading this section, I have very little desire to visit a Florida theme park again...

Allman also skewers NASA and their shoddy safety record- if safety protocols had been followed, the Challenger disaster might not have happened.

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