Typified by tropical heat, the flamboyant glamour of Miami’s beaches and a strong Latin American character, Florida is something of an anomaly amongst the continental United States. Protruding out into the Sea of Mexico the so-called ‘Sunshine State’ has long been a haven for immigrants from the Caribbean Isles and is now home to a vociferous community of Cuban and Haitian exiles. The culture, and cuisine, represents this amalgamation of north and south.
Perhaps Florida’s most famous resident and chronicler, Ernest Hemingway, set To Have and Have Not in the state. In it he elaborated on the complex and symbiotic relationship between Florida and its nearest neighbour, Cuba. John Macdonald offers another perspective with his Miami based novels which delve into the underworld of this extravagant city.
Director Brian De Palma does the same in his cult film Scarface which again depicts the way in which Cuban exiles came to America to escape the rigours of the communist state and find their fortunes; in this case through the drug trade which exploded in the Miami of the 1980s. Patty Jenkins’s Monster depicts the true story of a Daytona Beach serial killer who terrified Florida in the late 1980s.
Florida, like much of America, is a contradictory place that means different things to different people. On the one hand it is a favourite retirement spot for middle class Americans and has a large elderly population. On the other hand, it also has a young and vibrant immigrant culture made up of Caribbean exiles. It has the longest coastline of any U.S. state but it also home to the Everglades, a large subtropical wetlands that is now a national park. To many foreigners it is most famous for being the home of Disney World. While the state begins further south than Texas, it has a different character from many of the southern states and is a melting pot of different national and international influences
Florida has also been the home of many world famous rock musicians such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, formed in Jacksonville, who achieved fame throughout the globe.