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Neither Florida nor Cuba; neither American nor Caribbean "Key West is an island steeped in lore, from Hemingway to Fantasy Fest, but behind the façade of Margaritaville lie buried tensions and conflicts in need of examination. Kerstein provides a much-needed dose of reality in the form of a masterfully researched study of the island's tourism industry, from the shadowy power brokers who pull the strings to the underpaid workers who serve the drinks. From seedy bars to trendy discos, Kerstein has managed to capture the improbable mixture of this strange island, while offering a cautionary tale of tourism run amok."-Robert Lee Irby, author of 7,000 Clams "An exemplary study and a cautionary tale that should be read by everyone interested in the suicidal course of a society driven by an irrational and self-destructive compulsion to erase differences in the pursuit of the almighty dollar."-Brewster Chamberlin, author of Mario Sanchez: Once upon a Life Key West lies at the southernmost point of the continental Unites States, ninety miles from Cuba, at Mile Marker 0 on famed U.S. Highway 1. Famous for six-toed cats in the Hemingway House, Sloppy Joe's and Captain Tony's, Jimmy Buffett songs, body paint parade "costumes," and a brief secession from the Union after which the Conch Republic asked for $1 billion in foreign aid, Key West also lies at the metaphorical edge of our sensibilities. How this unlikely city came to be a tourist mecca is the subject of Robert Kerstein's intrepid new history. Sited on an island only four miles long and two miles wide, Key West has been fishing village, salvage yard, U.S. Navy base, cigar factory, hippie haven, gay enclave, cruise ship port-of-call, and more. Duval Street, which stretches the length of one of the most unusual cities in America, is today lined with brand-name shops that can be found in any major shopping mall in America. Leaving no stone unturned, Kerstein reveals how Key West has changed dramatically over the years while holding on to the uniqueness that continues to attract tourists and new residents to the island. Robert Kersteinis professor of government at the University of Tampa and the author of Politics and Growth in Twentieth-Century Tampa.
Table of Contents
Key West's First Hundred Years: Wrecking, the Military, Cigar Making, and a Few Tourists
The Not-So-Roaring Twenties
The Depression and War Years: Tourism Dreams Give Way to Military Realities
Key West 1945-1970: Not a Clean Well-Lighted Place
Island of Intrigue: Key West in the 1970s
Key West in Transition
The Gay Community and the Transformation of Key West
Key West in the 1980s and 1990s: Bringing in the Tourists
The Politics of Tourism and Development
Shelter for the Labor Force?
Island Tensions in the Twenty-First Century: Mass Tourism and Rising Real Estate Values in a "Unique" Community
One Human Family?
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