Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Human Trafficking

The African Cemetery at Higgs Beach, marking the approximate location of hundreds of slaves who died here awaiting an outcome after they were intercepted at sea and forcibly landed in Key West. Hundreds died, some made it back to Africa, though not their homes. The sole Federal official in Key West, the post master as it happens, was never reimbursed for taking care of them, which act of meanness epitomizes, it seems to me, the total absence of  empathy for the "least among us" in distant 1860.
Across the street from the cemetery is an outdoor exhibit featuring the work of photographer Kay Chernush, who has illustrated the little understood business of human trafficking.
I took a number of pictures and post them here for you to peruse. Better to see them in person as they are on show at Higgs Park through the end of February, Black History Month.
The panels are wordy and descriptive and I think the best I can do is let the photos speak for themselves, in the hope you will be able to enlarge them such that you can read the appalling stories here depicted.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Puddle Jump

I took Rusty out to Summerland Key to see if the recent dry spell had cleared up one of our favorite muddy trails. We got so far, me balancing with great care on my cane between rocks and gravel until I came to the one fatal spot where the road dips low enough tidal waters penetrate and cover the road ankle deep year round. 
Rusty ran on ahead and I leaned on my cane ruing the days when with a pair of Crocs I would wade happily after him. These days with my wobbly legs I'd just fall and have to wait for an illegal off road vehicle to come by on the weekend to pick me up... 
 So Rusty came back quite happily and put up with my inability to ford the obstacle. 

Good dog.
 I got some pictures and he let off some steam running down the trail.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Artisan Market

Higgs Park is the grassy area inland of the beach. Much of it is open grass, some is devoted to dogs and a small triangle nearest the road becomes a place to sell stuff every other Saturday through the winter high tourist season. It used to be at the Restaurant Store on Eaton Street but now it’s moved as you can see: 

After a half night at work and a delicious lunch I was ready to go and see the Oscar nominated animated short movies at the Tropic Cinema.  Herself had a stop first. 

Hurricane Irma did a number on our windchime we forgot to bring indoors. Category Four storms will do that in addition to destroying entire neighborhoods. We got a replacement. The neighborhoods are still struggling and I try not to get pissed off about that. 

Layne went looking for fresh vegetables while I went looking for I wasn’t sure what. The brown roots in the front are turmeric I’m told. I’d never previously seen (or noticed) actual turmeric plants. 

Ciabatta focaccia and olives peppers and spices are ingredients in this European Bakery. The focaccia was nicely seasoned though soft. We strolled and snacked on it and enjoyed the bread. In Italy it’s more like pizza dough usually sprinkled with olive oil rosemary and specks of salt but I was entirely happy where I was. 

I’m not fond of cute aphorisms and memes but this one I liked, though what it has to do with headgear I couldn’t say. 

Yesterday was a lovely day. It was breezy with an east wind to twenty miles per hour, no humidity all while short sleeve warm. A hell of a place to be Sunday afternoon.  You’d have liked it too. 

New puppy. Camera shy almost as bad as Rusty (who was at home snoozing on the deck).  I waited to get the face. 

We talked to a friend of Layne’s working one of the booths selling pancakes on a stick...of which they had run out - darn!- as it was well past closing time when we got to the market. 

It turns out the demand  for space at the market is huge as they get 140 businesses applying to participate in the lottery for just 70 spaces. Which led me to ponder a potential solution to the demand dilemma. 

Why not hold the market every Saturday so everybody gets a chance to display their wares every two weeks? Seems obvious to me especially as I want to be sure to try those pancakes on a stick things...

And then it was time to go, check out the movies and rest my weary legs. Great market excellent location and it’s time to make it a weekly event I say. Not that anyone cares what I think. 

Eaton Street in shades of blue outside the theater. 

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Bahamas

The Museum of Art and History, better known as the Custom House on Front Street is exhibiting the connection between the Keys and the Bahamas, which it turns out is extensive and intricate, rather a lot for just one room in the building. Consequently there are a lot of explanatory boards with many many words that I shall attempt to precis among these photos.
The Bahamas connection started with the Revolutionary War in the American colonies and when the revolutionary forces won, the Loyalists as they saw themselves, had their backs to the water. Britain rewarded their loyalty by offering them land nearby in the Bahamas, which were in 19th century as arid and under developed as they are today. If it is not already clear, this exhibit will make it clear for you that wealth was to be found in Key West, not in Nassau the capital of the Bahamas.
Thus it was inevitable that Bahamians started to trickle back to the US, after the bad feelings caused by the war started to subside. What makes this flow of human beings so interesting is that the bulk of the Keys were also underpopulated and, aside from Key West, during the 19th century most of these scrubby islands were as desolate agriculturally speaking as the Bahamas. So in a sense the flow of people in those days was less an invasion and more a mixing of populations.
They came from the Northern Bahamas mostly, the Abacos where American plantation owners resettled. In 1834 the British Empire outlawed slavery which altered the population balance in the Bahamas and led to more free people competing for available resources in those islands. Thus the flow of white Bahamians back to the US increased, where slavery lasted another 25 years. And they brought their skills with them, as fishermen, spongers and boat builders. 
I have seen the famed Bahamian sloops racing in Georgetown in the Family Islands Regatta and they are the descendants of the island schooners that traded among the Bahamas, which islands are also known as the "Family Islands" to their residents. Once the sailboats were a lifeline, now they are  an historic sport. Shown below, atrading schooner:
It turns out several names  familiar in Key West have their roots in the Family Islands. Nelson English Park for instance:
 Robert Gabriel public housing....
Sandie Cornish deserves a mention all his own in light of his desperate measures to escape slavery. He mutilated himself after he escaped to Key West and thus wrecked his economic value as a piece of property and his plan worked. He lived and prospered in Key West, a free man, and left money to assorted good causes. His principal monument is a vast white wooden church on Whitehead Street. I like to think he was also a fine story teller.
Sponging is one of those industries you don't think much about these days, in the era of synthetic everything.  I used to see the distinctive outline of a man near Sugarloaf Key standing on his boat poking the water with a hooked pole trying to harvest the sponges. I haven't seen anyone doing that for years now and I dare say it's outlawed or too much work or something. Once upon a time they imported sponge divers from Greece to harvest sponges near Tampa.
The other thing about the Bahamas is they are well known for their sandy banks. However the islands themselves are limestone outcrops just like the Florida Keys. Not at all like the sandy mainland of Florida.
The other thing about the people who came here from there is that some of them, the ones with money I dare say, brought their homes with them. Such labor seems beyond imagining when you consider the complexity of our modern wired homes and lives. 
In those days homes were shells filled with furniture. Though they did bring distinctive Bahamian shutters with them. This model represents a house dismantled on Green Turtle Cay and brought by schooner to Key West for its owner Tuggy Roberts.
Apparently there was a massive storm in 1846 which wrecked much of the housing stock, which event slowed the migration from the Bahamas but impatient souls decided to bring their houses with them.
And even today if you walk around Old Town with your head in the air you will see homes with tin roofs and solid skylights like this model, propped up on pieces of wood.
 Then there is Junkanoo which is a form of carnival celebration in the Bahamas. It involves masks, costumes dancing in the streets and music created by using goatskin drums and castanets.
Junkanoo is of unknown origins but even though the Bahamas aren't strictly speaking in the Caribbean (even though lots of people think they are, like Bermuda) they have developed similar holiday traditions.
There was film of Junkanoo imported to Key West and  boy was I surprised to see Nancy hanging out with the players. She used to work with my wife and now I see her at the gym so I shall ask if she knows she is appearing on the wall of the Museum every few minutes...
Worth a visit but I wish I had brought my rolling walker instead of my cane as there was lots to read and my legs were killing me by the end.

Through April 7th, from the Museum's page:
Aside from the geographic proximity to one another, the islands of the Bahamas and the island of Key West have much in common.  The latter’s original settlers were mainly of Bahamian descent, particularly from the Abacos, Harbour Island and Eleuthera.  The Bahamians, already proficient in the shipbuilding, fishing, wrecking and sponging industries relocated to Key West in the hopes of enhanced economic fortunes.  Once it was established that Key West could be prosperous, Bahamians moved to the island in large numbers, sometimes even bringing everything, including their homes, with them.  The result was that Key West effectively became an extension of the Bahamas; the food, the architecture, the industries, the music and the families all were closely aligned with their former lives.
This exhibit seeks to explore both the historical and contemporary connections between the two locations, demonstrating how much of Key West’s culture and community is deeply rooted in its Bahamian heritage.