Florida is repeatedly challenged, but by embracing its diverse cultures and lifestyles the state has arrived on the threshold of a promising new era.
By Roger Grody
Virtually the entire Florida peninsula was ravaged by Hurricane Irma last September, but the resilient Sunshine State — even Key West, which suffered the devastating storm’s direct assault — has rebounded. Builders may employ new technologies to brace oceanfront properties from future storms, but coastal Florida is far too magical to dampen enthusiasm for new development. Undeterred by Irma is a Floridian renaissance that still has the wind at its back.
Unlike many states that are defined by a uniform lifestyle, Florida is so multidimensional that vastly different lifestyles coexist. The fourth-generation fisherman dropping nets off the Florida Panhandle seems far removed from the hipster fashion designer in South Beach, yet both are proud Floridians united by their passion for the sun and surf.
Some of Florida’s 67 counties are more spiritually akin to rural Alabama, while others feel more like Havana, Managua or Brooklyn. In one town, shrimp-and-grits is the signature dish, in another it may be ropa vieja or pastrami-on-rye. That diversity is one of the elements that makes the Sunshine State so exciting, and so welcoming to newcomers.
The U.S. Census reported that 128 different languages are spoken in South Florida alone. While some old-timers may bemoan that reality, it is the influx of immigrants — not only from the Americas but also Europe and Asia — that has fueled the transformation of Miami from sleepy snowbird retreat to world-class metropolis. Other regions of the state have also drawn newcomers from across the country and around the world.
Golf as Religion
With the Gators, Seminoles and Canes all intently followed, football is huge in Florida, but the sport that seems most worshipped in the Sunshine State is golf. Florida has more courses (approximately 1,250) than any other state, the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) is headquartered in Palm Beach Gardens, and dozens of touring professionals reside in the state, attracted by its climate, championship courses and lack of state income tax.
Photo courtesy of Vizcaya Museum & Gardens Archives, Robin Hill and Edison Food + Drink Lab