The Conch Republic
Posted by Heliocentrism on August 9, 2010
July 27, 2010
West in Spanish is Oeste.
First off, the name Key West has nothing to do with its location. I used to think that since it was the island in the keys that was the furthest west, it was called Key West. But it’s actually a misunderstanding.
The name was Cayo Hueso, or Bone Key. The Native Americans who lived in the area used this island to bury their dead, so the Spaniards called it Cayo Hueso. This could be translated to Key West by any English speaker who flunked 9th grade Spanish.
How the West Was Won
This island has the craziest history stories. No wonder writers come to Key West to become inspired. Of all the tales I heard on this trip, the one I enjoyed the most is the one about the Conch Republic.
It is a well known fact that many Cuban immigrants come into the US by way of the Florida Keys. The United States Border Patrol decided to put a stop to this and illegal drug import. In 1982 they put up a checkpoint on the road out to the keys.
If you’ve ever driven down to the keys, you may know that one little car accident or one slow driver can cause a huge back up. There are only 2 roads going into the keys and then eventually only one. Both of the roads had only one lane going in either direction back in 1982.
The inspections at the checkpoint caused many delays to visitors of the keys. Many tourists didn’t think that the keys were worth the hassle and stopped going further south than Florida City.
The people of Key West were unhappy. They needed tourists with money to come in and spend senselessly. They asked the government to stop. But they were ignored. Then they changed tactics.
They seceded from the union and made themselves a new nation, independent of the USA. They called themselves The Conch Republic and as their first act as a nation, they declared war on the United States.
They threw Cuban bread at some naval soldiers working at the checkpoint then quickly surrendered. Since the war was over and they were on the losing end, the Conch Republic asked the US for foreign aid. Hey, why not?
How to get there:
You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.
I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.
- Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
- Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)
- Crash Course:
- CGP Grey:
- Mental Floss:
- American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot
- Area 51
- The Autobiography of Malcolm X
- Dandelion Wine
- Girl in Translation
- The Hemingses of Monticello
- The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid
- The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America
- Notes from a Big Country
- One Summer: America, 1927
- Rolling Nowhere: Riding the Rails with America’s Hoboes
- Stealing Buddha’s Dinner
- That’s Not In My American History Book
- A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
- The Water Is Wide
- Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland
- It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.
- 24°33’18.4″N 81°46’48.2″W
- Website directions
- Take US 1 south and don’t get off.
- Key West is at Florida mile marker 0.
- Tourist Information in many languages – 1-800-771-KEYS (5397)
Parking is hard to find, but whatever you do, do not park illegally. If you do and you just get a ticket, consider yourself lucky. This is not a good place to get your car towed.
The Conch Tour Train
- 24°33’32.4″N 81°48’24.1″W
Go to the north end of Duval street.
- 1-888-916-8687 (TOUR)
- Adult – 29.00USD (Buy online for a 3USD discount)
- 12 and under – Free
- 9:00 – 16:30 daily.
- Train tours departing at least every 30 minutes.
- Closed the last Saturday in October (Fantasy Fest)
- All tours are subject to change. Call to make sure there are no changes.
- This is not a hop-on, hop-off tour. There is one stop at a gift shop where you can eat and use the restroom.
- 24°32’47.3″N 81°47’50.9″W
It’s on the corner of Whitehead St. and South St.
- Always available.
- It’s free to visit and always open.
- It’s not really the southernmost part of the US, but it’s pretty close.