Monday, February 25, 2008
We're moving north now, into the Florida panhandle, into cooler weather, away from high humidity and 88 degree days. But many impressions of Florida will remain unforgettable. The last several days we camped at Midway and awoke to hear a deep huff, huff, huff in the night and an answering huff, huff as alligators called to each other in a nearby channel. It's early in the mating season and the males are staking their territory out. I was relieved to learn that alligators eat only once a week.
We also took the Shark Valley tram down a 15 mile road, accompanied by a ranger-lecture, followed by a two hour drive through the nearby Loop Road. Here we could stop at any point to see alligators resting from the hot sun in murky Everglades waters, and occasional Great Blue Herons standing so still, as if they would be invisible if they didn't move. We learned that the Great Egrets, to us so easy to spot for their brilliant white color, appear as clouds to their prey, the little fishes. My favorite image is this one of the Great White Egret moving slowly into the darkening everglade, as if in a dream.
When we camped at the very southern most point of the Florida peninsula at Flamingo, facing the Florida Bay, we discovered a boat made of hardwood, most likely used by Cuban refugees who still take incredible risks to enter the US. Apparently the Immigration Service still follows "dry feet/wet feet" policies, returning illegal immigrants from Cuba only if they are intercepted in the water, and allowing them to stay if they have safely reached land.
I found an article summarizing Cuban immigration, including statistics from the 2000 Census. Most articles put the total Cuban immigration at 740,000 people from the 1960s to today, with an increase again in the 1990s.
With Castro stepping down, newspapers all over the country are full of articles calling for a closer rapprochment with Cuba, a lifting of the trade embargo and travel restructions, and a resumption of diplomatic relations, as we do with other socialist and Communistic countries. In the last Democratic debate, both Clinto and Obama favored such a move in stages; Michael Moore's must-see documentary Sicko highlights a visit to Cuba and the Cuban medical system, showing us what we cannot see for ourselves.
As we get closer to New Orleans, I'm thinking about the effects of Katrina and wondering what we will discover there. Katrina made an impact on Florida as well. We saw this at the Miami Metro Zoo where the Bengal and Siberian tiger exhibit was dedicated to a 12-year old girl who lost her life during Katrina. Katrina took the lives of 11 people here in Florida, and damages amounted to between 1-2 billion (source Accuweather). We saw this along the coast near Flamingo where park services have been cut back, water-damaged buildings left boarded up and unused, and debate continues now over how to restore this beautiful parkland, especially given the reality of continued hurricanes and the effects of global warming (see this USA Today article for some wonderful photos and the background on a 35-year restoration plan).
Sorry for the long post. Blame it on having access to internet. I still feel a sense of hope that effort and persistance can bring a better world. Make it a good week! Beth