In Pre-Columbian times Key West was inhabited by the Calusa people. The first European to visit was Juan Ponce de León in 1521. As Florida became a Spanish territory. Cayo Hueso (Spanish pronunciation: ˈkaʝoˈ weso) is the original Spanish name for the island of Key West. Spanish-speaking people today also use the term Cayo Hueso when referring to Key West. It literally means "bone key" and it is said that the island was littered with bones.
Many of the residents of Key West were immigrants from the Bahamas, known as Conchs (pronounced 'conks'), who arrived in increasing numbers after 1830. In the 20th century many residents of Key West started referring to themselves as "Conchs", and the term is now generally applied to all residents of Key West. Some residents use the term "Conch" (or, alternatively, "Saltwater Conch") to refer to a person born in Key West, while the term "Freshwater Conch" refers to a resident not born in Key West but who has lived in Key West for seven years or more. However, the true original meaning of Conch applies only to someone with European ancestry who immigrated from the Bahamas. It is said that when a baby was born, the family would put a conch shell on a pole in front of their home.
In 1982 the city of Key West briefly declared its "independence" as the Conch Republic in a protest over a United States Border Patrol blockade. This blockade was set up on U.S. 1, where the northern end of the Overseas Highway meets the mainland at Florida City. The blockade was in response to the Mariel Boatlift. A traffic jam of 17 miles ensued while the Border Patrol stopped every car leaving the Keys, supposedly searching for illegal immigrants attempting to enter the mainland United States. This paralyzed the Florida Keys which rely heavily on the tourism industry. Merchandise representing the Conch Republic are still popular souvenirs for visitors to Key West, and the Conch Republic Independence Celebration including parades and parties is celebrated every April 23.
Key West is the southernmost city in the United States and is one of the top tourist destinations in this country. The island of Key West is the second oldest city in the state of Florida and comes complete with a rich and colorful history. Located just 150 miles south of Miami and 90 miles north of Havana, Key West appears to be the ultimate picture of paradise, but looks can be deceiving as every little town harbors its own little secrets and Key West is no different.
Formally known as the Isle of Bones, the Old Town section of Key West has everything from graveyards that give up their dead during the hurricanes to the original Elvira, but these are just some of the creepier tales from America's southern most city. Key West is also home to many haunted hotels, restaurants, and bars which add to the local flavor.
This little town is a mere 2 mile by 4 mile island with a very sordid past rich with tales of island pirate lore, voodoo curses, and black magic rituals and comes complete with its own notorious hauntings. Key West residents embrace their supernatural entities like any other resident on the island. You can take a "ghost tour" and learn about these spirits, or even better stay at a haunted hotel and experience their ghostly presence first hand!
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