Key West has been a popular tourist destination for over seventy years, and visitors are struck by its distinctive sense of lace and by its sense of a lingering past. Various slogans call attention to its remote island location-100 miles south of mainland Florida, but only 90 miles north of Cuba-and emphasize its geographic and cultural separation from modern America. Tourism boosters call it "America's Southernmost City," "Margaritaville," "The Last Resort," and "the Conch Republic," and each label promises a place apart from the rest of the nation. The constant use of the words "escape" and "getaway" in tourism ads shows that many travelers seek a temporary retreat from modern society, and Key West's name now carries this meaning. The island offers the idea of a getaway in time as well as space, as its quaint, nostalgic built environment provides a sense of traveling back into the past. But the romantic images presented to tourists hide dramatic changes in Key West's environmental orientation and give a false sense of a community frozen in time. When the seaport was converted into a vacation destination in the 1930s, the economy shifted from commerce and production to tourism and consumption. Key West was reinvented as a getaway, which required a reshaping of the town's popular history.
Barnett, William C.
"Inventing the Conch Republic: The Creation of Key West as an Escape from Modern America,"
Florida Historical Quarterly: Vol. 88:
2, Article 3.
Available at: https://stars.library.ucf.edu/fhq/vol88/iss2/3