History of Florida/Florida and the American Dream, 1945-present

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Map of Florida Regions with Cities

Florida and the American Dream, 1945-Present[edit]

Introduction[edit]

After World War II, Florida evolved from a small, mostly white southeastern state into a multicultural hub of world culture and is home to one of America's most vibrant and influential cities: Miami. During this progression into present day, major elements of modern society developed to benefit the growing populations and many large institutions that were founded to prevent post-war depression. The return of soldiers from World War II intensified demands for housing in Florida; however, it resulted in the development of suburbs, urbanization, and the expansion of business and enterprises. Florida's urbanization and city growth attracted the arrival of Cuban refugees and provided Cubans with an opportunity to prosper economically and socially. However, Florida's large coastline provided the state with great successes but also several internal and external failures that counteracted positive development. Florida's location may have its downfalls but it has encouraged the development of space industry in the United States. Florida recovered from World War II and engaged in a period of economic optimism, multiculturalism, and discovery in order to achieve the American Dream.


2000 Presidential Election Controversy[edit]

The 2000 Presidential Election was one of the most controversial elections in United States History, because of the closeness between Republican leader George W. Bush and Democrat leader Al Gore, some calling it, “The worst election in American history”. In one of the most tightly contested presidential elections ever, Bush ended up winning Florida’s 25 electoral district by only 537 votes, and winning the election 271-266 in electoral votes. The controversy around the counting procedure was immense. Al Gore initially won the election, but after overseas absentee votes came in, this allowed Bush take the lead and win. A proportion of the voting was by punch cards, where votes had to push through a cut out hole beside the candidate of their choice. This created hanging chads, where the card was not fully pushed, and the votes did not count even though the voter’s intent was there. This was a major national issue at the time. The amount of media stories about the main issues of the election (Crime, Education) had a sharp decline because of the media coverage regarding the Florida’s results and controversy.

The topic of conducting recounts in counties with close vote counts between Gore and Bush was discussed, but this decision to include recounts is made by Florida’s Secretary of State. Katherine Harris, a Republican who was holding that position, did not accept many recounts in areas that were known to have more left wing voters, ultimately helping Bush seal the victory.

In Palm Beach County, there was issues over how their ballot was set up, misleading some voters into voting for Reform Party candidate Pat Bachanan instead of Al Gore. Comparing presidential election results from 1996, Buchanan number of votes received (3,407) in 2000 is an outlier. With an election this close, is it impossible to know how many of those votes were intended to be casted for Gore. Datavote (the tabulating machine that was used to count the punch cards) also had higher levels of ballots that were marked twice where the candidates’ names covered over two pages. This created a spoiled ballot in the system, with confused voters.

Some counties did have the precinct tabulation, which was a voting system that warned the voter before they casted their ballot if it was spoiled. This allowed voters a second chance on correcting their ballot if they did not realize that they had marked the ballot twice by accident. This tabulation process made for far less ambiguous ballots, and creating over 70,000 uncounted votes that were intended for Gore, and less than 25,000 for Bush. If the whole state of Florida used the precinct system, and gave the votes warning, both of those numbers could have gone down drastically. The results of this election procedure was a disaster for Florida. Over 57,000 votes who casted a ballot on Election Day had their intentions miscounted. This ultimately should have had a different result, with Gore having an election win taken away from him. After this election, Florida made precinct tabulation mandatory, and scrapped the punch voting process leaving no more hanging chads in the future.

Urban and Suburban American Dreams[edit]

Homeownership in Florida was a consistent federal issue pre-dating World War II. However, the rapid population growth following 1945 intensified the issue of homeownership. From 1950 to 1985, Florida's population grew by approximately 8 million. Florida's population growth created demand for the urbanization of land, encouraging land to be used more effectively. In this period, neighbourhoods in and around Florida's major cities grew as a result of the Federal Housing Administration and the National Housing Acts.

National Housing Acts[edit]

In 1934, the United States Congress formed the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). At the end of World War II, the FHA managed home financing and successfully reduced mortgage payments to less than 10%. The FHA supported the development of buildings without excessive government spending. In 1943, the National Resources Planning Board constructed outlines for cities to replace urban slums.

Homeownership in the United States.
A 2008 census of Homeownership rates in the United States dating from 1960. Notice the significant rise from the postwar period and the sudden drop in the 1980s.

By 1945, America had a national housing shortage. Due to fears of postwar economic depression and to alleviate America's housing shortage, the National Housing Act (NHA) was passed in 1949. The policy intended to eliminate housing shortages, clear slums, and improve the welfare and security of the nation by providing suitable living accommodations for American families. However, the NHA led to the uprooting and relocation of poor families in order to build expensive, elegant condos for middle and upper-class Americans. The NHA failed to provide impoverished Americans with suitable living accommodations. The Housing Act of 1954 attempted to confront the inequality created by the previous Housing Act; however, many families were still displaced or discriminated against.

The Federal Housing Acts were unable to improve the housing shortages due to Florida's rapid population growth. In 1985, Florida passed the Growth Management Act (GMA), which required the state to manage its growth in order to protect local housing policies and urbanization accordingly. The state government was expected to provide more affordable housing and prevent an urban sprawl to protect the environment. Urban limitations restricted the growth among specific regions in Florida while some unoccupied land was urbanized. As a result, housing prices increased and negatively affected residents living in major Florida cities.

Miami, Florida[edit]

Miami was dramatically affected by the changes made from the Federal Housing Acts, along with the widespread emergence of real estate in the twentieth century. In the 1950s, real estate companies marketed property in Florida as a "piece of paradise." Florida's real estate success led to rising housing prices for many decades to come. In Miami, suburban building was symbolic of the American dream. In 1947, Congress passed and act that allowed landlords to raise rents by 15% which led to harsh conditions for tenants. As a result of rising rent, demand for home construction increased in Southern Florida as many "rent refugees" flooded inland looking for affordable housing. After 1947, Southern Florida had the highest home building rates in the country.

Celebration, Florida[edit]

A Downtown view of Celebration, Florida.

The town of Celebration, Florida is a community that was built in the 1990s by the Walt Disney Company and is a significant example of urban planning in the United States. The development was undertaken by Disney Board architects Robert A.M. Stern and Jacqueline Robertson. The layout included a central downtown, multi-family apartments, restaurants, shops, services, and a single-family suburb. In 1994, Celebration was available for residents and was expected to achieve a population of 12,000. Celebration's association with Disney has given the town national attention and has made it a popular tourist destination. Although the community also lacks local government, the town's character and appealing architecture was a popular approach in marketing urban communities in the last two decades.

During its production, the community was advertised across America in the hope that Celebration would be a racially diverse town. To prevent discrimination, a lottery was held for homes in Celebration to give American's equal opportunity to obtain a home. However, a 2000 census found that whites were over-represented in Celebration as 88% of the 2,376 residents were white. Despite Disney's attempts to create an ideal example of American dream living, its residents were jeopardized by Florida's history of suburban segregation.

Disney World[edit]

Walt Disney World.

Open in October 1971, Disney World as inspired by Walt Disney's imagination, became one of Florida's largest tourist attractions. From this, Orlando like many other cities during this period, grew rapidly and became the center of American ideals. Disney World was designed to mimic the ideal American society. In fact, Disney World functions much like a city, with many commonly found city structures; the main entry way of “Main Street, U.S.A,” is complete with a railroad station, a city hall, and a variety of shops and stores. During its initial construction stage and within the first ten years of operation, Disney World generated $6.6 billion in wealth to Florida's economy. This impact was felt in all parts of the state, primarily in terms of increased tourist volume, the creation of specific facilities and the hiring of service staff. In the first two years following its official open, Walt Disney World drew over 20 million visitors and had employed over 13,000 workers.

Service Operations[edit]

Disney World attempts to promote a front-stage view to the patrons by suppressing backstage information from public awareness. Front-stage workers are mostly young, white, college-age, well-groomed, polite, obedient workers and give the younger population an opportunity to work for the American Dream. The consistency of providing the American image for guests is crucial to the daily operations of service while demonstrating the ideological needs of people to enjoy their atmosphere and not being exposed to the high degree of labour being done. It is the image of enjoyable family experiences that contribute to how typical Americans were feeling in the postwar period, wanting a return to normalcy along with a higher quality of life.

Disney World simultaneously mirrors and contradicts the American economic system. It favours free enterprise everywhere except in its own parks. Disney World controls what will be sold, what services will be provided, when the trains will run, what employees wear, and how employees behave and act. Disney World manufactures experiences and creates images of realities for their visitors, greatly influencing perceptions of idealism in American culture.

Cuban Miami[edit]

Cuban Refugees Arriving into Florida, 1959-1980.

Between 1959 and 1985, approximately 500,000 Cuban refugees arrived in Miami, Florida. Cubans fled to Florida to avoid Fidel Castro’s Cuban revolution which invoked a socio-economic system that nationalized industry and agriculture. In December of 1960, the federal government established the Cuban Refugee Emergency Center in Miami in order to cope with the influx of refugees. While most financial aid came from the U.S federal government, Florida’s State Department of Public Welfare along with Miami’s Jewish Family and Children’s Services located housing, jobs, and basic food supplies for refugees.

The Golden Exiles[edit]

The first wave of refugees were known as the Golden Exiles as it consisted of the Cuban elite. The Golden Exiles were highly educated, had entrepreneurial experience, and a strong work ethic which helped revamp Miami’s business sector. By 1977, there were more Cuban-owned businesses in Miami than the total of Miami businesses in 1959. Many Cuban professionals remained in Miami because the University of Miami offered certificate programs for Cuban teachers and administration. The University of Miami medical school also offered Cuban physicians an examination that allowed them to practise in Florida. While many Golden Exiles opened successful businesses in Miami, some were forced into menial jobs as custodians or parking valets in Florida’s hotel tourism trade.

Operation Pedro Pan[edit]

Through Operation Pedro Pan, approximately 14,048 children arrived in Miami between 1960 and 1962. Operation Pedro Pan was a response to rumours that Castro planned to send Cuban children to the Soviet Union to be indoctrinated. The American government assisted Cuban parents in sending their children to Miami shelters and foster homes. While it was intended that the children be reunited with family, many children did not reunite with their family for 20 years.

The Mariel Boatlift[edit]

Cuban refugees arriving in Florida during the Mariel Boatlift, 1980.

Cubans arrived into Miami steadily between 1970 and 1979 however, between April and September of 1980, approximately 124,000 unexpected refugees arrived on the South coast of Florida through the Mariel Boatlift. In April of 1980, Castro allowed his subjects to leave Cuba which resulted in an unexpected mass migration to Miami. Those that arrived during the Mariel Boatlift were stigmatized as “Marielitos” and unwelcome. Unlike prior waves of refugees to South Florida, the Marielitos were largely comprised of those Castro found "undesirable:" patients in mental institutions and prisoners. Approximately 50% of the Mariel Boatlift refugees remained in Miami which burdened Florida State government because by 1980, the federal government ended preferential treatment of Cubans. Thus, the Miami community was left to care for the incoming refugees. On May 6th, 1980, President Jimmy Carter declared a state of emergency in Florida and tent cities were built in the Orange Bowl Stadium to accommodate the thousands of homeless Cubans. The Marielitos were stigmatized as criminals and cited as a reason for an influx of crime in Florida during the 1980s.

The Cultures of Little Havana[edit]

Miami was an ideal destination for refugees because the Southern Florida peninsula is only 98 miles from Cuba and shares a climate similar to Cuba. Miami’s large Hispanic population attracted Cubans because English fluency was not necessary to succeed in Miami. Cuban refugees settled in the Riverside neighbourhood across from the Miami River and the Riverside community was renamed Little Havana as it began to resemble a Latin American urban landscape. Little Havana mirrored Cuba’s culture prior to Castro’s regime as the community celebrated traditional singers Celia Cruz and Olga Guillot. Traditional Cuban singers like Cruz and Guillot influenced Cuban-American singers like Gloria Estefan to dominate the late 20th century American music industry. With the arrival of Cubans, Miami became increasingly more bilingual which encouraged Miami’s services to be conducted in Spanish, offering Spanish-speaking community members employment opportunities. Miami’s bilingualism also attracted international businesses and by the 1990s, 330 multinational companies, 29 binational chambers of commerce, and 49 consulates were established in Miami.

Cuban Political Influence[edit]

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Cuban-American Congress Member

Cuban-Miami’s business-focus encourages the state to support Republicanism as the Party tends to support capitalist interests. Republicanism dominance began after the Democratic failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion. After the invasion, Cuban-Miami was disappointed in President John F. Kennedy and the Democratic Party because their invasion was a devastating defeat for anti-Castro Cubans. Since the Bay of Pigs, Republicans prospered in the region and continuously defend Cuban embargoes and anti-Castro policy. In 1988, the community elected Ileana Ros-Lehtinen as the first Cuban American into the House of Representatives. Ros-Lehtinen is notorious for her anti-Castro politics and was engaged in controversy after she called for Fidel Castro’s assassination.

Cuban and African-American Relations[edit]

The Cuban community’s integration into Florida fostered further tensions among Miami’s African-American community. African-Americans were frustrated that Cubans received more governmental aid than African-Americans even though the refugees were not citizens. African-Americans were segregated while Cubans were integrated into Miami’s business and social scene which created more competition in the labour markets according to African-Americans. Racial tensions fuelled social unrest which led to social upheaval in the 1980s.

The American Space Industry[edit]

Apollo 11 Launch from The Kennedy Space Centre. July 16, 1969

Early involvement with space and increasing development in infrastructure has led Florida to become a world leader in space exploration and the space industry. Florida ranks among the top five states for aerospace employment at 132,000 in 2011. Housing more than 11,000 aerospace companies, Florida is the modern world’s cradle for space exploration and development. This reputation is fueled by Space Florida’s Customer Assistance Service Program, which provides operations funding and employment support for commercial aerospace exploration and research companies such as SpaceX. Space Florida is an aerospace economic development agency designed to assist in various aspects of commercialized aerospace efforts to commercial companies involved with aerospace and the space industry.

Modernization[edit]

Paired with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) 2011 budget of $2 billion for renovation and modernization of the Kennedy Space Centre, Florida aims to continue its efforts as a birthplace for hundreds of space exploration initiatives. This renovation sets to offer state of the art facilities and support for public companies to create and operate their own space exploration programs without the heavy individual investment in structures, technology and maintenance that is required in this industry. Lowering this barrier to entry yields an increase in company's research and development budgets, and allows those who are interested to more affordably enter the aerospace industry.


Florida's Space Coast

The Space Coast[edit]

Florida is home to the Kennedy Space Center and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on its “Space Coast", on the east coast of Florida, near the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The Kennedy Space Centre was named after the United States' president of the time, John F. Kennedy, who set a goal on May 25, 1961, to land on the moon and return to Earth by the end of the decade. The center is responsible for the preparation of vehicles for launch, for final astronaut training, for preparation for emergency revere, and for the destruction of aborting manned vehicles. This location has been the launching location of all manned NASA space shuttle launches since its inception in 1962. Famous for the launch of the first moon landing mission, Apollo 11, the Kennedy Space Centre is home to many rocket launches due mostly to its modern infrastructure and ideal location.

Apollo 11[edit]

On the 16th of July 1969 over 750,000 people watched the launch of Apollo 11 take place and 9:32 am. The crew consisted of Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins. One spectator said that it was the beginning of a new era in the life of man. Many stood in awe at the sight before them, some applauded, but many knew that change was about to happen. Just four days later on July 20th, 1969, close to 530 million people watched on television as Neil Armstrong became the first man to take a step on the moon, stating "...one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” With only a short amount of time to stay on the moon, just twelve hours, Aldrin and Armstrong were to spend two hours and forty minutes on the surface, collecting dirt and rock samples to bring back for analysis. On July 24, 1969 at 12:50 p.m. Apollo 11 safely landed in the Pacific Ocean.

In 2014 a panel of discussion was held for employees at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre where the Apollo 11 crew spoke of their mission and the time following. The crew all stated what they thought was the key to their success which was as follows: meeting a challenge even though many thought it could not be done; the budget, the deadline and the quality of work NASA put in; smart, young people dedicated to the team. As well, all three crewmembers traveled around the globe following the mission and Collins reported that the reaction of some people was unexpected. He stated “The thing that really surprised me was that everywhere we went people didn't say, 'Well you Americans finally did it…they said, 'We did it.' All of us together, we did it. It was a wonderful sensation.”

Expansion[edit]

Following President John F. Kennedy’s goal of landing man on the moon, increased expansion of launch operations was required. The Cape Canaveral Air Force Station was chosen by the United States government for its favourable weather and isolation from the public for the launching of spacecraft. Transportation to and from the Cape is achieved via road, railway and water, and its close proximity to the equator allows for accurate launch planning through a more predictable rotation of the earth. This station is used by both government and commercial companies to launch and test spacecraft for research and exploration. Companies such as Boeing, SpaceX, Sierra Nevada Corporation, and Blue Origin utilize the facility to launch and test their projects.

Space Industry Influence[edit]

Florida’s main infrastructure has been moulded around the space industry. In 1958, the Brevard Engineering College was opened in Melbourne to provide classes for NASA workers. This college later became the Florida Institute of Technology in the late 1960s. Later, due to modified Florida legislature, the state’s education system evolved to heavily incorporate sciences and mathematics into the curriculum from kindergarten to grade 12. The Space Research Foundation was founded in 1983 to effectively collect and combine both university and college resources to better interact with the booming aerospace industry. This resulted in a 150% increase in Florida engineers who are trained for employment in aerospace efforts. Further development of legislation allowed for the passing of aggressive tax incentive packages to increase Florida’s ability to both attract and maintain aerospace business. Taking advantage of facility re-usability, Florida is able to apply its existing infrastructure in a modern context to increase the financial feasibility of projects in the future. Working closely with NASA and the Air Force, Space Florida is able to establish efficient operations on its “Space Coast” to provide world-class assistance to potential future customers in the space industry. Florida's space industry has also sparked space tourism in the state and space-buffs from all over the world continue to visit Florida for its relevance to modern space exploration.

The Drug Trade[edit]

The trade route for drug exports into Miami, Florida.

In the 1980s, Florida's drug-trade grew exponentially, creating a major drug-issue in the United States. Florida's close proximity to Cuba, Columbia, and the Caribbean has made Florida an ideal location for the importation and exportation of drugs into the United States. Also, Florida's large coastline made Florida an attractive location for drug-trafficking because it is difficult for border police to patrol the entire coast. The inability to patrol the entire coast makes importation and exportation of cocaine easier for drug-traffickers. By the beginning of 1981, federal officials estimated that 70% of all cocaine and marijuana smuggled into the United States passed through the Miami area. Due to a high-concentration of drugs, Miami was labeled the drug capital of cocaine and marijuana in the 1980s.

Cocaine Cowboys[edit]

The 2006 documentary, Cocaine Cowboys, illustrates Miami's participation in the cocaine drug-trade during the 1970s and 1980s. The film follows Jon Roberts and Mickey Munday, two notorious Miami drug-traffickers. The film reflects Miami's violence, cocaine trafficking and the influence of Pablo Escobar's Colombian Medellín Cartel in Florida.

Major Players in Cocaine[edit]

Griselda Blanco, also known as the Black Widow, Godmother, or Queen Pin, was a notorious and violent cocaine distributor in Colombia and Miami during the 1970s and 1980s. In the 1970s, Blanco turned Miami into the narcotics and cocaine capital of America through establishing trafficking-routes between Colombia and the US. Blanco was killed in a drive-by shooting in 2012.

The Medellin Cartel in Colombia was one of the most famous cartels. In a series of systematic and extremely violent moves, the cartel and its enigmatic leader Pablo Escobar became a legitimate force in the economy and politics of Colombia. Notoriously violent, Escobar is best known for assassinating a presidential candidate and organizing the explosion of a passenger airliner mid-flight. Escobar also wielded an unprecedented amount of political sway in Colombia (in part due to his penchant of murdering any political figure who spoke out against him) which allowed him incredible protection from the police, rival cartels and international organizations seeking his arrest. In 1989, Forbes Magazine valued Escobar’s worth at $2.5 billion, making him the seventh richest man in the world. Escobar was killed in 1993 as part of an international effort that relied on assistance from Escobar's direct competitor, the Cali Cartel. In 1991, the Cali Cartel produced 70% of the cocaine reaching U.S. soil and 80% of all cocaine exported from Colombia. They have been referred to as the most sophisticated gang in the world by using political influence and legitimate business ventures.

Andean Cocaine

Cocaine's Impact on Florida's Economy[edit]

Florida’s drug-trade attracts Colombian and Caribbean traffickers into the state which as a result, encourages foreign drug-traffickers to spend money within the state. However, Florida’s drug-trade has contributed to money laundering of cocaine-related income. Money laundering was centered in Miami likely due to the ineffectiveness of Florida’s police. As a result of the drug-trade, Florida spends more on federal law enforcement expenditures related to cocaine-related crime than any other American state. As a result of the cocaine industry, the state of Florida's GDP nearly doubled.

Miami police logo

Miami Vice[edit]

In the 1970s, concern over immorality arose with the increased use of cocaine and the growing debate surrounding decriminalization of some illicit substances. The vice unit, which was a police division that repressed moral crimes like drug-use, was expected to eliminate Florida's drug-use and diminish Florida's "vices." However, corruption in the police force allowed large quantities of cocaine to be distributed in Florida. There have been numerous cases in which Florida police forces have accepted bribes that allowed the continuation of drug-trafficking. The Miami River Cops Case was a notorious case of police corruption in which 200 of 1060 Miami police officers were investigated. It was discovered that Miami police officers raided a boat that contained millions of dollars worth of cocaine and stole the cocaine while the drug-traffickers jumped overboard.

Forms of Prevention[edit]

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the American government worked actively to end the importation and exportation of drugs into Florida. In the 1990's, the United States doubled the size of its border patrol, and then doubled its border patrol again in the 2000s. The United States incarcerated more criminals for drug-related offences than any other nation. In 1989, there were 85,525 arrests for possession and trafficking illicit substance and drug paraphernalia in the United States. However, the United State's prison system was unable to accommodate the influx of inmates. Due to the limited number of prison beds, some inmates were released prior to their release date in order to make room for a new inmate. In 1988, the average Florida prisoner served only 41% of their sentence, compared to 33% in 1989. Lenient sentences were problematic because they did not deter Florida's drug trade.