State celebrates 500th anniversary of the first European exploration of Florida

Published: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 at 16:04 PM.

The Native American tribes that had lived here for thousands of years were wiped out by violence and by inadvertently introducing infections unknown in the Americas The decimation of the population created an opening for a group of Creeks to escape intertribal conflicts in what is now present-day Alabama to form the basis of the Seminole tribe.

The Seminoles, who had taken refuge in Florida, fought early American settlers in a series of wars in the 19th century — and the tribe was never defeated.

When the Spanish left Florida, they didn't go far, remaining in the Spanish islands in the West Indies and in South and Central America.

That proximity set up Florida for being influenced in coming years in its culture, economics and environment, influences that extend into modern times.

Those influences included:

The rise in the Florida cigar industry in the 19th century in Tampa and other cities, including Bartow.

The late 20th century expansion of sugar cane farming in the Everglades after the U.S. embargoed trade with communist Cuba. The existence of those farms have created an environmental and political obstacle to restoring the famed "River of Grass."



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