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Thursday 13th June
Florida USA Information - Page 2
The first Native American villages are dated at around 5000 BC. Florida's Native Americans continued to live their traditional way of life until the first Europeans landed in the early sixteenth century.

In 1513 Juan Ponce de Leon claimed Florida for Spain. The British began to move into Florida in the early eighteenth century. After the Seven Years' War, in 1763, Spain gave Florida to Britain in exchange for Havana (Cuba). In 1783 Florida was returned to Spain.

The original Native American population was largely killed off by the invading Spanish, English and Americans. Tribes arriving from the west, known as Seminoles, replaced them. Between 1817 and 1855 there were various wars between the Native Americans and the colonists.

In 1821 Spain sold Florida to the United States and in 1845, Florida became the twenty-seventh State of the USA. (The state Capital is Tallahassee)

In 1830 large numbers of colonists began to arrive in Florida, doubling the population in ten years. Although the Native Americans resisted strongly they were finally defeated and all but a few were deported from Florida.

In the Civil War Florida fought with the South and was controlled by Union troops for ten years after the North's victory. In the 1880s the development of the railways led to the growth of tourism in the state.

Agriculture is very important to Florida's economy. Citrus fruit (oranges, tangerines grapefruit) grown in areas such as Lake County is mainly processed into juice and concentrates. Other crops include melons, peanuts, various vegetables, sugarcane, maize, tobacco and cotton. From time to time the fruit and vegetable crops are hit by sudden frosts. Florida's liability to hurricanes and tornadoes damages agriculture as much as the rest of industry. Dairy farming is important in counties like Gilchrist. Cattle and pigs are also farmed and horses are reared in Marion County.

Forestry is an important industry. Large areas of Florida are covered with forests of pines and cypresses which are used for timber and paper. Earlier in this century the State was famous for its cedar wood used in making pencils.

With such a long coastline Florida obviously benefits from a strong fishing industry. Significant catches are made of mackerel, mullet and shellfish. The Gulf coast of the State was once famous for its sponge fishermen and the town of Tarpon Springs had more than two hundred sponge fishing boats crewed by emigrants from Greece.

Minerals such as titanium and zircon are mined. Other important resources are limestone and phosphates.

In 1958 NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, began operating at Cape Canaveral. The facilities at the Cape grew to become the John F Kennedy Space Centre. All of America's exploration flights into space, including the landings on the moon have been launched from here. The presence of the Centre has led to aircraft and electronics manufacturing becoming an important sector of the State's economy.

The strength of the State's economy and its rapid development has enabled Miami to become a major international finance centre.

Throughout the last century tourism has been a key element in Florida's success. Orlando is the biggest holiday resort in the world: among the many theme parks are Walt Disney World (including the EPCOT Center), Universal Studios, Sea World and Wet'N Wild.

The arrival of the railways played an important part in starting Florida's success as a tourist destination. Transport continues to play a vital part in the State's economy. The airports are most important for the arrival of tourists but Florida's sea ports such as Miami, Jacksonville, and Tampa are heavily involved in the very successful Caribbean cruise liner business. Efficient and speedy transport is also essential for the State's fruit and vegetable industries.

Florida has many famous museums, often containing the art collections of wealthy residents.

The Dali Museum at St Petersburg holds the world's most comprehensive collection of the works by Salvador Dali.

The John and Mable Ringling Museum in Sarasota, founded by the famous circus owner, has a magnificent collection of European art from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. It includes five paintings by Rubens and others by Cranach, Veronese and Van Dyke.

Many famous writers have lived in Florida, the most famous probably being Ernest Hemingway. Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams are among the others who have lived in the State.

Florida's many lakes and rivers provide lots of opportunities for freshwater fishing, but it is most famous for its deep-sea sport fishing for species such as the marlin.

Scuba diving and snorkelling are very popular along the coral reefs at the south eastern corner of the State. Other water-sports such as surfing and water-skiing are also available.

Professional teams and college competitions in all the main US sports are enthusiastically supported.

The State's professional baseball team, based in Miami, is called the Florida Marlins. Because of Florida's mild winter weather many of the famous baseball teams from the northern states spend their pre-season training camps there from February.

There are two professional basketball teams: Miami Heat and Orlando Magic.

Perhaps the best known professional sports team in Florida is the Miami Dolphins who have been one of the USA's most successful American football teams in recent years. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the state's second professional team and the most famous university teams are the Hurricanes (Miami), the Gators (University of Florida) and the Seminoles (Florida State).

Association football (soccer) is also popular in Florida and famous British stars such as George Best and Rodney Marsh have played there. Orlando was one of the centres when the World Cup Finals took place in America.

Ice hockey is also played in Florida by the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Daytona Beach has for many years been a centre for motor sport. In the 1920s and 30s races took place on the flat, hard sand of the beach itself and many famous drivers made attempts there on world speed records. Racing now takes place at Daytona International Speedway.

One unusual sport popular in Florida is Jai Alai which is related to Pelota, played in Spain.

The national holidays of the USA, such as Independence Day and Thanksgiving are perhaps the only festivals celebrated across the State.

There are, however, many local festivals, often reflecting the origins of those who have emigrated to Florida over the years. Miami, for example, has Cuban, Bahamian, Hispanic and Reggae festivals.

Florida's biggest single holiday event is the annual Spring Break, when thousands of college students from all over the USA come for sunshine and relaxation in the weeks before their summer exam term begins.

News from the USA is available from Newslink.

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