Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Old Real Key West

Letters to the Editor, 12/7/2004

A Conch laments Key West's demise

I, as so many other Conchs, have left Key West because the only thing valued there is money. No longer is there community, no longer is there faith, and, in particular, no longer is there environmental awareness.

I, over the years, have listened to transplants, who have risen to control the city, insult and demean Conchs as being uneducated, incestuous and of little value to the world. However, it was our values and creativity that created Key West, its lifestyle and environment that so many of you flocked to.

This is one of those highly critical letters to the editor that bemoans the loss of "Key West as it once was". As I've mentioned before, the phrase that always comes to mind is Thomas Wolfe's "You Can't Go Home Again". Things change. Money talks.

The writer is wrong in some of what he says. There is community, there is faith, and there is environmental awareness. Community, as everywhere else, is divided into separate "communities of shared interest", and those communities intersect with each other, sometimes positively and sometimes in conflict. There are many communities of faith in Key West, represented by the many churches, synagogues, and other faith gatherings in the community. Many people demonstrate their environmental awareness and concern by supporting organizations like Reef Relief, Audubon Society, the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, and many similar organizations.

The writer is also correct in some of what he says. Money, particular tourist money, is a powerful force influencing what happens in Key West, and that sometimes overwhelms the community. Money is also the driving force behind residential development and conversion. Those are the things behind the efforts underway to either validate or redefine "the way things are". Too many fortunes, incomes, and salaries are tied up in providing goods and services to the millions of tourists who arrive here all the year round by land, air and sea. This community -- commercial landlords, business owners, and employees -- are all in favor of more, more, more tourists. From Mallory Square to to Margaritaville, it's the cruise ship tourists. In mid-Duval St., gay tourism is king (or is that queen?). Upper Duval is where the guest house and hotel tourists shop and 'recreate'.

It seems to me that the Conchs who have left Key West, for whatever reason, no longer have the vested interests to impose such judgments on those who elected to remain. It is for us who remain, whether transplants or Conchs, to see that Key West remains a community, doesn't turn into a total resort, Disney World South. We, some of us, are trying.

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