Every few months, I get a chance to write something up on my hometown for Eater Miami. This round, I gathered my favorite eateries in Treasure Island. Read the complete story below.
When I pull up to the old ranch-style house in Kenneth City, Stevie Nicks greets me in the front yard.
Avery Moore — a songwriter who moved back to Florida from Oregon a few months back — is calling to her sand-colored pup from the doorway. I’ve followed her music over the last six years or so, starting with Hunter and Avery, a project she did with her older sister. The lyrics to Hunter and Avery’s first song, “Married in the Sea,” struck me then as vivid but simple. The arrangements were always frank, but ethereal. Then in 2015, Moore, with a guitar in hand, fronted an all-female three-piece — Broom Closet — with drummer Rachel Coderre and bassist Odessa Conner by her side. The threesome blazed a trail of Florida femme backyard goodness. No fucks were given. The music was rowdy and raw..
Will Kuncz, host of the Homemade Broadcast, invited me on to talk about my latest project: Hello Darlin' Records, a mobile record store.
Plant City-born and bred, they just don't make Florida girls like country singer Pam Tillis anymore. Daughter of famed country singer and songwriter, Mel Tillis, Pam rose to musical legend status in her own right.
Raised in Nashville, she first took the stage at the Grand Ole Opry at the age of 8. After a successful jug band career, she dropped out of University of Tennessee and began working at her father’s publishing company writing music. Her songs have been recorded by Gloria Gaynor, Don Ellis, and Chaka Khan to name just a few. Her own musical career took off after signing with Warner Brothers in the early 1980s. After 30 years, several CMA’s and a Grammy, Tillis released Come to Me and Come Lonely featuring Lorrie Morgan last year.
She spoke by phone about finding her Florida roots, how she started writing and what makes a “bitchin’” pair of boots. Read the interview in Creative Loafing Tampa here.
FROM CREATIVE LOAFING TAMPA: This music is, technically speaking, the peak in terms of musicianship and approach.
This is the kind of jazz my parents told me I should appreciate but never entirely did. It’s complex and rich and usually too smart for my lowbrow ears. But live, something clicked like a formula and I not only got “it,” but also really loved what I heard. These guys are the best of the best of the best. Corea is probably one of the top five pianists in the last 50 years, if not just forever in the history of the world. Weckl has played with everyone from Madonna to Robert Plant. I probably shouldn't try and list the people they’ve all played with. But I will say that Patitucci only happened to be available because his regular gig with Wayne Shorter is on hiatus.
In late 1597, five Franciscan friars were murdered and all missions burned to the ground near present day St. Catherines Island. The native war party allegedly hailed from the Guale chiefdom in that territory and was led by heir to the Guale paramount chiefdom, don Juan or “Juanillo.” Fray Pedro de Corpa of Tolómato had forbid don Juanillo from engaging in polygamy, which had been common practice in native chiefdoms before the missions had arrived. The violent response was blamed on a rejection of the friar’s request and interpreted as a rejection of Spanish intervention overall. Often called Juanillo’s Revolt, the rebellion suggests the friars had overstepped their boundaries by imposing monogamy to the Indian society that functioned through matrilineal inheritance. Polygamy and multiple unions were vital to power structures in native chiefdoms, and friars attack on the institution became problematic and ultimately led to their violent deaths. Though Juanillo is often described as an irrational hothead in this event, the revolt he is associated with was successful in changing future relations between adjacent chiefdoms and the Spanish; allowing Indians more freedom to maintain their own hierarchy and giving the Spanish a tribute wage labor system to support forces in St. Augustine.
Historian Shannon Dawdy traced the nature of she describes as “rogue colonialism,” and argues that “colonial designs often contain the seeds of their own destruction.” Ending the practice of polygamy was a central concern for the friars of the Franciscan missions, and the force by which they pushed this issue brought about their bloody and chaotic deaths. Or as Elizabeth F. Emends points out, a key reason for “opposition to polyamory is, somewhat paradoxically, the pervasive and potential failure of monogamy.”
While Spanish sources often contrast “loyal,” Timucua with more belligerent Guale neighbors to the north, relations between Spanish and the Indians in the northern Florida frontier remained relatively peaceful for over four decades until the uprising of 1597. Violence was an exceptional occurrence targeted at specific individuals for particular grievances. The Guale were a coastal Atlantic chiefdom, bound by the Ogeechee and Altamaha rivers, with 30-40 villages ruled by hereditary cacique. They spoke a Muskogean type of language, referred to in documentation as simply lengua de Guale, or tongue of Guale. People in Guale territory at this time lived a settled life characterized by a shift from hunting and gathering to one based on agriculture and an array of crops, fruits and domestic animals. The Guale were a matrilineal society of shifting horticulturalists, organized around centrally located permanent towns.
And at least on the frontier, the Guale influence on the Spanish was much greater than the Spanish influence on Guale. Subordinate-supported paramount chief hierarchies that worked through farming and foraging, providing elites with sustenance and luxury goods by tending chiefly cornfields, fish weirs, chiefly oysters, hickory nuts, acorns, building canoes, waging war against enemies.
The elite were able to reinforced their status and wealth by manipulating social, economic and political relationships to their benefit by controlling the flow of valued cultural items, monopolizing the labor of others and creating an ideology that justified the inequality amongst wealth and power distribution. Paramount chiefs had control of large-scale regions and had to travel extensively for the conduction of war, diplomacy, ritual and to participate in complex, rank-enhancing marriage alliances.
In promising their allegiance to Spanish crown, Indigenous Timucua, Mocama and Guale chiefs were able to annex a powerful ally in the Spanish garrison at St. Augustine. The entire economic system of Spanish Florida rested on voluntary integration of missionized chiefdoms into the exchange network that funneled surplus labor and foods towards St. Augustine, returning chiefdoms with Spanish goods and services. Europeans living in Spanish Florida became active participants in indigenous political dynamics, bolstering and reinforcing political power of traditional Indian leaders. Spanish newcomers had struggled to gather useful intelligence for survival and adapt without local experience. The strategic significance of Spanish La Florida ensured royal funding but required Spaniards to rely heavily upon Indians for human and natural resources. The mission system first under Jesuits (and later the Franciscans), offered a stabilizing alternative to direct military occupation in Native chiefdoms. But of the fifteen garrisons established in 1565-1568, only St. Augustine remained by 1587 with a skeletal crew of less than three-hundred soldiers to guard against potential attacks from the French, British and Indians. The Spanish crown did not intend to lose its hold on Florida, even though it meant additional, unprecedented financial strain on the royal treasury to maintain.
Because gold, silver or other natural resources of intrinsic wealth were not readily available in La Florida, nor was it as densely populated as the Aztecs, the territory was relegated to a marginal role within broader Spanish empire and eventually colonized primarily for its strategic value in protecting returning New World treasure fleets. Even with royal funding, Spanish colonists in Florida relied even more substantially on local Native American populations as a buffer against interruptions against external supply lines for garrisons. Caciques were readily able to, and endowed, to convert their agricultural or labor surpluses into symbolically important Spanish goods, caciques were able to position themselves to receive tribute from both the Spaniards and their own people. This reinforced wealth through ostentatious displays of wealth. Providing external support necessary to maintain chief’s authority, even in the face of near total demographic collapse later on. Native American labor and staple foods supported the Spanish garrison in exchange for Spanish goods and military protection. Thus, diverse local Indian chiefdoms assimilated into widespread and multi-ethnic colonial societies, centered within pseudo-autonomous jurisdiction of missions surrounding the port city of St. Augustine.
“Mission Santa Catalina de Guale, long considered the breadbasket of St. Augustine, provided the bulk of the corn used to supply that presidio.” Chiefdoms gained access to Spanish markets for labor and good as economy of Spanish Florida focused on the production of corn in Franciscan missions and St. Augustine. The regular purchase of surplus agricultural productive mission provinces was only part of the mechanism developed to ensure availability of staple foods in St. Augustine.
Blair, Pendleton and Francis argue that maize was the most significant export at that time and likely accounted for the extensive array of trade goods recovered from the Mission Santa Catalina cemetery. Among those goods found were a variety of handmade glass beads from Spain, Venice, the Netherlands, France, Bohemia, China and India. These beads suggest that the Guale were able to produce surplus maize crops in exchange for the luxury items. But moreover, the findings also point to the mission’s standing as a provincial capital and vital administrative center with trade routes immediately accessible along the coast. This could further point to the Francis and Kole thesis that argues the Guale Uprising of 1597 had more to do with internal tensions related to culturally valued physical objects, land, labor and power. And marriage, or polygamy as at the center. “The violence of 1597 highlighted degree to which natives struggled to adjust, repel, and adapt to challenges of Spanish rule.”
In Florida, Governor Domingo Martínez de Avendaño authorized the construction of five Franciscan missions in Guale territory without military presence. The friars that arrived in Florida in 1595 were not like any mission figures before or after, as their brand of Catholicism was more potent. Hailing from the Franciscan province in Castille, these friars, “boiled with the Spirit and devotion.” While Jesuits and Dominicans had favored a gradual approach to conversion, the Franciscans were much more confrontational. There are documented accounts of Fray Blas Rodriguéz threatening to whip certain caciques, a direct threat to native status systems. Fray Aunõn admitted and defended his use of a gag called a mordaza, on an Indian of supposedly low status who had been accused of blasphemy. More zealot than compassionate community resource, the friars belonged to a school of thought that stated fear of punishment was necessary and proper to use in Indian populations.
The Franciscan friars have been described as cultural facilitators between Pre-Columbian and colonial practice, which meant the destabilizing of a central force of power within Native life; plural unions.
In 1595, Governor Avendaño traveled to the recently established missions and took great ceremony to bow and kiss the hands of friars. These actions functioned as a way of bestowing them with status in front of Indians and the friars would later remark that other Governors (Canzo) did not show the same respect as Avendaño had. Those endowments might have emboldened the passionate friars into thinking they had more power to intervene in internal affairs, and “in ways that were without precedent.”
That same year, Avendaño enforced a tribute in allied territories of 25 pounds of maize per married man per year, given to St. Augustine. This tribute was a revolution in Spanish-Indian relations because it meant individual responsibility as opposed to communal contributions, which differed from native custom. The Governor knew that the tributes would not reach the levels he needed in the first year, but fully expected participation in the second year’s tribute. However, Governor Avendaño died shortly after that and Tolómato, the mission where the uprising would begin in 1597, did not pay tribute while the Guale and those in San Pedro did. As the friars began interfering with status systems in Tolómato and elsewhere, multiple accounts note how they tried to restrict movement of Indians between towns.
The letter describing the violence arrived on Florida Governor Méndez de Canzo’s desk in October of 1597, blaming don Juanillo.
Governor Canzo’s response to the uprising was swift, prolonged and effective in restoring Spanish control in chiefdoms. After hearing of the incident, the Governor rose from his sickbed in October of 1597 and lead the first expedition to the missions, burning the missions and their food stores but finding no Indians because they’d fled to the interior. The only missions untouched were Asao and Talaje, it should be noted that Asao’s presumed mico mayor would garner significant power in the wake of the rebellion. Spanish survivors suggested that the burning of churches and breaking of most sacred Franciscan symbols and killing defenseless friars was a violent rejection of Christianity and perhaps metaphysical connections with the devil. But the incident emphasizes the diversity of goals and interests found within the mission provinces and Indigenous communities, a theme of collision and overlap between natives and the Spanish arises.
In Tolómato, the friars supported Don Francisco as mico mayor, because he was allegedly more complaint with their orders. Even so, it appears Don Juan’s interaction with the friars in the summer of 1597 seemed to change relations within missions. Don Juan accompanied the friars to La Tama, with 30 Christian and pagan Indians, which might have led Juan to believe he curried more favor with the friars. The Spanish frontier was on the cusp of adding more than a dozen villages to their territory including: western Timucuans, Mocama, the mainlands of west of San Pedro and Indians of La Tama.
The Ibi, Timucua, Mayaca, Mosquitos and Tulufina had not previously sought an alliance with the Spanish. These chiefdoms had limited contact with the Spanish, and were not baptized Christians. Twenty-five caciques and cacicas visited St. Augustine to pay homage to Governor Canzo, seeking alliance with the Spanish and the gifts that accompanied it. Following the alliance, friars Chozas and Verascola went inland from Tolomato to La Tama, retreating only when warned that those people were hostile and that La Tama was heavily populated. This warning came only months after Tolomato had refused to pay tribute to the Spanish as ordered.
Lucas, of the seven young boys captured by Canzo and brought to St. Augustine, said Fray Rodriguéz was killed because the friar had tried to stop hechicerías and had prevented the people of Tupiqui from taking more than one wife. There was no other motive for the killings given by Lucas, who became the only Indian executed after obtaining a confession of his presence during the killings. Asked about the treatment of Ávila, he reiterated that the poor treatment was due to the same reasons Rodriguéz died, for being “wicked,” and interfering in the practice of polygamy. This narrative is repeated over and over, but it should not be interpreted as infidels of insatiable lust. Having many wives was a marker of higher status within these chiefdoms, these attitudes toward plural unions were not simply a desire to return to pre-monogamous Christianity.
Joseph Hall argues that, “Franciscans had already stacked ample tinder by attacking important Guale traditions and restricting converts movements among provinces and towns. Disputes over marriage and authority provided the incendiary spark.”
While some argue that revolts and rebellions akin to the Guale uprising, are often blamed on futile attempt by indigenous to return to tradition or halt the “juggernaut of Euro colonialism.” And revisionist and post-colonial approaches to Native American colonial histories emphasize rebellion as primary Native responses to Spanish brutality and oppression. Blair and Thomas argue, “the 1597 rebellion was neither anti-Spanish, nor even anti-Catholic, and it never aimed to expel the Spanish from Florida.” But abolishing polygamy in favor of monogamous marriages was one of the central missions of the Catholicism violently touted by the Spanish Inquisition that had begun in Castile in 1492. Previously, Spanish regions had practiced polygamy for centuries in Muslim and Sephardic Jewish cultures. Cohabitation, prostitution, and consensual sex between men and women was legal under Spanish law. Marriage consisted of a betrothal and formal church ceremony, the latter was pursued by few with any haste if at all.
In the sixteenth century, there was a dramatic shift in those attitudes and suddenly households became politicized spaces governed by Catholic authority. Friars and priests issued decrees on marriage, without being married themselves or having to submit that relationship to the confines of monogamy.
Native men with multiple spouses had more power through support and links across large potions of land by establishing households with multiple women. While men maintained power through matrilineal inheritance, some became female leaders or cacicas including Nombre de Dios and Aquera. Threatening this enterprise through the dissolution of polygamy threatened control of chiefdoms altogether.
As Sarah Pearsall points out, Mormons have long been associated with polygamy in America but there were numerous conflicts previous to the 19th century regarding plural unions that had nothing to do with Anglos. Polygamy was one of the Indian customs that priests regarded as highly reprehensible for baptized Christian Indians. “Their interference with the practice contributed to the 1597 revolt.”
The revolt of 1597 was a fifth column in the eyes of the Spanish and allied chiefdoms. Don Francisco participated in the 1597 revolt, despite being chosen mico mayor and supported by friars. Attack beaten off in San Pedro by Friar López and Spainards who “happened to be there after bringing supplies.” In testimony taken from Tolómato Indians, the friars were killed for “having prevented many wives.”
Spanish sources emphasized the unchanging lifelong sacramental marriage against what they saw as they equally entrenched lack of the institution by natives. The institution bears importance on social organization, shaping gender, status, rank and race, who was allowed to marry who and why. Domestic decisions held great power in early North American, people died over plural unions.
For the Spanish, plural unions meant anti-Christian attitudes, political subversion, and increased violence amongst Indians. For Natives, plural unions signaled labor organization, masculine power and authority, as well as political confederation. And therein lies the rub leading to revolt; polygamy had to be implicated because of the threat it posed to the institution of monogamy. In Guale and, large households with lots of laborers and children were higher in status generally. Having multiple wives was a native marker of high status. The conflict pitted “true Christians,” against Muslims, Jews, pagans, and apostates. The correct, practice of marriage was vital to Reformation projects in both the Protestant and Catholic churches. Previously, any violation of monogamy was considered a minor offense, rarely prosecuted under Spanish law. During the early modern period, historians such as Eukene Lacarra Lanz contend that “notable evolution in legal and moral consideration,” in attitudes towards marriage.
Internal foes took shape in poorly abiding participants, external enemies were those that dismissed the practice altogether. Especially in 15th and 16th century Spanish, polygamy became a way to identify untrustworthy and served as a theme in Spanish narratives of Native subversion. The story goes that native baptized Christians partaking in highly public sexual indulgence, including polygamy, were more likely to leave missions, destroy sacraments, and inflict violence against friars or priests. But marriage had hierarchal implications especially for women in the matrilineal society of localized chiefdoms. Linguistic slippage between wife and woman in the word mujer adds another layer of confusion in discerning what marriage meant to Natives versus the friars. The fact that Spanish marriage did not provide for divorce did not contend well with the long-standing tradition of plural unions.
Missionaries like Ávila were eager to broadcast their successes in aligning Indians to monogamy and Catholicism in their own narratives, and were quick to scapegoat blame when something went wrong.
Prolific evangelical author, Fray Luis Geronimo de Oré recounted the revolt and Ávila’s captivity in in Martyrs of Florida, published in 1619. By 1595, Oré had already authored four volumes on evangelical work in the Andes. A skilled linguist, those works included a dictionary and guide to Quechua and Aymara languages. In 1611, Oré was tasked with recruiting friars for Franciscan missions in La Florida. After many delays, Oré arrived in Florida in 1614 to inspect missions there but he soon left for Cuba. In 1616, he returned to Florida again and began gathering information for his next account. Interviewing witnesses, religious and otherwise, Oré also probably spoke with natives (as he had in Peru) but does not name anyone.
In writing this text, Oré is actively canonizing the sacrifices of the friars, highlighting the importance of continuing the Franciscan missions. In doing so, he must portray the martyrs in opposition to the natives or “infidels,” to secure the proper conclusion for his audience of evangelicals. Ávila was the only friar left alive after the revolt, the narrative takes place during Ávila’s 10-month imprisonment in Florida’s interior pueblo of Tulufina, home to the Salchiche chiefdom. Bearing the author’s motives in mind, this text can aide in understanding relationships between natives during the mission period and shed light on inter-chiefdom dynamics. Fray Ávila’s original captivity narrative was once housed at the Franciscan convent in Havana, where Oré likely accessed it but disappeared and has never been found.
Ávila notes that Corpa had publicly reprimanded Juanillo for breaking Christian law, the revolt occurred because the priest reprimanded the young man, demanding that since he was a Christian, he should behave as a Christian, and not like an infidel: and therefore, in accordance with Christian law, he should not have more than one wife, she being the one with whom he was already married.
“With the friar dead, the Indians began [once again] to exchange women, and to engage in their lascivious and immoral practices. They ordered that the head of the dead friar [Corpa] be placed on a pike and erected by the boat launch beside the river. And they ordered that two Indians carry the priest’s body into the woods and hide it so the Christians would not find it. That is why Fray Corpa’s body has never been found.” As for Fray Auñón, The Christian Indians then buried the body [of Fray Auñón] at the foot of a very high cross, which the friar himself had erected. And six years later, when the Spaniards returned to search for his bones, they found them at the foot of the cross, just as the Indians had told them. According to Oré, Father Rodriguéz was kept alive for two days in a cell before Indians struck him with a stone hatchet, which “spilled the friar’s brains.” The body was not buried, but left for vultures until allegedly taken into the woods by a “good old Christian man.”
When forces arrived at Francisco de Ávila’s house, the friar managed to briefly escape by hiding in the reeds, but was found and shot three times with arrows, and left for dead. Ávila’s account notes an Indian then approached him to take his blood-soaked habit but then donned the garment himself, leaving the friar naked and injured. But the Indians did not kill him and instead, took Ávila “in order to subject him to a far more cruel death, or else hold him captive so that he serve them, especially since they were already willing to leave him for dead among the reeds. They then bound his arms, and the Indian guards who carried him, they took the captive to the villages of the infidels.” Tulufina was two leagues from Ufalage, and six leagues across deep bogs and marshes. Dressed in paint to greet Ávila, the cacique of Ufalage told him, citing his negative comments about the inhabitants of Tulufina, “I want you to go to there, to that miserable land; there, they will give you exactly what you deserve.”
But Ávila stated that some of the Indians there said that no one who entered that bohío (council house) could not die. And he recalled hearing captors discuss using him to negotiate an exchange with Governor Canzo. nimal skin here is sign that you are to die. Tomorrow this sentence will be executed.”
Oré and Ávila make mention of how Tulufina’s boys would leave him near death, or would choke him; they did this because Ávila had on occasions whipped the boys when he was teaching them the Christian doctrine and how to read. Tulufina was not some unknown distant village, it was a highly populated pueblo. He had already spent time and would have known his captors well, despite failing to mention anyone in particular. Tied to a wooden pole that dripped with resin, the friar was about to be burned alive when a powerful Indian woman came and plead for his life on her behalf. Spanish soldiers [in St. Augustine] were holding her own son hostage, and declared that, “I must have this man in place of my son, for his is to have my son returned to me; if I spare him from death the governor will not order my son to be killed.”
In the end, they negotiated for a list of goods release of young heir to Tulufina chieftaincy and several other captives being held in St. Augustine.
Resolution of the conflict began after scouting by Escamacu and Cayagua, negotiations by a Guale chief sent to Tulufina, and the release of Ávila 1598 in exchange for goods, and the return of seven captives in St. Augustine. But Canzo did not relent, ordering rebel food stores raided in the chiefdoms after Ávila had been secured. This prompted Asao’s mico mayor don Domingo to make peace in 1599. The Guale cacique Espogache visted Governor Canzo in September 1599, in hopes of saving the fall maize harvest from raids in realigning the chiefdom with Spain. Peace came in January 1600 when caciques from Escamacu, Talapo, Talaj, Ufuro and San Pedro visited Canzo. The caciques told the Governor they were, “wild men and of little understanding,” and asked for his pardon in killing of friars. He accepted their pleas and asked that caciques communicate directly in the future if friars are being offensive.
Only Don Juan and his kinsmen remained at war with the Spaniards. As part of the peace, instructed caciques to build chapels in anticipation of more missionaries. The Governor had bargained with Asao’s cacique, mico mayor-elect Don Domingo, to bring Don Juan, Don Francisco and other rebels back to St. Augustine, alive or dead. Spaniards delivered presents to Asao allies and caciques of La Tama, whose cooperation was vital and they organized a war part of 500 natives. Laying siege to Yfusinique, the village where Don Juan had taken refuge, the plan was successful on its second try. Attackers lost eight men, and 56 were wounded. Don Juan, heir to Tolomato, and all of his kin, 24 rebels, were killed by Asao attacks on Yfusinque where they’d been in hiding. Women and children related to the rebels were forced to scalp Juanillo and his kin, and the scalps sent to St. Augustine as proof. As as a reward, Canzo suspended the maize tribute and later wrote the Crown asking that maize tribute be reduced to six ears of corn per married man per year for baptized Indians, which was approved. Clearing land in St. Augustine to assure town of year’s supply of maize in case situado did not arrive. In April of 1600, peace was officially restored during a conference where Salchiches caciques Espogache and Ytuchuco and principle men reconciled with the Spaniards.
A shift from per-capita tribute to labor service is at the heart of the new Spanish-Indian accommodation within superordinate-subordinate colonial relationship that lasts until the 1680s.
Peaceful relations under the labor tribute system or repartimiento brought individual responsibility to a larger governing entity becomes engrained with colonialism in chiefdoms.
The fallout from the uprising signaled a shift in the region’s labor system. Chiefdoms that had transitioned into a tribute system, not unlike a form of taxes, then moved into an exchange of man power or capital for wages from the Spanish. It was not a slave labor system, workers were paid a daily wage through their chiefs of trade goods equivalent to one real per workday and a daily ration of two and half pounds of corn. Using the wage labor system, hundreds of Indians drafted each year pushed corn production to average annual gross value of 349,766 reales or 43,722 pesos, equal to two-thirds the value of the yearly situado from Spain. Corn production near St. Augustine was at its highest during this point in Spanish Florida, due largely to the expanding mission system and repartimiento.
The tributary labor system transformed into a simple-contract system, lessening the need for intermediation between friars, the Spanish and caciques and eroding chiefly authority in mission provinces. Royal funds used to produce cheap corn for St. Augustine garrison were eventually used to purchase trade goods and rations for private farmers who sold corn at high prices to royal warehouses.
Despite the inherent flaws through, the Spanish Colonial repartimiento labor system, in both European and Indian sense, made caciques truly part of the Spanish crown and its seventeenth century empire. The Spanish Colonial strategy served to preserve these ancient social systems in a way unparalleled by other forms of European interaction. The exchange of goods and labor became the focus, as opposed to friar-ly enforcement of marital practices in long established native chiefdoms.
The Spanish needed the Indians in order to provide enough food for sparse St. Augustine garrison and the Indians desired the backing of the Spanish (and the goods that accompanied that support), as long as political structures were maintained to their benefit. It could be argued that the Guale Uprising of 1597 leads foundation of American capitalism. The Guale revolt can then be seen as a fifth column more akin to a radically conservative political party. In the face of Spanish colonialism, the abuses ascribed by primary documents by friars, and the harsh brand of Catholicism forced upon the people by the friars.
From "Born on the Fourth of July," an essay by Arielle Stevenson in upcoming Salt Creek Journal:
"Steps from the driving hum of cars, over asphalt in downtown St. Petersburg, towers a lone avocado tree. Traffic flies down Interstate-275’s Fifth Avenue South exit ramp, hugging the concrete starkness of Tropicana field, just feet from the tree’s current residence near Campbell Park. For more than half a century, this tree yields delicious and creamy fruit, year after year. It stands like a flag on the moon, and it might as well be considering how few know its story. To the passerby, it is just another tree in a city filled with avocado trees. Nearby, children playing on the jungle gym and practicing pee-wee football do not even take notice.
Mordecai Walker knows this tree’s story, because it is his story too. He planted the tree with his own hands in the 1950s. “That’s how I mark my spot,” said Walker. To be clear, these are “Florida avocados, not those small ones sold at the store.”
The trunk and branches that climb toward Florida’s sky are the sole remainder of the home Walker shared with his wife Anna and son Andrew for thirty years. Originally, the tree stood alongside the Walker’s 1940s four-bedroom and three-bath brick house at 1224 Fifth Avenue South. Then Interstate 275 came through Fifth Avenue South in the late 1970s, as interstates did across America at this time, demolishing everything in the name of eminent domain and progress. On the heels of the civil rights movement, the demolition of the Walkers’ St. Petersburg home exemplifies the institutionalized decimation of minority communities across the South. "
Original piece by Arielle Stevenson, "All it takes," with jazz accompaniment. Read at the Flamingo Bar in St. Petersburg, Fla. Part of Jack Kerouac October, 2017 celebration.
Growing up in Florida can feel like preparation for a Jeopardy appearance; a seemingly random cache of trivia is built right in. The circus community in Gibsonton. Jack Kerouac dying in St. Petersburg. Jim Morrison going to college. Beaches, wetlands, python nests, citrus rat groves, wild hogs. Outlaws have found their way to the Sunshine State, and snowbirds, too. That’s the strangeness of Florida.
Then there’s Florida, land of flowers: childhood memories of walking into the backyard, climbing up a citrus tree, and plucking a fresh piece of fruit.
Homegrown in Florida, a collection edited by writer, journalism professor and CL books columnist William McKeen, is all about growing up in the many shades of Florida’s ever-morphing personality.
“Though it doesn’t have the bedrock identity of Boston or New York, or the several-generations-back deeds to Iowa family farms, or the rugged vistas of Colorado, Florida has forged its own perverse chracter,” McKeen writes.
And it’s true. When I tell people I was born and raised in Florida, I always get a reaction, whether of horror or awe.
The stories in McKeen’s book (which include two of his own about growing up here) are written by Floridians, but not exclusively for Floridians. If you love the state, chances are you will love the book. If you don’t love it, pick up a copy and open your mind a little. There’s the gut-wrenching childhood tale from the Tampa Bay Times’ Jeff Klinkenberg. Former Creative Loafing political reporter and current USF professor Wayne Garcia writes about his Little League “career.” A selection from Florida novelist and former Tribune writer Tim Dorsey’s Florida Roadkill chronicles Dorsey’s serial-killer character Serge Storm. There are tales from Michael Connelly, Craig Pittman, Carl Hiaasen, Bill Maxwell and Zora Neale Hurston.
But Tom Petty’s story, from an interview with music journalist Paul Zollo for his book Conversations with Tom Petty, is my favorite.
Florida boys and girls (especially girls) have a very special place in Tom Petty’s music. With just three strums of “American Girl,” windows are rolled down, palms beat against the steering wheel and your car momentarily lifts off the asphalt. We take pride in his music and the place it came from.
Petty was born and raised in Gainesville, but before he became one of America’s most iconic rock musicians he met Elvis Presley at the courthouse in Inverness.
“I didn’t know a lot about Elvis Presley. He was known to me as a fellow who wiggled,” Petty remembers. Petty’s uncle Earl Jernigan worked on film crews in Florida and invited Petty to see the King on the set of Presley’s ninth film Follow That Dream.
“I’ve always thought that was a cosmic title,” Petty says.
The film was being shot on location at the courthouse building, and the crowd awaiting his arrival for shooting that day was teeming with teenage girls.
Petty watched as a line of white Cadillacs pulled up and men got out in mohair suits and pompadours. He kept asking his uncle which one of the men was Elvis.
“And then suddenly I go, ‘That’s Elvis.’
His description of the singer captures everything.
“At fifty yards, we were stunned by what this guy looked like. And he came walking right towards us. And his hair was so black, I remember that it shined blue when the sunlight hit it.”
Presley greeted Petty’s uncle and his nieces and nephews, including Petty. Witnessing Elvis firsthand, Petty decided the rock star had a good thing going on.
“I traded my Wham-O slingshot to this kid for a box of 45s, and in this box were so many Elvis records, and they were all the greatest ones.”
He was hooked on Elvis, hooked on rock and roll.
“And that’s what kicked off my love of music. That was the dream I followed, strangely enough.”
Homegrown in Florida, University Press of Florida, 2012, $24.95.
For this shoot, I collaborated with stylists Alessandro of PopUp Shop+Kitchen, Ameen Spade, and Jenique Hendrix. We setup inside Furnish Me Vintage (1246 Central Avenue) for the opening of St. Pete Records. Music by Local Muzik featuring Crown Marquiss and Betty DAWL. Video shot and edited by myself.
Fishnets and leather cowgirl boots, heavy dark eyes and primal vocals rattling with nostalgia and fuck-off beauty.
That was Exene Cervenka, vocalist of X. Cervenka met vocalist/bassist John Doe in Los Angeles and X was formed in 1977, a year after had Cervenka arrived from Florida. With Billy Zoom on guitar, and D.J. Bonebrake on drums, X inspired the first wave of American punk. Hear that? They started it, gave it a sound and a backbone and they are still living it to this very day.
X never stopped touring, never stopped recording, and never sold out.
For all, it means a lot of hustling as they continue to carve their own trajectory, one that continues to throw a massive middle finger at corporate culture. Cervenka spoke by phone about her early days in Florida, finding punk in Los Angeles, and how excited she is to play with the guys again. Read the full interview here.
From NYLON's Kristin Iverson: "Throughout all of Sunshine State though, the idiosyncrasies of Florida are never far from the surface; what becomes clear is that the heat, the fever inherent to the state, cannot be contained. Or, as Gerard told me recently over coffee, “It’s a place that’s constantly in flux, that’s constantly changing. In Florida, you have a sense that you’re surrounded by wilderness, creeping in from the sides.”
Read the entirety here.
"It should not make sense at all; coconut and green onions in a sweet pudding-like custard? Poured into cast-iron trays of half spheres and cooked over a massive open fire, the custards or “Khanom Krok,” in Thai, have become a sacred pilgrimage for those in the Tampa know. Located on the Palm River, the Thai temple (full name Wat Mongkolratanaram) offers a Sunday-only market of volunteer-made foods. Its Brigadoon-esque existence is a perfect example of how varied and diverse Tampa’s food scene truly is."
I'll be reading an excerpt from my essay featured in the forthcoming Salt Creek Journal.
By Arielle Stevenson
Wilbert “Slingshot,” Lee grew up as an orphan on his grandfather’s dirt farm outside Evergreen, Alabama. He got his nickname after wielding a large slingshot when he was just a small boy. On the five-mile hike required to attend class at the Jerusalem School, Slingshot passed through thick swamp to see “the hanging tree.” He recalled how the rope dangled like a dragline from a tree at the fork in the road and “If somebody commit a crime, they’d didn’t have time to talk, you know —and they just puts him up and pops his neck. I seen this rope going to school; just a fork in the road. It didn’t have no name.”
He dropped out of school at sixteen; he had only made it to the sixth grade. Evergreen in the rearview, Lee headed for a series of odd jobs along the Florida panhandle and Pensacola. There was the time he got a $35 fine and thirty days in jail for gambling, and a twenty-one-month sentence for accessory to automobile theft. Still in his twenties, Lee had learned the importance of getting along with the law. He married longtime girlfriend Ella Mae in 1961 after they learned she was expecting a child. The newlyweds lived in a Pensacola housing development known as a “zero apartment,” because “it had nothing it in it.”
Ella Mae suffered a miscarriage the next year and learned she could not have children of her own. They moved to Port St. Joe where Ella Mae said she knew people. The move seemed like a good idea to Lee, who had heard of Port St. Joe from a man who claimed, “there was good money to be made. . . .Money’d be growin’ on trees.”
The St. Joe Paper Company was the only one making money off the trees. Its factory sat on the bayside of U.S. 98, pouring rancid smoke into the black shanty-town quarters on the other side, where the Lees lived. He worked for a white man named Walter Durant, cooking pulp for a wood crew in Tallahassee. Later he loaded wood, worked cotton, and did odd jobs around Durant’s store. On July 31, 1963, Lee was a scrawny, hardworking, twenty-eight-year-old with asthma and a crooked finger from a car accident.
He and Ella Mae’s two-room wooden shack at 215 Avenue D sat on an unpaved street in the black shantytown. The space consisted of a combination living room-bedroom, kitchen and back porch. Without electricity, the house was lit by Coleman lanterns and meals were cooked over a gas stove.
Before July 31, 1963, Wilbert Lee had never met Freddie Pitts. Lee was hosting a party in the “Quarters,” and knew Pitts only as “one of the soldiers around the house.” Pitts knew Lee only as “Slingshot.” Twenty-eight days later, the two men sat side-by-side as they were sentenced to die.
This is an excerpt from Into the Sunlight: Murder and Justice in the Florida Panhandle, the story of Florida's 1963 capital punishment case, Pitts-Lee v. Florida.
The entrance to the little Shangri-Las declares in arched metal lettering, “Driftwood.”
In one of the county’s oldest neighborhoods, black racers slither through thick ferns and bromeliads. Spanish moss drips like garland, catching peaks of twilight sun through the canopy. Bat houses are attached to the towering oaks, installed over the years to control mosquitoes. Night herons hunt on the coastlines of Big Bayou, leading out into Tampa Bay. Butterflies emerge from the lush green landscape, completing a fairy tale scene. Bound by 24th Avenue Southeast and Driftwood Road South, between Florida Avenue South and Beach Drive Southeast, Driftwood is one of the oldest settlements in Pinellas County, Fla.
Only 49 homes make up the neighborhood, most of which have been in the same families for generations. Houses rarely reach the market, selling almost wholly through word of mouth. Driftwood has a reputation for housing unconventional personalities; bohemians, artists and academics. During Prohibition, Driftwood served as an outpost for smuggling booze.
Amongst the many magnates in-residence was Helen Gandy O’Brien, daughter of entrepreneur and bridge builder George S. “Gidge” Gandy Junior. Exclusive is an understatement when it comes to Driftwood. This place remains a secret garden that welcomes few to its precious real estate. Winding brick roads, which the city has begged to pave and widen, remain intact. The heavily-laced tree canopy, which keep Driftwood cool from the oppressive Florida heat, drive utility companies mad with tree-trimming fervor.
Mordecai Walker, a 92-year-old retired educator, never expected to live in Driftwood amongst the founding families he and his father worked tirelessly for in his early years. In the most densely populated county in Florida, Walker was able to purchase his three-bedroom, three-bathroom for $67,000 in 1980. On nearly half an acre, Walker’s property is flush with mango and banana trees, the ground covered in carefully constructed gardens. Just steps from the Bay, his home is now valued at nearly $500,000. Born on the Fourth of July, 1924, Walker leads the neighborhood Independence Day parade every year. He’s proud of his country, his city, and all they’ve built together. This country and city did not make it easy for him though. And it was Walker’s own tireless education, discipline, a little bit of good fortunate that landed him in this paradise.
A TREE GROWS IN SUGAR HILL
Steps from the driving hum of cars over asphalt in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, towers a lone avocado tree. Traffic flies down Interstate-275’s Fifth Avenue South exit ramp, hugging the concrete starkness of Tropicana field, just feet from the tree’s current residence near Campbell Park. For more than half a century, this tree yields delicious and creamy fruit year after year. It stands like a flag on the moon, and it might as well be considering how few know its story. To the passerby, it is just another tree in a city filled with avocado trees. Nearby, children playing on the jungle gym and practicing pee-wee football do not even take notice.
Mordecai Walker knows this tree’s story, because it is his story too. He planted the tree with his own hands in the 1950s.
“That’s how I mark my spot,” said Walker. To be clear, these are “Florida avocados, not those small ones sold at the store.”
The trunk and branches that climb toward Florida’s sky are the sole remainder of the home Walker shared with his wife Anna and son Andrew for thirty years. Originally, the tree stood alongside the Walker’s 1940s four bedroom and three-bath brick house at 1224 Fifth Avenue South. Then Interstate 275 came through Fifth Avenue South in the late 1970s, as interstates did across America at this time, demolishing everything in the name of expediency and progress. On the heels of the civil rights movement, the demolition of the Walker’s St. Petersburg home exemplifies the institutionalized decimation of minority communities across the south.
Fifth Avenue South was dubbed “Sugar Hill,” because it housed St. Petersburg’s elite or middle-class black community. In the surrounding Gas Plant District and Methodist Town, the majority of black families lived at or below the poverty line. Deteriorating homes, most beyond repair, meant a need for relocation. Most, including the city’s NAACP chapter, agreed. The distinction of “blighted,” meant families were entitled to a buy-out by the city. Walker’s home at this time was hardly in shambles by comparison. However, he and others in St. Petersburg’s black community postponed repairs in anticipation of the Interstate and new homes elsewhere. The Interstate would arrive promised, but relocation remained an abstraction for many.
Walker’s education and economic status emboldened him to be less patient with the process others were subjected to. He would not be stuck in the endless purgatory of bureaucracy. Insulted with the city’s initial offer on he and Anna’s home, Walker became a real estate agent and negotiated a fair price and an additional $15,000. His story remains distinct in how he triumphed economically and culturally to become a middle class black man in the south. At the same time, Mordecai Walker’s story is universal in the racism he confronted daily and the loss of his family’s home and larger community.
This is an excerpt from Born on the Fourth of July, an essay, coming to the Salt Creek Chronicle in 2017.
"The LOVE edition of True Stories was, not surprisingly, at times sad, beautiful, funny and, well, just weird. Arielle Stevenson's story, of what it's like to live with her boyfriend, and her ex-boyfriend, hit on all four. Have a listen to Stevenson's story from the Feb. 8 show at St. Pete's Iberian Rooster."-Lisa Kirchner