by Larry Smith
The connections between Florida and the Bahamas are more complex than some readers might imagine. In fact, Bahamians were among the first settlers of many South Florida communities - including Coconut Grove, Ft Lauderdale and Key West.
Growing up in Nassau in the 1960s, I clearly remember what an event it was to visit Miami and eat at the fabulous Burger King on Flagler Street. We stayed at cheap downtown hotels like the Patricia, the Alhambra or the Columbus, and shopped in mercantile palaces like Zayre, Walgreen's or Woolworth's.
I'm not sure what black Bahamians did in Florida during those days of cracker-barrel segregation. It was only in 1960 that sit-ins led by the Congress for Racial Equality made it possible for blacks to shop and eat in Burdines and other department stores. And it was not until the following year that a "white" hotel (the Biscayne Terrace) accepted black guests for the first time.
Miami was always the Bahamian metropolis. But since the 1980s, many white Bahamians at least, have preferred Ft Lauderdale to the overcrowded and increasingly Hispanic conurbation further south. Since I attended the University of Miami in the early 1970s, the area's growth has been explosive, but Miami is far more congested than the rest of South Florida.
Usually a Bahamian trip to Florida is planned for purely commercial reasons, with little time to stand and stare. But after settling our daughter into college last week, we decided to take a closer look at a community we really knew nothing about.