The Florida Keys, the Keys, are a kind of semi-tropical paradise. Especially for the middle-class American from the north of the country who dreams of leaving behind the routine of winter cold and snow. Yes, the Keys are that place where the middle-class executive can forget his tie to spend the day sailing in a turquoise sea. Or fishing the marlin in its transparent waters while cooling the body with mojitos, cubalibres and beers. Of course this existential dream of life relaxed under the sun in bathing suit and t-shirt exists. And in the United States it’s called Florida.
Although after spending a few days touring this rosary of islands in the southern end of the USA, a somewhat sweet aftertaste is inevitable on the palate. Every year that passes the pressure of real estate is greater and cement is eaten little by little to nature. Although having a home here forces its owners to play with the fury of hurricanes and floods that regularly ravage this rosary of islands. And also to deal with the iguanas that will invade the garden. After all, they were here before and they like this.
When the first Spanish explorers reached the coast of Florida in the sixteenth century, Indian tribes occupied the peninsula and its surrounding islands. No one knows exactly who was the first European to tread the Keys. But with the exploration of the American continent and the increase of the commerce the islands appeared in the nautical maps. The chain of islands plagued by treacherous coral reefs were finally called Cayos, meaning “small islands.” In 1763 the Spaniards ceded Florida to the British who returned it to Spain in 1783 to keep it out of the hands of the United States. But in 1821 all of Florida, including this necklace of islands, officially became US territory.
In the early twentieth century traveling between many of the Keys was only possible by boat. Until Henry Morrison Flagler dreamed of extending the railroad from the east coast of Florida to Key West, Key West. His dream came true in 1912 after years of extreme physical difficulties for engineers and workers. But a hurricane in 1935 destroyed the railroad track that was replaced by the overseas highway in 1938 which is the present one, although enlarged and modernized. Now more than 40 bridges connect the Keys to the mainland for 126 kilometers. It is one of the most scenic routes in the United States, although it is increasingly difficult to see the sea between so much new construction.
With all this it is clear that the best way to know the Florida Keys is to do it by car. Already on the US-1 motorway we will leave to our left the area of Coral Gables, Key Biscayne and the south of the city of Miami. The tolls are cheap, so do not hesitate to go down the toll highway to get to Florida City. It is the last city before reaching the first of the keys: Cayo Largo. The narrow two-lane road runs between mangroves, low forest and much, much traffic during a monotonous 40 km. Until the left appears the sea and the first of the 42 bridges that connect the more than 100 islands and islets that make up the Keys. To take into account the limitations of speed and that the police controls are constant.