It’s in all our newspaper, the Key West Citizen: Cuba and what will happen to Key West when it opens. How will it affect this little island that depends so heavily on tourism when the new “Oh Wow” place opens up.

I remember that day in 1956 when Batista was deposed and Fidel Castro took over. All the Cubans in Key West were parading in the streets, beeping horns and celebrating. And then it all went sour.

I remember in the early fifties when there was a car ferry that ran from Key West to Havana. I think it went every weekend, leaving Friday night and returning Monday morning. Mostly, It was to gamble, very popular in Batista’s time. My parent’s always talked about it, but never went.

Well, all that came to a halt, as Fidel turned to Russia and Communism, which all led to the Cuban Missile Crisis when I was a junior in High School in 1962. My family always took a Sunday drive around the boulevard and I remember the Marines dug foxholes in the sand on the beach. And here we were doing our normal Sunday outing and staring at all the fuss. It was surreal. I remember the military jets constantly flying there and back, the television showing missiles coming to Cuba from Russia, by ship.

Then there was the fiasco of the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Kennedy Assassination, and all the political turmoil after that.

So, here it is 2015 and Cuba is opening up and change is inevitable. Some think we’ll get bypassed if we don’t have the ferry here. Others think that having the ferry will clog the Overseas Highway, be a big expense to taxpayers here, and the tourists won’t stay, as Cuba will give them more bang for their buck.

So, how can Key West compete with Cuba? Of course, others think change may not come as quickly as thought. But change will come and we’d better think about how our community can thrive in it and maybe even capitalize on it.

I’m including photos of a couple of Cuban landmarks in Key West:


The San Carlos Institute was originally built at a different location in 1871 by Cuban exiles. It burned down in the fire of 1886 that almost destroyed the whole town. It was built at its present location in 1886, and completely restored and reopened in 1992.


The Cuban Club burned down in the 50’s and was rebuilt to original architecture and reopened on December 29, 1983. It was the place to be on Saturday night.


4 thoughts on “Cuba”

  1. Interesting thoughts, Joanne.
    Hadn’t thought about the load on the causeway, which isn’t exactly a speedway on a quiet day…wow! Interesting times.

  2. Another interesting piece and photos. Thanks, again, for your perspectives. We lived in Wyoming at the time of the Cuban missile crisis, Bay of Pigs, etc.–far removed from all of that. In so many ways it didn’t seem real. For you, on the other hand, it was on your very doorstep!

  3. Really enjoying your blog. Something new every week. Glad to hear that the acrostics are still on your schedule. Re changes to come – it will be a challenge to direct things in a positive direction for Key West. The forces involved are huge and the impact on the residents will be beyond control. Follow the money to see where the tide will flow.

  4. Joanne…you’re really on a roll! I’m ashamed to say I didn’t even think about how this would affect Key West as I knew none of the history. My gut reaction is NO Ferry–let it go from Miami. Private yachts can leave from Key West if they choose to. I would be concerned about the disruption to Key West on so many levels. I bet you didn’t know I was in charge!

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