The Story of the Conch Republic
Where on earth is the Conch Republic?
Drive past Skeeter's Last Chance Saloon on US 1 in Florida City on your way to the Keys, and you just entered another country--well, sort of. That country is the Independent Northernmost Territories of the Conch Republic.
Citizens Proudly Display the Flag
Don't worry. You won't have to show your passport, but that wasn't always the case. In fact, at one time there was a roadbloack at this very spot, and people had to show proper documentation or they weren't allowed to pass.
The Now-Infamous Roadblock
In a sort of a Berlin Airlift, Eastern Airlines began a brisk business ferrying passengers who wanted to avoid the troubles on the ground back and forth between Miami and Key West.
The Reaction of Keys Residents
Being the good citizens they were, they looked first to the courts for relief, filing an injunction with the Federal Court in Miami, asking the government to take down the roadblock. Key West Mayor Dennis Wardlow headed a three-man delegation to Miami where their case was presented before the court. After thoughtful deliberations which painstakingly considered all the issue's legal complexities, the court told them to buzz off.
The Last Straw
This one-page document referred to historic Bahamians known as "Conchs" who'd rather eat conchs than live under the King's tryanny. Then the document stated plain as day "That's our flag. It has a conch on it. We secede from the United States." Further down in the document came wording to the effect that the secession was with some humor, but also with some anger.
This Means War
The Great Hope of the Post-War Era
The Last Chance
So, the Republic's borders ran from Skeeter's all the way down to Key West.
A Most Clever Political Strategy
The Coming of Civil Unrest
It seems some of the Northern Territories back in 2008 got thoroughly ticked off with Key West and declared their independence from that capital city, establishing in the process the Independent Northernmost Territories of the Conch Republic, complete with its own flag.
Its borders are said to run from Skeeter's up in Florida City down to Mile Marker 71. As far as I know, there is no DMZ between the two countries. To show they mean business, rumor had it they were going to sever ties with Key West by destroying a replica of the seven-mile bridge.
I'm not sure what the squabble was all about, but it might have had something to do with Key Largo wanting to have their own Conch Republic festival without having to pay some sort of fee to people in Key West. This article from the Key West Citizen may shed light on the topic
In any case, it seems a shame to split up this off-beat little Republic. Here's hoping they can inject a generous amount of humor into the mix and resolve the issue to everyone's satisfation.
As far as us American tourists are concerned, civil unrest or not, I hear we're welcome in either country. No visa or passport needed. Tourists other than Americans are certainly welcome, too. But you might need a passport and visa.For the most complete information on the subject of the Conch Republic, check its official web site.
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