Although we may immediately think of Disney World as one of the “must go-to attractions” in Florida, it has not always been there. It is a relatively new addition to one of the oldest U.S. states.

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How has tourism managed to engrain this association within our minds? And how does this affect Florida’s identity?

The current boom of our time for Florida is tourism. Tourism in this beautiful state was initiated by Henry Flagler who built the coastal railroad along the South of Florida. Up until this time, the south of Florida had not been explored.

The construction of these railroads laid down the path for visitors (who just kept on coming!). This led to the real estate boom and the growth of the land. Skyscrapers, apartment buildings and hotels were now being built to accomodate these visitors, to this new foreign part of the state. The beautiful sunshine and coastline attracted tourists from the 1890s onwards following the railroad construction.

Theme parks were first introduced into Florida in the 1930s: Cypress Gardens and Silver Springs.

It wasn’t until after WWII that tourism really got going. This was largely due to the establishment of Disney World in 1971.

Did you know that Florida actually has a large brew of cultures that make up the state? Do these people think of their state as being represented by Disney World?

For example, if we compared Federation square to Disney World, both are major tourist attractions. However the difference between the peoples of these two places is that Melbourne’s economy does not revolve around Federation square. Meanwhile, Florida’s number one industry is tourism.

So although Disney World may not represent the people, it is undeniably linked to the state. It is what makes Florida, Florida.

People go here to relax and enjoy time with the family. Furthermore, the large mix of cultures means that the states’ identity will almost always be contested so the debate around icons and identity will continue to be contested.

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