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When thinking about Florida, a variety of images may come to mind: pristine sandy beaches, palm trees and orange groves, exotic animals, tourists, and, of course, theme parks. Two driving factors have helped shape how the public views Florida: the tourist industry and the products grown or made in the state. Florida’s unique offerings have earned the state a part in the American dream — a dream in which millions of Americans have aspired to earn a living, vacation or retire in Florida. Likewise, immigrants have looked to Florida to achieve freedom or economic opportunity. As you will see, the image of Florida is intertwined with popular culture. Discover in this exhibit the making of Florida’s place in the popular imagination.

Land of Flowers

Florida's historical ties to Spain still reverberate today in popular culture. Architecture, hotel names and other things evoke the Spanish presence. St. Augustine has the unique distinction of being the first permanent European settlement in what is now the United States, founded in 1565 by the Spanish. But the state received its name even before that, from explorer Juan Ponce de Leon in 1513. Landing on Florida's east coast during the Spanish Feast of Flowers, or Pascua Florida, Ponce named the land La Florida. Even through its name, Florida conveys the idea of beauty and bounty.