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Florida: Sunshine State
JOINED UNION: March 3, 1845
STATE BIRD: Mockingbird
STATE FLOWER: Orange Blossom
MEANING OF STATE NAME: Named on Easter 1513 by Ponce de Leon for Pascua Florida, meaning "flowery Easter"
1992 POPULATION: 13,487,621
RANK FOR POPULATION: 4
LAND AREA: 53,997 square miles
SIZE RANK: 22
ECONOMY: Citrus fruits, government, commercial fishing, tourism, electronics
HISTORY: Seminole Indians were living here when Ponce de Leon found it for Spain in 1513. The French settled at Fort Caroline in the 1560s but were killed off by the Spanish in 1565, during their establishment of America's oldest permanent city, St. Augustine. Briefly held by England, Florida remained under Spanish rule until ceded to the U.S. in 1819. War with the Seminole Indians in the early 1800s led to the Indians' removal to Oklahoma by mid-century. Seceding from
the Union in 1861, Florida was readmitted in 1868. Today, Florida hosts the Cape Canaveral space center and is the home for many retired people.
Situated just off the coast of Florida, Cuba in the 1950s was home to American businesses and catered to American tourists at its casinos. In 1959, when Fidel Castro ousted Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, things changed and a Communist dictatorship was installed. Many Cubans fled to America and most settled in Miami, the closest American city to their homeland. From 1959 through the 1980s, almost one million Cubans immigrated to America.
Known as Little Havana, after Cuba's capitol, the Cuban section of Miami is a center for immigrants and offers them a place for hot debates over how to oust Castro and return to their homeland, so close but out of reach.
In the late 1980s, Cuban style and music became popular in America through the television show "Miami Vice" and popular musical groups like the "Miami Sound Machine."
Florida: America's Launch Site
Florida is the launch site for America's space exploration program. Though there are two other US launch sites -- at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and at White Sands, New Mexico -- all human flights and planetary probes take off from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
For a number of years, the cape was called Cape Kennedy, after President John Kennedy. Then it was changed back to its old name, Cape Canaveral. Astronauts simply call it "The Cape," or "Kennedy," short for NASA's Kennedy Space Center, located there.
In addition to Cape Canaveral, Florida has a number of other attractions, including Disney World, the Everglades National Park, and the luxury hotels in Miami Beach.
The first European to explore Florida was Ponce de Leon, who came in 1513. In 1564 France established a colony on the St. Johns River, which Spain destroyed. The Spanish established St. Augustine in 1565. It is the oldest city in the United States.
In 1818, as an outcome of the Seminole War, Florida came under control of the United States.
Triggerfish: Don't Trigger that Spine!
You can't miss a triggerfish! It is very conspicuous because of its vivid shades of green, purple, and blue. But it got its name because of a peculiar mechanism in its set of three dorsal, or back, spines.
The front dorsal spine of the triggerfish can be locked upright by the second "trigger" spine behind it. As a triggerfish struggles, its rigid spine can inflict great damage on a predator. These spines can be released instantly by the fish pushing down its third spine.
Besides that weapon, the triggerfish's chisel-like teeth can bore holes in shells. The triggerfish is related to surgeonfish and is part of the fish order that includes the puffers.
The common triggerfish lives near the shore in tropical and subtropical waters, drifting as far north as Massachusetts. Others like living around Florida and the Bahamas, though some occasionally straggle northward.
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