This week, we welcome Chris Tucker’s contribution to the kingofconch.com. Chris’s personal blog can be found here.
The Conch republic is a society unto itself. Located in the city of Key West, Florida, this micro nation was formed as a simple protest. The Conch Republic seceded from the rest of the United States as a protest to a roadblock/inspection point back in 1982. The United States Border Patrol had set up this inspection point up to search for narcotics and illegal immigrants. In my research nothing was found of any importance in the vehicles that were searched. What happened after the Border Patrol had created this roadblock was a major traffic jam. There is only one way into the Keys by land and only one way out. Not only that, but it’s also a one lane road. So now you can see how much of a hassle it would be for local residents and people on vacation. The loss of monetary gain for the local economy was evident as well in the local business owner’s disgust of this unjust checkpoint.
The city council’s complaints were not listened to by the Federal Government. Attempts also to get an injunction against the roadblock was shot down in court. The mayor at the time Dennis Wardlow and the council; wanting to protest this unfair treatment officially declared “independence”. The council felt that since the federal government had erected an inspection point equivalent of a border station as they were a foreign nation, they might as well be one. Keys citizens have long been referred to as Conchs, so they took the name the Conch Republic. Their official motto is “We have seceded where others have failed”. So you can see their humor and play on words here. But more importantly it sums up their personal beliefs. This secession occurred on April 23, 1982 in Key West.
Conchs believe they have the right to enjoy the Keys without any outside interference, which most residents say is a state of mind, not just a location. The whole aura about the Keys or the Conch Republic is to “get away”. It’s an escape. Conchs enjoy themselves whether it is relaxing by the beach, fishing, or hanging out at a bar. The very people who live at the Conch Republic and travel there are mostly those who desire a simpler way of living, more laid back. Hence when they seceded from the US government it was light hearted, but there was seriousness to it as well. The Conchs hold their land in high regard.
The roadblock had frustrated and inconvenienced many residents. It also had slowed down tourism a lot. Most Conch Republic residents really didn’t like the fact their own country was taking actions against supposed drug smugglers and illegal immigrants without considering all the implications.
The Conch Republic is full of and has always attracted free-thinkers that constantly question authority, hence the fact that they want to get away, live somewhere else. To live out their days in peace from an overzealous state. The Conchs are decedents of Indians, pirates, and salvagers. So native people, travelers, and some less desirables are early ancestors of modern Conchs. Ernest Hemingway comes to mind as an individual representative of the Conch way of life. He was an American writer, journalist, and winner of a Pulitzer Prize. All through his childhood his family would spend winters in Key West (Conch Republic). Later on in life he went there to once again “get away”. He went to relax, write, and fish. Hemingway is a great American author who was a free-thinker. He wrote fiction and was critical of war and the military’s influence on society. There is a reoccurring theme in people involved with the Conch Republic. The common element of not really us vs. them, but Conchs want the government to mind it’s business and don’t just do whatever they want as is evident with the roadblock incident.
So I think what can be drawn from the citizens of this great nation is they are not lazy, drunken fisherman who waste away the days; but it is more profound than that. Some would dare to say that Conch residents have figured it out. Living the simple life and not worrying too much about work and trivial things. These modern day Conchs are business owners, fisherman, sailors, scuba divers, fathers, mothers, friends, and children. At first they might go to escape but in the process find themselves becoming closer to their families and the tropical environment. The Conch residents embody a Zen-like focus on relaxing and having a good time. But they also are not push overs and they can think for themselves. They want better for themselves. We saw this when they protested and declared independence in April of 1982. So as residents of the Conch Republic relax by the beach and cast out their line, if they are disturbed they can formulate their beliefs into action and aren’t afraid to demand their God given rights. The right to personal freedom and the pursuit thereof.