Although Key West had already become a tourist mecca in the 1930s, the post-war years and the 1950s brought a substantial increase in tourism throughout the Keys.
The fact that President harry Truman spent his vacations at the Key West Little White house no doubt added to the area’s popularity.
What was good enough for the president of the United States had to be good enough or many of its citizens. Slowly but steadily, more and more Americans began piling into their station wagons and making the long journey down Overseas Highway in search of sunshine, sea air and the other components of relaxing vacations.
Mom-and-pop motels, fishing lodges and campgrounds sprouted up to cater to their needs, as did restaurants, souvenir shops, and marinas.
During the 1950s Tennessee Williams, who had been living in key West for almost a decade, was influential in attracting to the city many gay artists, writers and musicians. Their presence increased throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and they were largely responsible for much of the artistic and architectural revitalization that took place during the 1980s.
Today, many of Key West’s liveliest art galleries, guest houses, restaurants and bars are owned and managed by gay people.
The 1959 Cuban Revolution, led by Fidel Castro, created chaos or Key West.
Fleeing the communist take-over of their country, thousands of Cuban refugees began pouring into the city. Although most of the immigrants moved up the coast to Miami, their arrival, and the immigration process they engendered, was to encumber Key West for years to come.
In 1980, a massive influx of Cubans arrived at Key West’s Truman Annex when President Castro allowed 125,000 people, many of them released prisoners, to leave from he Cuban port of Mariel.
These “Marielitos” as they were called, brought to Key West in a fleet of American-owned fishing and pleasure boats dubbed the Freedom Flotilla, for the most part moved to Miami, where an immigrant network was already in place, but once again their arrival created havoc for tranquil Key West.
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