Florida’s name comes from the Spanish word for flowery. Spanish conquistador Ponce de Leon gave it the name on April 2nd, 1513 in honor of the day he landed there, Pascua Florida, or 'Flowery Easter'. Over the next 400 years the peninsula remained in Spanish control though often only tenuously. The first European colony in this new world, Spanish Pensacola, was established here in 1559. However this city, Pensacola, was abandoned just three years later and not repopulated until the late 17th century. In subsequent years brittle control on the peninsula was maintained through a policy of converting the local Native American population to Catholicism. The British held claim to the territory through the Peace of Paris from 1763 until their defeat at the hands of American revolutionary forces. Transferred again to Spanish control in 1783 it was finally ceded to the United States in 1819 in exchange for U.S. renouncement of claims on Texas. Florida became the 27th state on March 3, 1845. Florida seceded from the union at the outbreak of the Civil War and was reinstated on June 25th, 1868. Florida is the southern most of the American states and at its most southern point, Key West, it is a mere 60 miles from the island nation of Cuba.
Florida was the least populous state in the union until about the middle of the last century when immigrants from Rust Belt states found themselves attracted to the pleasant climate and thousands of miles of beaches. Today those same qualities attract upwards of 60 million visitors a year. The revenue from tourism allows for no state income tax. The aerospace industry is also important to the state’s economy having been drawn there by the establishment of the U.S. Kennedy Space Center in the 1960’s. Demographically, Florida has the highest percentage of elderly in the nation, as well as the highest percentage of Cubans. A highly contentious swing state, Florida came to the forefront of American politics in the 2000 election when its Supreme Court was charged with ruling on the disposition of the state election results. Once settled, the state cast its electoral votes for George W. Bush over Democratic opponent Al Gore.