Key West: Bahama Village { 20 images } Created 14 Dec 2012

Key West: Bahama Village

Take a stroll through Key West and you might notice a few things-free roaming chickens, bicycle rentals, boisterous t-shirt shops, and a general aura that any well-practiced and reliable drunk could be enraptured by, it is quite easy to do. Yet, underneath the tourist destinations there is a lifestyle that dates back nearly 150 years, on the edges of seclusion just blocks from the infamous Duval Street. A small, tightly knit community where nearly everyone knows each other, or at the very least can be politely recognize with the simple phrase, “heya cuz”.

Welcome to Bahama Village, although it has not always been so named. The moniker was not officially adapted until 1988, before then the area was referred to by far less genial terms, such as jungle or black town. It is where a majority of the descendants of Bahamian slaves where sectioned off and allowed to hold residence in a so-called separate but equal community within the state of Florida, which is no stranger to the segregation of Jim Crow laws of old. Schools, hospitals, restaurants, and other various spots were to remain strictly sectioned off, preventing intermingling among the races, although some, such as Hemingway, had a tendency to ignore such preposterous acts of civilized society, actively immersing in the culture of the area, ripe with boxing matches, churches, chickens, cats, brothels, fishing and all sorts of colorful characters. It is an area suitable for a laid back lifestyle that only can be envisioned while appreciating a poetic sunrise and a bottle of rum, followed by lobster benedict at the Blue Heaven, one of many hang outs of old offering all sorts of entertainment, from whiskey to women, billiards to boxing in days long past, although not completely forgotten.

Over the years, the village has garnished a bad reputation that it is looking to shake, encouraging the tourist traffic and the exponential swipes of a visa. There are several plans in motion to make improvements upon the neighborhood, with the encouragement of future business and the renovation of the classic Bahamian styled homes of the area. Although, this gentrification comes with a dark undercurrent, as many of the residents of the area are of a lower working class and may not be able to afford the increase of property tax as the value of the area increases.

Maintaining a balance is crucial for the area, a balance between the lifestyle; a balance between the history of the neighborhood and the economic source of its future.
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