The State of Florida has often been described as a purple state, not as blue as California but not as red as Texas.
This is nonsense. The Sunshine State is as red as a tomato, and it has always been that way. Our governors and our Legislature have always defended the privileges of the white, the rich and the powerful, whether they be slave owners, land barons, railway moguls or the burgeoning tourist industry. Wealthy outsiders like Henry Flagler or Walt Disney were welcome in the state capitol or in the governor’s office. Newcomers who could be assimilated into the status quo, like Cuban exiles in Miami or white retirees in the Villages, were welcome with open arms. Racial minorities and others who dared to defy the powers that be were persecuted, legislated against, or branded as communists. The only thing that changed was the name of the ruling party, from Democrat to Republican. Nothing else has changed.
The political reality that is the State of Florida makes it depressing for those of us who are politically progressive, who believe in racial equality and economic justice. Living in Miami-Dade or Broward Counties for most of my life made things somewhat easier, as, in other red states, Florida’s cities are blue oases where racial minorities, LGBT people, intellectuals and workers of all colors migrate to further their ideas and livelihoods and often save their lives. Joined by progressives from other states and countries, Florida’s blue oases at time threaten to replace Tallahassee’s ruling class. This they would not permit. Though this is a 50-50 state, Republicans firmly control the governorship, both branches of the Legislature and the Supreme Court; and it is unlikely that things will change in the foreseeable future. Those of us who rightly oppose this state’s “Don’t Say Gay” and “Stop WOKE” bills ignore the fact that our legislators have spent as much time this year curtailing the powers of Florida’s blue cities and counties as they spent restricting the rights of Black, Brown and LGBT Floridians.
It ain’t easy being blue in a red state. But I have lived with it most of my life. As part of a Cuban family that sought political asylum during the ‘60s, I was a member of a minority group that defined itself in opposition to Cuba’s socialist revolution. Being conservative was part of my political DNA. Even so, I managed to outgrow my limitations, rebelled against the views of those around me, and became a politically progressive Democrat. Some would say that I am ashamed of my Cuban origins. This is not true. I am proud to be Cuban, but I am also proud to be gay; and as the rainbow sheep of my family, I must follow my own path. Other queer Cuban Americans, including some who I call friends, remain true to their political background, as members of the Log Cabin Republicans and other conservative groups. That is their choice.
All this begs another question. If Florida is so terrible, why have I chosen to live here for more than half a century? I could have moved to a blue state, like New York or California, where its citizens are more likely to share my views. But Florida is my home, where my family, my friends, and the three men who I chose to spend my life with (not at the same time) live or have lived. Florida is a beautiful state, with great scenery, wonderful wildlife, and optimal weather (barring a hurricane or two). This is something that Ron DeSantis and his minions in the Legislature cannot take away from me.
Jesse Monteagudo is a freelance writer and journalist. He has been an active member of South Florida's LGBT community for more than four decades and has served in various community organizations.