Sunday, August 28, 2011

In the News: "Commemorating Those Lost Through Time"

A couple of people have forwarded an article in the New York Times National Section about obscure parts of the National Park Service. I realized that its been months since I posted anything, not that much has been happening either this summer, so now is probably as good a time to get into it.

  • Commemorating Those Lost Through Time

    22 hours ago ... The De Soto National Memorial in Bradenton, Fla., honors Hernando de Soto, a conquistador whose reputation has diminished in the years ...

In the article, my stomping grounds fairs fairly well:

Not every site offers a clearly heroic figure. The De Soto National Memorial in Bradenton, Fla., is named for a Spanish conquistador who is now regarded by some as a villain, blamed for destroying American-Indian civilizations throughout the Southeast.

"At the time the memorial was founded in 1948," Park Ranger Dan Stephens said, "de Soto was considered this romantic hero. He was looked at through rose-colored glasses. His reputation has taken a bit of tarnish since then."

Despite the memorial park's inconspicuous location at the end of a residential road in the small town south of Tampa Bay, it is one of the system's success stories, drawing almost 300,000 a year; kayak tours are booked months in advance.

Stunning views

Visitors enjoy stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico, a sprawling gumbo-limbo tree, and an annual re-creation of de Soto's landing on the park's shores (though historians believe the actual landing site is about 10 miles away).

In 1993, the Florida chapter of the American Indian Movement protested high schoolers playing the role of natives. As a result, the park has taken over the event and uses it to tell both sides of de Soto's impact. The Park Service now officially states that the memorial's mission is to preserve the "controversial story."

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