Florida is home to immigrants from across Latin America and the Caribbean. In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15), this series of blog posts features music brought to Florida from throughout the Hispanic world.
Mariachi Jalisco is an aptly named band, as Mariachi music originated in the Mexican state of Jalisco. This recording of the band comes from the Metro-Dade Folk Arts Survey conducted in 1986 by folklorists Tina Bucuvalas, Nancy Nusz, and Laurie Sommers in order to identify folk arts and folk artists for the 34th Annual Florida Folk Festival.
Members of Mariachi Jalisco performing at the Historical Museum of Southern Florida during the Traditions Festival, Miami, 1986
Here, Mariachi Jalisco perform the song “La Llorona (The Weeping Woman),” a tune based on the legendary tale of a mother condemned to roam the earth for eternity looking in vain for her children that she drowned in life.
As with any curious archivist or librarian, I wanted to add context. We knew the song was recorded on the Main Stage at the Florida Folk Festival on May 26, 2006, and that it was attributed to Murray Palmetto’s South Florida Swamp Show. But whose imagination came up with such a song? Thanks to Stan Geberer, a great patron of the Archives, who happened to be on stage that night playing harmonica for this very song, I was able to track down the composer: Boomslang Swampsinger.
Boomslang Swampsinger cordially agreed to an interview and was happy to provide some background on the song and the musicians involved. Beware, there is a fully developed mythology here, as difficult to keep straight as the Greek gods, but I will attempt to keep it as brief and coherent as possible.
Murray Palmetto’s South Florida Swamp Show is a one man show featuring Boomslang Swampsinger, star and producer of what he describes as his “Swamp Opera,” which consists of a mixture of swamp music and stories. Whenever Murray Palmetto (Boomslang Swampsinger) appears he plays with The Peters Road Swamp-Blues Band that specializes in “acoustic roadhouse country music about bars in the Everglades.”
The band for this particular performance consisted of Jake Vanderplate (mandolin), Bret Hartcrane (banjo, vocals), Mark Harris (bass, flute, vocals), Dawn DeWitt (bass, guitar, vocals), Ron Litschauer (guitar, mandolin, vocals), Stan Geberer (harmonica), Bari Litschauer (banjo, mandolin), and Barbara Meade. You’ll notice no mention of Boomslang Swampsinger above because he is also known as Bret Hartcrane (free CDs if you can guess the origins of this name) when playing with this band.
Yes, Boomslang has a number of aliases, adding to the pantheon of characters in this tangled Florida yarn, not to mention every band member has also been assigned an animal inspired name in addition to other colorful monikers.
In 2006, Murray Palmetto’s South Florida Swamp Show presented one of their “Swamp Operas” on opening night of the Florida Folk Festival in White Springs. It was called the Everglades Campfire Radio Show. “Survivalist Librarian” was one of the songs performed during the show.
The seed for this song was planted back in the early 1990s, according to Boomslang, when he and his wife were having a late lunch in western Broward County and “more than three or four dozen” well behaved and well armed camouflaged militia men came out of the swamp, leaned their rifles against the picnic tables and ordered lunch. Upon witnessing this scene Boomslang mused what if “they had [with them] an official librarian to serve them books to read, while waiting for the lone waitress to feed all 48 of them.” The result of this thought… well, we’ll let Boomslang explain the rest.
One of the newest collections on Florida Memory is William McLeod’s Civil War diary. The diary describes McLeod’s experiences as a Confederate soldier from June 1864 through January 1865.
McLeod’s account begins during the Atlanta Campaign and describes day-to-day siege warfare and the various engagements in which he was involved, including the Battles of Peachtree Creek, Atlanta, and Jonesboro. The diary also mentions the Battle of Dalton, Georgia in October 1864 and the subsequent advance northward into Alabama and Tennessee. McLeod provides details on the actions of the Seventh Florida Regiment at Franklin, Murfreesboro (Second Battle), and Nashville.
The diary concludes in the aftermath of the Confederate defeat at Nashville and documents the retreat into Mississippi in late 1864 and early 1865.
This series looks at the etymology of Florida place names derived from the Muskogee and Hitchiti languages.
Many Florida place names owe their origins to Muskogee and Hitchiti, two of the languages spoken by members of the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida. The persistence of Muskogee and Hitchiti words as modern Florida place names reflects the prominent role played by Native Americans in the region’s history.
Today’s term is Apopka, meaning “potato eating.” According to scholars of Muskogee linguistics, the word is sometimes translated as “potato eating place.” Another possible meaning is “trout eating place,” which is the generally accepted translation of Tsala Apopka as in Lake Tsala Apopka in Citrus County, Florida.
Excerpt from “Map of the Seat of War in Florida,” (1839)
Shown as “Ahapopka” on the map excerpt above, the term is spelled Apopka today and refers to both a city and a lake in modern-day Orange and Seminole counties in Central Florida.
Little is known about Seminole settlements near Lake Apopka, other than that the area apparently yielded wild tubers from the rich soil surrounding the lake, or, in reference to the possible alternate translation, furnished copious trout from the lake itself.
In an 1822 letter to Kentucky congressman Thomas Metcalfe, John Bell, “Acting Agent for the Indians in Florida,” included A-ha-pop-ka on his list of 35 “Indian Settlements in Florida.” Bell placed A-ha-pop-ka “back of the Musquito,” meaning the Mosquito Lagoon/Halifax River/Indian River area near modern-day Titusville on the east coast.
Another list, made two years after Bell’s, noted the settlement of Ahapapka at the head of the Ocklawaha River and listed Ocheesetustanuka as the chief. According to J.T. Sprague, Apopka was the birthplace and home at the beginning of the Second Seminole War (1835-1842) of Coacoochee (Wildcat), one of the best known Seminole leaders of his time.
During the U.S. Army campaign against the Seminoles in early 1837, General Thomas Sidney Jesup described “a large Indian force” under the command of Osuchee (also known as Cooper) “on the borders of Ahpopka lake.” On January 23, Jesup ordered his troops to attack the settlement, which resulted in three Seminoles killed and 17 captured, including 8 Black Seminoles. The area near Apopka remained the scene of occasional fighting in the Second Seminole War as late as 1842. Jesup reported large herds of cattle near Apopka and south towards the high sand hills known as Thlanhatkee. These sand hills are traversed today by drivers traveling between Okahumpka and Ocoee on the Florida Turnpike.
To learn more, see Bertha E. Bloodworth and Alton C. Morris, Places in the Sun: The History and Romance of Florida Place Names (University Presses of Florida, 1978); John K. Mahon, History of the Second Seminole War, 1835-1842 (University of Florida Press, 1991 ); Jack B. Martin and Margaret McKane Mauldin, A Dictionary of Creek/Muskogee, with Notes on the Florida and Oklahoma Seminole Dialects of Creek (University of Nebraska Press, 2004); John T. Sprague, The Origins, Progress, and Conclusion of the Florida War (University of Tampa Press, 2000 ); John R. Swanton, Early History of the Creek Indians and Their Neighbors (University of Florida Press, 1998 ).
Whether you’re a Seminole, Gator, Hurricane, Rattler, Bull or rooting for another Florida team, the start of college football season is a magical time of year! Pack your coolers because we’re tailgating through some football history…
University of Florida football team, Gainesville, ca. 1915
University of Miami football player shaking an opponent’s hand, Coral Gables, ca. 1926
University of Miami football player, Coral Gables, ca. 1926
University of Florida vs. University of Georgia, Gainesville, 1931
First football team at co-ed Florida State University, Tallahassee, 1947
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University head coach Jake Gaither with one of his players at practice, Tallahassee, 1953
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University football team, Tallahassee, 1953
Florida State University halfback Burt Reynolds, Tallahassee, 1954
Right to left: University of Miami Head Coach Howard Schnellenberger, UM mascot “Sebastian the Ibis,” and Don Works, Fort Lauderdale, 1981
Florida State University cornerback Deion Sanders, Tallahassee, ca. 1988
Florida State University head coach Bobby Bowden relaxing at Doak Campbell Stadium with the Heisman trophy awarded to Charlie Ward, Tallahassee, 1993
Florida Memory is funded under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, administered by the Florida Department of State, Division of Library and Information Services.