Menendez Versus Mickey: A Study of Heritage Tourism in Florida

Monica Rowland

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Liberal Arts, Department of Humanities, College of Arts and Sciences, University of South Florida St. Petersburg

Abstract

The National Trust for Historic Preservation defines heritage tourism as: “traveling to experience the places and activities that authentically represent the stories and peoples of the past and present. It includes irreplaceable historic, cultural, and natural resources.”1 Heritage tourism is a lucrative industry in the United States. On average, heritage tourists spend $623 per trip compared to $457 for all U.S. travelers.2 The rise of heritage tourism is inextricably linked with several trends in American society, namely: the historic preservation movement, the desire for a sense of place, and nostalgia. These motivating tendencies often inspire problems of authenticity, commodification, and an unhealthy romanticization of the past. The present study seeks to analyze the heritage tourism industry in Florida. Chapter one offers a brief look at the history and anthropology of tourism. Chapter two provides an explanation of heritage tourism and the human motivations that drive it, as well as an examination of several U.S. locations where it is practiced. Chapter three provides a short history of tourism in Florida, an overview of state organizations and agencies that promote and practice heritage tourism, and a look at several of Florida’s unique heritage tourism locations. Chapter four is a case study focusing on the heritage tourism industry in St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest city in the United States. St. Augustine presents the best example of heritage tourism in Florida, and offers a perfect setting in which to examine many of the typical problems of heritage tourism. A popular tourist site since the 1800s, St. Augustine followed the lead of Colonial Williamsburg by extensively renovating its historic district in the 1960s. Tourism is the city’s only true industry, but the number of tourists that visit annually pales in comparison to non-historical Florida attractions like Disney World. St. Augustine raises unique questions about the neglect of the Hispanic influence in the history of the United States, the American public’s fascination with myth and primacy, and the inherent difficulties of maintaining authenticity in any heritage tourism location.