Summer at Everglades National Park is an experience unlike any other in the United States. Summer storms bring heavy rainfall leading to higher water levels and as a result, sawgrass prairies and freshwater sloughs thrive once again. This seasonal change makes for spectacular views of the Everglades ecosystem as well as a prime opportunity to learn about how this wetland sustains life.
As a Cultural History Education LHIP Intern at Everglades National Park, I am working in partnership with a Teacher-Ranger-Teacher and the Everglades Division of Environmental Education on a curriculum-based program for middle and high school students that will tie in stories from the Cuban-American community of South Florida to the Cold War Nike Missile Site HM-69. During my first week, Ranger Leon Howell gave an illuminating and emotional presentation about the history of the missile site and the soldiers that were stationed there. Ranger Howell recounted stories about the soldiers, giving us insight as to how they spent their days and what their duties were at HM-69, and described their daily battle against the unforgiving wrath of mosquitos, the strain of isolation from society, and the overcoming stress brought on by rising political tension between the U.S., the Soviet Union and Cuba. Taking a journey back in time — a time in which the threat of nuclear war loomed over people’s daily lives — with Ranger Howell has been one of the highlights of my internship thus far.
With Latino Conservation Week right around the corner, Mariana Bruno — Everglades Archives Outreach LHIP Intern — and I will be reaching out to members of the Cuban-American community who came to the United States through Operation Pedro Pan and may have historical connections to the park or the Nike Missile Site. Our goal is to record their life stories during our LCW event, ‘Comparte Tu Historia’, in order to educate future generations on the significance of South Florida’s Cuban community and our national parks.
I look forward to sharing more about our Latino Conservation Week event here at Everglades National Park and my experience as an LHIP intern!