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  • Writer's pictureNatalija Ugrina

Super Weird Florida: Key West's Colorful Crow - Roosters and the Rooster Graveyard

Welcome to "Super Weird Florida," where the extraordinary becomes the norm!In the tropical haven of Key West, where turquoise waters meet lively streets, a unique and unexpected symbol roams freely - the Key West rooster. This feathered community, descendants of fighting cocks brought by Cuban immigrants, has become an integral part of the island's charm. Beyond the bustling streets and historic landmarks lies a mysterious chapter in the rooster saga - the Rooster Graveyard, a testament to the islanders' deep connection with these lively birds.



in front of Blue Heaven
in front of Blue Heaven

The Early Days:

To understand the prevalence of roosters in Key West, we must turn the clock back to the 19th century when the island was a bustling port town. In the 1800s, Key West was a hub for the cigar industry and fishing trade. With ships arriving from various parts of the world, they brought not only goods but also livestock, including chickens.


Cuban Influence:

One significant influence on the influx of roosters in Key West is the strong connection with Cuba. During the 19th century, Key West had close ties with its Cuban neighbors, and the exchange of goods and culture was common. As the story goes, Cubans brought their cockfighting traditions to Key West, contributing to the proliferation of roosters on the island.


Cockfighting Culture:

Cockfighting, a centuries-old tradition, involves pitting two specially bred and trained roosters against each other in a battle of skill and strength. While it is now widely condemned and illegal in many places, including the United States, it was a popular pastime in Key West and other parts of the world during the 19th century.

The roosters, initially brought to the island for cockfighting purposes, found themselves at liberty when the sport was eventually outlawed. These birds, accustomed to the tropical climate and free-ranging lifestyle, thrived in Key West's environment, contributing to the population explosion.


rooster art

Key West's Acceptance:

Over time, the people of Key West embraced their feathery neighbors. The roosters became a symbol of the island's resilience and free-spirited nature. Today, these colorful birds roam the streets freely, adding a touch of charm to the island's laid-back atmosphere.



Roosters roaming around Key West
Roosters roaming around Key West

Blue Heaven: Where History Meets Hospitality

Blue Heaven, a renowned restaurant and bar in Key West, is not just a culinary destination but a historical landmark. The site's roots date back to the late 19th century when it served as a haven for artists, writers, and other free spirits. Hemingway, a man known for his adventurous spirit and love of physical challenges, found an outlet for his enthusiasm for boxing at the historic Blue Heaven establishment. The restaurant, with its eclectic and bohemian ambiance, became a fitting venue for the author to indulge in his love for the sport.

During the 1930s, Hemingway would occasionally referee impromptu boxing matches that took place in the open space of Blue Heaven. This unorthodox setting, surrounded by tropical foliage and the lively energy of the island, added a unique touch to these informal matches. The author's participation as a referee not only showcased his physical prowess but also contributed to the legendary, larger-than-life persona that surrounded Hemingway during his time in Key West.



Blue Heaven
Blue Heaven

The Rooster Graveyard: A Quirky Key West Attraction

Adjacent to Blue Heaven lies the Rooster Graveyard, an offbeat and somewhat mysterious corner of Key West. This small burial ground is home to the final resting places of several roosters that once called Blue Heaven their home. The graves are adorned with colorful trinkets, flowers, and even miniature rooster statues, creating a whimsical and touching tribute to these beloved birds.

Legend has it that the tradition of the Rooster Graveyard began when a Blue Heaven patron, a sailor named Bahama Bob, decided to bury his pet rooster on the premises. Inspired by this act of love and remembrance, other patrons followed suit, creating a unique Key West tradition. Today, the Rooster Graveyard stands as a testament to the island's free-spirited and eccentric character.


Rooster Cemetery
Rooster Cemetery

Legend of Liberty:

One catalyst for the Rooster Graveyard's creation was the desire to immortalize the legacy of individual roosters that had become local celebrities. Liberty, with his striking appearance and confident demeanor, became an icon of freedom and resilience. His grave in the Rooster Graveyard became a focal point for visitors and locals alike, symbolizing the unique bond between the island and its feathery inhabitants.


Hemingway's Roosters: A Literary Connection

Ernest Hemingway, the iconic American author, was a frequent visitor to Key West, and his influence is still felt throughout the island. Hemingway had a fondness for six-toed cats, which now roam the grounds of his former residence, known as the Hemingway Home and Museum. However, the connection between Hemingway and roosters goes beyond the literary world.

It is said that Hemingway, a lover of animals, had a collection of prize-winning roosters at his Key West home. These roosters, admired for their beauty and pedigree, became a unique part of Hemingway's household. When these roosters passed away, some were laid to rest in the Rooster Graveyard, adding a touch of literary history to this peculiar Key West tradition.



Hemingway's house Key West
Hemingway's house - Key West

Conclusion:

As I wrapped up my exploration of Key West's quirky corners, the Rooster Graveyard left me with a sense of wonder, its colorful trinkets and tiny rooster statues standing as silent tributes to the island's eccentricity. Although smaller than my initial expectations, the Rooster Graveyard at Blue Heaven proved that size was not the measure of its charm.


My time at Blue Heaven, however, turned out to be a highlight of the visit. The restaurant's vibrant ambiance, rich history, and the lingering spirit of Hemingway created an unforgettable experience. Nestled amidst the lush greenery, I savored an exquisite Key Lime Pie with a towering "mile high meringue", a culinary masterpiece that mirrored the sweet surprises Key West had to offer.


Over plates of delicious food, I listened to captivating stories about Hemingway's time in Key West, from his boxing refereeing escapades to his fondness for both six-toed cats and prize-winning roosters. It became clear that the island's charm lay not only in its picturesque landscapes but also in the colorful tales that unfolded within its historic corners.



rooster art in key west

As roosters freely strolled the streets of Key West, crowing and clucking with abandon, I couldn't help but appreciate their symbolic presence. Much like the spirited roosters that once graced Hemingway's home, these feathery inhabitants became living emblems of Key West's lively and carefree atmosphere. In a town where time seems to slow down, and where the unexpected becomes the norm, the roosters embodied the island's free-spirited essence.


In the end, my journey through Key West unveiled a tapestry woven with eccentricity, culinary delights, and the indelible mark of Hemingway's legacy. As I left Blue Heaven with the taste of Key Lime Pie lingering on my palate, the roosters' calls echoed in the background, serving as a fitting farewell to a destination where every corner held a story, and every story added to the enchantment of Key West.



rooster in key west

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18 Comments


Guest
Mar 09

I love everything about u

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Guest
Dec 12, 2023

You are so very alluring and absolutely delightfully beautiful to see.

Thank you so much for sharing


from Boston USA 🇺🇸 always adoring you from far away and have never seen beauty such as yours in any way.

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Guest
Dec 01, 2023

I miss going to the cock fights

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Guest
Nov 24, 2023

Amazing details log these beautiful places. Been there 3 times and didn’t see all that you saw ! Keep up the good amazing work youre Doing 😊

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Guest
Nov 23, 2023

Hello I want to thank you so much for your beautiful pictures I think you are absolutely gorgeous and so glad to hear back from you can't wait to see what happens next hope you have the best Thanksgiving and have a blessed day

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