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In 1845, Florida, which is nicknamed the Sunshine State, joined the Union as its 27th state. Its capital is Tallahassee and its motto is In God We Trust. The first European explorer to land in Florida was Juan Ponce de Leon in 1513 while looking for the fountain of youth. He named the area “Pascua Florida,” translated “Feast of Flowers,” which refers to Spain’s celebration of Easter. The first permanent European settlement in what is now the United States was founded in 1565 at St. Augustine, Florida. Florida was the third state to secede from the Union during the War Between the States and soon became one of the founding members of the Confederate States of America. Florida was an important link in the Confederate Army’s plans, as it was a major part of the supply route for that army. Because of this, the Union Army blockaded the state and occupied its major ports, including Jacksonville, Key West, Cedar Key, and Pensacola. It was readmitted to the Union on July 25, 1868. The Great Freeze, which was actually two freezes in a row during both 1894 and 1895, affected the entire state and its economy when it ruined virtually all of the citrus crops in central Florida. The citrus industry in Florida as rebounded, by fits and starts, and Florida now produces more produce than any nation save Brazil. After the Great Depression and World War II, everything changed for the state, due to the interstate highway system opening up travel to the state as well as air conditioning, which made the hot, humid weather tolerable. Because of its low tax rate and the fact that it does not have an income tax, as well as the climate, Florida went from the 20th most populous state in 1950 to the fourth as of 2000, partially due to the fact that it has become a mecca for retirees from colder climes and partially due to the Cuban and Haitian refugees who fled to the closest part of the United States they could get to.

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