I was born in a populated ghost town, and it has haunted me ever since. Our histories are myths built on top of legends and then sprinkled with a healthy dose of falsehood.
In a tourist town, no one tells the truth.
St. Augustine, Florida calls itself, proudly, the oldest city under five flags. First the Timucuans gathered there, spreading over the island, across the intracoastal waterway and onto the mainland. Then Ponce de Leon landed in search of the Fountain of Youth. Then the French; Menendez and his Spanish missionaries; the Jesuits; the English; the Franciscans; and on and on it goes.
It is a coastal city with an international past, not unlike New Orleans. Our buildings are the same two-story, balconied Spanish affairs. But in place of trading vessels, we had pirates; in place of jazz and Creole culture, we had Henry Flagler and hotels full of the passionless elite.
Now our ghosts hover thickly. They dampen the night air like so many thunderstorms just out of reach. From the dead Native Americans in the Castillo de San Marcos to the yellow fever victims buried in the Huguenot Cemetery, every path and point in the city has a deathly history. Even the Ghost Hunters team will tell you our lighthouse has a shadow person — they caught it on camera.
I grew up on an island teeming with history, in a family that denies the past ever existed. In the absence of family photographs and stories, I have invented them.
Hugely exciting morning news! Not only do I have a new piece of memoir/creative nonfic published at the lovely Bygone Bureau, they also commissioned four original illustrations by María Luque to go with it.
I’m floored. Please take a look and tell me what you think.