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‘Last Train to Paradise,’ Chile’s progressive shift, the mystery of the burned buoy in Key West

Charles Trainor Jr.
Miami Herald
Key West resident Pedro Lara takes a selfie in front of the Southernmost Point as waves from Hurricane Irma crash over the wall on Sept. 9, 2017. The 20-ton concrete buoy, which marks the Southernmost Point and 90 miles to Cuba, is one of Key West’s famous landmarks. Tourists flock to the marker every day to take photos, snap selfies, buy a souvenir or two.

This month’s Sundial Book Club is about Henry Flagler and his dream to build the impossible railroad. Chile just elected its youngest president ever, who is also very progressive. And the Southernmost landmark has been restored after two vandals tried to destroy it.

On this Tuesday, January 18, edition of Sundial:

‘Last Train to Paradise’ 

There was a time when the only way to get to Key West was by boat. Then came the oil and rail magnate Henry Flagler.

His railroad opened the east coast of Florida to the rest of the country. He helped develop West Palm Beach and Miami. But his most ambitious dream was to extend his railroad all the way to Key West, over difficult terrain and open waters.

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Author Les Standiford teaches writing at Florida International University. He wrote the book about Flagler’s dream. It's called ‘Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad that Crossed an Ocean.’

It's the Sundial Book Club pick for the month of January. We spoke with Standiford about where the idea to write this book came from and a bunch of stories about Flagler’s exploits.

Join the book club here.

‘Last Train to Paradise’

Chile’s progressive shift

Chile is one of the most prosperous countries in Latin America.

And for a long time, it was considered one of the region’s most conservative.

Now, it seems to be headed in a new direction — towards becoming one of the most progressive with the help of its new president and ex-pats from South Florida.

Read the full story here.

Chile’s progressive shift

The mystery of the burned buoy in Key West

On New Year's Day, the Southernmost point landmark in Key West was scarred and burned by a fire.

Video footage caught some men damaging the big buoy, and help to figure out who the men were and how to catch them came from an unlikely source.

“[A] bartender awoke to see the video online and he immediately knew he had served them the night before. He contacted his boss and they went looking for receipts and security camera video at the bar and quickly had the suspect's name,” said Gwen Filosa, the Keys reporter for FL Keys News and the Miami Herald.

“The absence of tip, that's why the bartender remembered them. He served Skylar Jacobsen three times and there was no tip and down here it's a tipping town, people will remember.”

A case of rum was part of the reward for helping solve the mystery of the burned buoy. Read Filosa’s reporting on this story here.

“Like a lot of locals, I make snarky remarks about out-of-town TV crews who show up there for hurricanes. But I like that it's there and that it is undeniably ours, even if others try to imitate it. It is tough, even when it takes a beating from a Category 4 hurricane or a couple of drunk dudes with a lighter. Key West has a conch shell on the city seal, but so do a lot of other local agencies and institutions. Maybe they should consider updating it,” wrote WLRN’s Florida Keys reporter Nancy Klingener in the Tieline newsletter.

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The mystery of the burned buoy in Key West

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Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the lead producer behind WLRN's daily magazine program, Sundial. She previously produced Morning Edition newscasts at WLRN and anchored the midday news. As a multimedia producer, she also works on visual and digital storytelling.