Hello Florida Keys, My name is Tony Castillo and I'm the fourth Generation Castillo to have been fortunate to call The Keys my home. My Great Grandfather first came to Key West in 1898 (if I'm not mistaken), he had 3 sons and 1 daughter and the rest they say is history.
I have lots of fun stories handed down to me from them, but maybe for another time. I was born in 1975 and had a wonderful and adventurous childhood growing up in Key Largo. It was an amazing place. The kind of place where you don't realize how great it was until you move away or travel, and that is what happened to me.
I joined the USAF in 1994 after graduating Coral Shores. In basic training in San Antonio, Texas people would be shocked that somebody actually lived there, I kind of got a chuckle from that because it seemed like it was just something in a postcard to most people, or in a movie, or made up. I would tell them about my experiences in fishing and snorkeling on reefs and they would actually listen, it was fantastic.
My life would change not to long after basic training when I graduated from my technical school, and saw a fellow airman literally crying. I asked him what was wrong, and he mentioned that he got his orders to report to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. I figured he would be homesick, and that is why he was so upset. Turns out he was an amateur bull rider and Guam doesn't have rodeos. Well if you know me I would do anything to help, so I told him I would be willing to swap assignments with him and we did. I had orders for Randolph Air Force base in Texas, and he couldn't be happier. I love that story because it changed 2 people's lives forever, and it was because of the humbleness of the keys in me that just let that decision happen.
As time went by I got out of the Air Force and returned home. I would go on living in Marathon, Big Pine Key, Key West and Tavernier. I've lived the conch life and with the universe working its magic I met a good friend and together we've traveled hundreds of miles in his canoe; to hard to reach islands in the Florida bay and the Atlantic. We became avid birders and photographers, and marveled at how wonderful the wildlife and scenery of the upper keys really is. It made me realize why those people I met years ago found it hard to realize why they thought people didn't actually live in the keys. Such a beautiful place.
I recently moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and it is my new adventure. I decided to move because I just feel the Keys aren't the same simple place I remember. I'm not being callous I just can't keep watching my home going to property developers and greedy property managers anymore. I was tired of waiting in traffic 45 minutes to go from Tavernier Town to Founders Park. The poachers from the mainland, and it's not even on a small scale anymore. (ban mini lobster season by the way).
Let the keys breathe. We used to have an off season and now the off season is between midnight and 6 am. I will always be an ambassador of the keys no matter where I go. I will always refer to it as my home, and will always love the water and its life.
Peace and good will to you all.