Patricia Taylor Edmisten (Peru 1962-64) first happened upon Mexico Beach in 1975 on her way to interview at the University of South Alabama in Mobile. She had just finished her doctorate at the University of Florida in Gainesville. In 1977, she moved to Pensacola in “Florida’s Great Northwest,” where she taught at the University of West Florida until retirement. During her family’s time in Florida’s western Panhandle, there were many family reunions on St. George Island, a gorgeous sweep of barrier island off of Apalachicola, not far from Mexico Beach.
Patricia remembers . . .
Hurricane Michael flattened Mexico Beach
in Florida’s eastern Panhandle on October 10, 2018.
Was it a fluke in the temperature of the Gulf?
A nudge from a high pressure system from the north?
God’s unleashed breath, punishment for a covey of sinners
living in recreational vehicles back from the beach?
Until the hurricane, most people in the United States
had never heard of Mexico Beach.
“Which side of Florida is that on?” they asked each other.
Hell, most Floridians didn’t know where Mexico Beach was.
I say “most” because I knew Mexico Beach…and Sopchoppy,
Wewahitchka, Panacea and Apalachicola, all part of “The Other Florida.”
The first time my small son and I emerged from the piney woods
around the Big Bend and wandered into Mexico Beach, with its solid
pretty houses on a grassy knoll overlooking the Gulf,
I imagined living there. I would teach, write and listen to classical music.
My son would become a sea urchin and later learn to surf. Since then
Mexico Beach, like so many Gulf Coast gems, learned to sprawl.
Now there are only ruins, not like those left by U.S. Marines when
they stormed Mexico’s Chapultepec Castle in 1847 and were awed
by the Halls of Montezuma, but the twisted tangible and emotional
detritus of those who saw Mexico Beach, fell under her spell and stayed.
The thermometer on our porch registers 54 degrees this morning.
I pull a sweater over my shoulders and look at the sky,
purified by churning winds. I can’t see the particulates
that warm the earth and increase greenhouse gases.
Is this rush I feel happiness? A hawk lands on the topmost branch
of a longleaf pine, and then I remember Mexico Beach.
— Patricia Taylor Edmisten, October 12, 2018