Trading With The Enemy
The smuggling of illicit cargo and people has played a significant role in shaping the culture as well as the economy of the Southernmost American city of Key West since it’s foundation in 1821.
Previous to the embargo, a myriad of boats made the crossing regularly between Key West and its sister city of Havana. In the early days, it was commonplace for ship captains to keep homing pigeons aboard to relay messages of either safe arrival or distress back to several lofts positioned in Key West, including the Pan Am headquarters, Key West Lighthouse and the US Naval Base.
Despite no hostile actions, Cuba remains the only nation against which the United States upholds the Trading with the Enemy Act. Today, millions of dollars are spent annually on a dual Lockheed Martin 275K aerostat surveillance balloon system and high-speed Department of Homeland Security vessels canvasing the Florida Straight and the waters surrounding Key West.
I spent 4 years planning and eight months breeding and homing a kit of fifty pigeons to a loft I built in Key West. My goal was to prove that pigeons could make the 90-mile flight from Havana back to Key West carrying highly coveted contraband Cuban Cohiba cigars. Eleven returned.