Key West, Florida or Conch Republic?

In April of 1982, the United States Border Patrol set up a blockade on highway U.S.1 in Florida City, at the northern entrance to the Florida Keys, and began searching every car, supposedly looking for illegal aliens attempting to enter the mainland United States. When the checkpoint resulted in a seventeen mile long traffic jam the media began covering the story. As a result the Keys were paralyzed: visitors canceled reservations, deliveries were delayed or stopped, and attractions suffered tremendous loss of business. Something had to be done.

Spectators enjoy the “longest parade route in the world,” which runs from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico on Key West’s famous Duval Street

Led by Key West Mayor Dennis Wardlow and local attorney Dave Horan, community leaders flew to Miami, seeking an injunction in Federal Court that would enjoin the Border Patrol from treating the Keys like a foreign country. Unfortunately, the court refused. As the group left the courthouse, reporters screamed, “What are you going to do, Mr. Mayor?” On the spur of the moment, Wardlow replied, “We are going to go home and secede.”

By the time the group returned to Key West, Federal agents had begun to arrive. No one knew what to expect. Would they be arrested? Would the Keys be put under martial law? The fear was palpable. Surrounded by his loyal followers, Mayor Wardlow climbed on the back of a flatbed truck in Mallory Square and delivered the Proclamation of Secession, naming himself Prime Minister of the new Conch Republic. He then declared war on the United States, symbolically marking the start of the rebellion by breaking a loaf of stale Cuban bread over the head of a man dressed in a U.S. Navy uniform. One minute later the Prime Minister surrendered to the Admiral in charge of the Navy Base at Key West and demanded one billion dollars in foreign aid and war relief to ‘rebuild the republic after the long Federal siege.’

Parade entrants toss Mardi Gras beads to spectators
Dozens of classic cars come from all over the world to ride in the parade

Other than immediately removing the roadblock, the U.S. government ignored the secession. But Conchers continued to fly the Conch Republic flag beneath the U.S. flag and even issued official passports. Over the years, Keys officials have successfully used the Conch Republic passports to travel to 13 Caribbean nations as well as Germany, Sweden, Havana, Mexico, France, Spain, Ireland, and Russia!

The Conch Republic Homeland Security car displays the motto “Practicing in Paradise”
The parade is a popular venue for local causes, like these folks who are campaigning for clothing optional beaches

Each year on the anniversary of the secession Key West hosts the Conch Republic Independence Celebration, a week long event that includes raising of the colors at Fort Taylor, the Conch Republic military muster, sailboat races, golf tournaments, beach volleyball tournaments, pig roasts, fiddlers contests, mock battles, and the World’s Longest Parade (a facetious reference to the route that runs from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico), where locals dressed as pirates toss Mardi Gras beads to the crowd that line Duval Street. And although now it’s all in good fun, you can bet that the local Conchers are as fiercely independent as they were 27 years ago when they seceded from the Union.


27 thoughts on “Key West, Florida or Conch Republic?”


  2. With the Conch Passport most Countries prove non existence of Key West, how can we prove to them that we exist as a sovereign state to be well recognized. Such denial start from United State.

  3. Dear Sir
    i want to know the porpose of conch citizen passport and also its Nigeriainternational passport recorgnise for free entry to conch republic

  4. i’m very happy to see your chatting here online pls kindly tell me is it possible for me to come down to conch replic direct from nigeria or i have to get any other visa on the passport and is it possible for someone in mexico or cubba to get a flight or by road to conch and kindly tell me where someone can get conch flight from Afica pls reply me thanks

  5. Please i simply need help about this apply for conch replublic citizenship. Is it still available, mostly the one some site like and is issueing.they collect $217 including shiping. Send the reply here.

  6. I understand 9/11 hijackers used conch Republic passports. They have sold 10s of thousands of them in the mid east to terrorists..? The conch republic threatens your freedom

    • Adam: I did a little research in order to reply to your comment. This original source of this information was an October 3, 2001 Miami Herald article by Jennifer Babson. Peter Anderson, steward for the group that champions the Keys as the “Conch Republic” and that issues its own passports, said that anyone who is issued a passport must provide supporting materials, including proof of address, telephone number, email, a notarized copy of their genuine passport or other official documentation from country of residence, and three photographs. When the U.S. Postal Inspection Service reported to the FBI that the group had apparently issued a passport to someone by the name of Mohammed Atta, the FBI investigated. According to the article, the FBI “did find someone signing the registration book under the name Atta from New York, but cannot say if it was the suicide hijacker.” The story further states: “FBI agents hauled away boxes of records, but have been unable to find Atta’s passport application and his accompanying passport snapshots, a federal investigator said.” Anderson’s group issued a about 10,000 between 1993 and the date of the Miami Herald article. Your comment that “They have sold 10s of thousands of them in the mid east to terrorists” is a rumor that may have as its source the original Herald article, which referenced a Discovery Channel program that featured the Conch Republic. After the show began regularly replaying a segment that included information on the passport program, Anderson said, “we started receiving a lot of requests from people all over the world and from people who were in the U.S. who we had reason to believe may not have been in the U.S. legally.” Anderson says the Conch Republic received a sudden flood of mail order applicants, many of them with Arab surnames and from countries such as India, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates, in the fall of 2000. The story does not say that any of these passports were ever issued.

  7. What’s the cost for a Conch Republic Passport? I would like to get one in light of the new Homeland Security Passport requirement to cross the border between the US & Canada.

    • Hi Westerner:
      I believe the cost for a Conch Republic passport is $75, but it is really a curiosity document – it is not an official passport and cannot be used as one. In fact, that has always been the case, but some locals got away with it in the days before worldwide computers and holographic images.

      • Q, 1 what posability to travel other country with conch republic passport,
        Q, 2 conch republic country is state of UN or US?
        Q, 3 teel me , which is country to travel on conch republic passport,
        thans, i hope you give good answer, for saticfied me

  8. We had a ball in Key West when we visited in February. Fresh oysters, cold beer and an indomitable party spirit make it a rockin town. The train tour was fun and maybe a little corny so don’t miss it.

    CuriousDina’s last blog post..Which Matters More: The Thought or the Gift?

  9. Interesting history. I knew of the Conch Republic, but didn’t realize that it had such a serious political history.

    Maybe I’ll make plans to show up for the 30th anniversary in 2012.

  10. I love these stories of these micronations around the world that have no legal standing yet issue stamps and passports and seem to get mileage out of it.


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