I made a brief post in 2008
referring to the phenomenon of modern immigration by Canadian Francophones to Florida, a migration driven not by economic incentives but rather by the attractiveness of Florida's tropical climate. (The similar contemporary migration to Maine
, also driven by tourism, is less noteworthy inasmuch as Maine has been a destination for Francophone immigration since the late 19th century.) An extensive post
at New Geography by UQAM's Rémy Tremblay describes the community's development and questionable future in detail.
It is hard to pinpoint the origin of the word "Floribec" but it appears to have been adopted in the 1970s by Quebec residents wintering in Florida and made official in a study by Louis Dupont in the 1980s. According to him, French Canadians began immigrating to Florida in the 1930s. This immigration came in the wake of spending by the United States government, which, in an effort to resolve the 1929 economic crisis, undertook to build a network of canals through the marshland in southeast Florida and, notably, to open the Intercoastal Waterway, a navigable canal hundreds of kilometres long. At the same time, the government was also attempting to develop the infrastructure for tourism. Thousands of Americans travelled to the "Sunshine State" to work on this vast construction site. Among them were Franco-Americans from New England, some accompanied by their French-Canadian cousins. Once the construction work was completed, rather than going home, many of the French-Canadian workers took up permanent residence in the Miami region, particularly in Surfside, on the Atlantic coast, and in North Miami. After the Second World War, there were 67,000 French-Canadian and Franco-American families living in the State of Florida. These new permanent residents of Surfside and North Miami and of Sunny Isles generally found work in the tourist industry because Florida, especially Miami, was the holiday destination of a growing number of wealthy French-Canadians. This initial wave of Quebecois mass migration to Florida began at the end of the war and continued until 1960.
The period from 1960 to 1970 saw a second wave of French-Canadian, mainly Quebecois, migration to the Miami region, with the appearance of a new type of immigrant: the investor. Two of the factors contributing to increased immigration were the liberating effect of the Quiet Revolution and the growth of wealth in Quebec. The fact that these two phenomena occurred simultaneously appears to have encouraged the people of Quebec to look beyond their borders. Expo 67 and a number of other Quebec cultural events made the rest of the world more aware of the province and, as well, the people of Quebec used this period of cultural vitality to increase their travel to foreign destinations.
At the same time, the tourist industry was experiencing rapid development in Florida with the arrival of the major airlines, the construction of the United States freeway system, and the north-south shift of economic and political power, which sparked phenomenal growth in the cities of the Sun Belt, including Miami. Miami Beach and its suburbs of Surfside and Sunny Isles became the favourite seaside destinations of the Quebecois. Recognizing the opportunity the situation presented, the Floribecois set up businesses in the area to cater mainly to Quebecois tourists, building French-language motels, restaurants, bars, convenience stores, and various other services to meet their needs.
From the 1970s onward, most businesses were established in Surfside and Sunny Isles, especially along Collins Avenue, whose location less than a kilometre from the beach offered increased customer traffic. The favourite tourist destination of the Quebecois was now affordable and there was no longer any language barrier. During this period, the Thunderbird, Suez, Waikiki and Colonial hotels were familiar to any Quebecois who travelled regularly to Florida, and even to those who were merely thinking of going there. Cultural life was vibrant because of the continued presence of such artists as Gilles Latulippe and other popular Quebec comedians and singers, who performed to sold-out audiences in the most popular hotels. The localization of these cultural activities in the gathering places of Quebecois tourists would serve to establish the physical boundaries of Floribec as a transnational tourist community.
[. . .]
Floribec constitutes an interesting chapter in the history of modern Quebec and it represents an intriguing and unique pocket of French-speaking America. This transnational community came into being as a result of people patronizing numerous businesses and other community-building venues situated in a relatively small geographical area on the Atlantic coast. These sites played an essential role as centres of community life for French-speakers who were living in or visiting the greater Miami area. Today, certain community practices formerly associated with Floribec can still be found; however, they are dispersed over a much wider area and signs of any Quebecois presence in the Florida landscape are increasingly difficult to discern.