With the last days of summer long behind us and a new academic year in full swing, we are pleased to introduce the Fall 2015 issue of Southeastern Geographer. Our cover art for this issue is inspired by recent diplomatic successes that have led to improved relations between the United States and Cuba. The cover art photograph, entitled “Next Stop Cuba?,” was contributed by Frank A. Delgado Mesa of the Universidad de la Habana. It depicts the historic Hershey train station, which is part of an old electric rail line that runs some 50 miles from Havana eastward to the city of Matanzas. The adjoining essay provides a history of the Hershey sugar plantations that once dominated the landscapes and economy around Matanzas and formed one of many vital links between Cuba and the United States before the Cuban Revolution. With sugar production at a historic low and Cuban society looking towards the future, the old Hershey facilities have been re-envisioned as centerpieces of new initiatives in local tourism and economic development. As the authors aptly note, warming relations between the United States and Cuba provides an excellent opportunity for geographers of both nations to reach out to their colleagues and begin reestablishing ties that have been severed by the Cuban Embargo since 1962.
The six research articles of this issue encompass a range of topics and demonstrate the diversity and productivity of geographers in the Southeastern Division of the Association of American Geographers. The first article, written by Jessy Van Horn, James Richardson, and Peter Waylen, evaluate historic streamflow on the Santa Fe River in Florida. By focusing between the years of 1932 and 2012, the authors document a period of dramatic increase in water use as a result of urban growth and the expansion of irrigation. The second article, written by Velvet Nelson, explores the contrasting myths that surround Julien Fédon, a Francophone plantation owner of mixed-race ancestry who led a slave uprising against British rule on the Caribbean island of Grenada in the 1790s. The story of Fédon’s rebellion endures today, not only as a narrative coopted by the tourism industry, but also in more nuanced dialogue on how the history of slavery should be represented in Grenada. The third article, by Christopher McGinn and Keith Debbage examines the role of provisional ballots in the 2008 presidential election in North Carolina. A recent and still under-researched phenomenon in electoral politics, provisional ballot casting in North Carolina was most prevalent during the 2008 election in rural, agricultural counties with substantial minority populations.
The fourth article, by Robert Kruse, highlights tourism representations of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, which has come to enjoy regional fame as the location of paranormal sightings as well as a tragic bridge failure over the Ohio River. [End Page 257] These divergent narratives are interwoven through the town by myriad local stakeholders, all of whom are seeking in their own ways to improve economic prospects for their town. The fifth article is written by Roger Auch, Darrell Napton, Kristi Sayler, Mark Drummond, Steve Kambly, and Daniel Sorenson. It examines how land use activities have shaped land cover in the southern Piedmont region of the United States since the 19th century to the present, focusing particularly on how forestry, agriculture, and urban growth have come to shape the contemporary landscapes of the region. The final article, written by Caitie Finlayson, applies recent approaches in geographical research on religion to examine how people create sacred space through the art of Tai Chi. Drawing from her ethnographic research at the Tallahassee branch of the Taoist Tai Chi society, Finlayson demonstrates how performance of Tai Chi can itself be transformative in that it creates a sacred space whose center is within the body of the practitioner.
This issue concludes with two book reviews. Xiaohui Liu reviews the book, North Carolina’s Hurricane History, which was written by Jay Barnes. Our second review, written by Adam Bledsoe, examines Slavery’s Exiles: The Story of the American Maroons, by Sylviane Diouf.
We hope that all of you enjoy this issue...