To grow pineapples, perchance to dream


These things are by nature impossible to see, but the Florida Atlantic University parking lots in Boca Raton are built on a lost civilization. In 1903, 29-year-old Japanese pioneer and recent NYU graduate Jo Sakai had a notion. He would gather together a small band of enthusiasts, investors, and hangers-on, he told the Jacksonville Board of Trade. Together, they would grow pineapples and rearrange a little piece of America based on utopian ideals and Japanese know-how. “A Jap here at Rickard’s looking for a tract of land for a colony,” noted Frank Chesebro, Boca banana pioneer, in his diary. By 1905 the Yamato Colony set sail. The educated colonists were few at first, and they didn’t actually know how to farm, but they worked hard for their new tropical micro-paradise. Clusters of shacks sprouted up on the half-flooded, mosquito-infested plantation. “Industrious Japs Will Soon Incorporate” read the headline in the Tropical Sun. The all-Jap colony “is intensely patriotic and is working in every way to advance the general welfare of the state.” Children were born, children were raised. A railroad station and post office were built.

more from Stefany Anne Golberg in The Smart Set here.