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Cayo Hueso

CIRCA 1800

Historic Marker number 51 is located in Mallory Square.'Key West got its name from a combination of cultures and languages. Early Spanish explorers named the island “cayo hueso” which loosely translates to English as “bone island”. Historians and scholars believe that the first part of the name can be easily explained. “Cayo” was adopted by the Spanish explorers from the language of the Tiano Indians of Cuba which refers to a small island. The equivalent word in English is “cay”. Over the years, American Colonist's terminology for the island became “key”.'“Hueso” has two meanings in Spanish. The direct Spanish translation means bone. The origins of the name are commonly believed to be a reference to the piles of bones scattered about the island. The bones are thought to be human remains of a skirmish between two competing Indian tribes, shipwreck victims, or piles of fish bones accumulated over hundreds of years of fishing by the native people and nearby island groups. There are even stories by John Whitehead, one of the founding fathers of Key West, talking about piles of bones being found as the island was being settled in the 1820s.'The Spanish pronounce “Hueso” phonetically as “wayso”. The Spanish also referred to Key West as “oeste” which translates to English as “west”. Key West is the western most island of the Florida Keys.'Through a general merging of the names along with references in English navigation charts, “hueso” was replaced with “west”.'Today the many origins of Key West's name go hand in hand with the rich, diverse, multi-cultural history and heritage the island has to offer.'