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Risen Lands - The Principality of San Moritz

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The Principality of San Moritz (Fürstentum Sankt Moritz) is an island nation roughly equidistant from Cuba, the Bahamas, and the U.S. State of Florida. A carbonate platform with broadly flat terrain, the island is overwhelmingly tropical and historically consisted of forested lowlands and highland plains. Originally inhabited by the Taino, the island was an unusual case of German colonization after the Welser family was sold colonial rights in exchange for debts owed to the Holy Roman Emperor. After the failure of the Klein-Venedig project, the island remained primarily populated by German-speakers, but became a prison colony for the Spanish to deport German Protestants who spread the reformation to the island and created a perpetually restless population which regularly revolted against Spanish colonial oversight until it won its independence during the chaos of the Napoleonic Wars, after which it appointed a prince to rule the island as a monarchy, which it remains to this day as the only "native monarchy" in the Americas, along with the only majority German-speaking country in the Western Hemisphere.

Geology / Ecology

Roughly shaped like a triangle, San Moritz is like many Caribbean islands a carbonate platform built up by the deposition of organic deposits from as early as the Jurassic period. This also means that its terrain is broadly low-lying and ultimately quite flat compared to regular continental crust, and its highest point is only 55 meters above sea level. However, the island is also geologically distinct from other nearby platforms such as Florida, the Bahama Banks, and the nearby island of Cuba, and even when sea levels were lower during the last Ice Age the island was separate from the others in the nearby region. The island is separated from nearby landforms by deepwater channels: the Florida Channel on the north, the Andros Channel to the east, and the Cuba Channel to the south.

Located immediately north of the Tropic of Cancer, the island's climate lies on the boundary of tropical and subtropical while also being significantly warmed by the flow of the Gulf Stream as it flows outwards through the Florida Channel northwards. Despite its relatively small variations in altitude the island is divided between a central upland and surrounding lowlands, the latter of which consist primarily of tropical savannah while its highland is dominated by broadleaf rainforest. Much of the flora and fauna resembles surrounding islands with only small variations in local biodiversity, such as the presence of the bee hummingbird in San Moritz as well as in Cuba, and the island having had a population of panthers before their local extirpation in the early 1700s (efforts at reintroduction have been ongoing since 2010).

Its small size has meant that over time much of the local wild environments have been either removed or heavily reduced in size to make way for farms and urban development, but recent environmentalist movements have strongly influenced the state's ecological policies. In 2018 San Moritz announced its intention to become the world's first "Wild Nation", embarking on a concerted effort to "undevelop" large amounts of unused land to become wilderness reserves that resemble the original form of the island before human presence as much as possible. To this end it has also willingly relocated small villages in its interior to its major cities as part of this undevelopment effort, and reintroduced similar species to locally extirpated ones, notably reintroducing a group of panthers to the island and carefully managing the balance of biodiversity on the island.

History

At the time of European arrival to the island, the island was populated by the Lukarri, a group closely related to the Lucayans of the Bahamas as part of the broader Taíno cultural group that spanned the Caribbean. Laying outside the voyages of Columbus, the island was officially "discovered" in 1513 during the voyage of Ponce de León, who claimed it for Spain under the name Isla de Santo Mauricio. Colonization began in earnest almost immediately, though to a lesser extent compared to Cuba or later Mexico given its small size and lack of unique resources such as gold or spices. Instead the island was largely given over to sugar plantations as part of the Spanish West Indies, though smugglers frequented the island quite regularly.

It was in 1546 when things really took a turn, as the "Klein-Venedig" project of the Welser banking family of the Holy Roman Empire had failed to achieve most of its aims and most of the German colonists had died from tropical diseases to attacks by the natives, and the unwinding chaos in the colony had lost the Welsers' favor with Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, who was also the King of Spain. After Bartholomew Welser IV had been arrested and imprisoned, Charles V intervened and instead had him exiled from Klein-Venedig (now Venezuela) to Santo Mauricio, with the agreement that he would oversee the island as its governor to manage the exile of German Protestants as the Protestant Revolution continued to unfold. Thus while African slaves remained the largest overall percentage of the population, the Spanish colonists were slowly outnumbered by the increasing number of Germans who were being deported to the island.

Ultimately the Welsers would continue as governors of the island and continue attempting to make things more accommodating for the expatriates by allowing Protestant worship despite remaining Catholic themselves, and the Germans (many of them Lutherans) to speak their own native German rather than being forced to learn Spanish or be converted. No matter the efforts though resistance was perpetually launched against the colonization by the Germans and slaves alike, at times the two allying to each other but for the most part continually failing to form any unified resistance to colonial power. By the late 1700s, as Spain's power was slowly declining, Santo Mauricio (which became known in the English-speaking world as "San Moritz", a combination of the Spanish San and the German form of Mauricio, Moritz) had stratified into a hierarchy where Spanish colonists and officials were at the top, German Lutherans below them, the "Freiefarbige" (Free People of Color) under them, and enslaved Africans underneath them. At times, Lutheran Germans would marry Freiefarbige to advance their own wealth, as many of them had gained the capacity to oversee their own plantations and were often quite wealthy, creating the Mulatten, people of mixed race who held an uncertain place in the hierarchy.

The American War of Independence left many desiring their own freedom, but debate over the matter continued to flounder until the French Revolution threw Europe into chaos. In 1791 Haiti revolted against France, touching off many sympathetic revolts across the Caribbean. San Moritz was no exception, but it wouldn't be until the French Invasion of Spain that the chaos grew too much for colonial authorities to bear. In 1806 the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved, and immediately the island erupted into revolt under the premise that Spain's colonization of the island was a guarantee from the Holy Roman Emperor, and now that such a position no longer existed the island was effectively independent either way. One leader of the Lutherans in particular, a man named Wilhelm Gustav Schweizer, became a highly charismatic and popular figure for appealing to Luterans, Freiefarbige, and slaves for the liberation of all men and women, to the point that in 1809 he was offered to become king of an independent San Moritz, but he declined the title of King and instead took the far more humble title of Prince. Thus, the Principality of San Moritz was officially declared that year, and Schweizer became Prince Wilhelm I.

Among the various colonies declaring their independence in those years, San Moritz was not the only one to attempt to implement a monarchy, but it would end up being the most successful. Haiti's efforts at an Empire failed catastrophically, its later brief attempt to become a Kingdom failed, and later in the century an attempt at a second Empire also failed. Mexico would be an Empire for less than 4 years once Agustín I was executed, and only Brazil would truly be able to establish a monarchy only because the House of Braganza itself underwent a civil war over Brazil's independence. Prince Wilhelm I, however, was a far more lenient monarch than others who attempted it and instead did his best to unite the various peoples of San Moritz, even going so far as to marry a wealthy Freigarbige woman and creating a mixed lineage. Of course this also severely hampered the island's legitimacy in the eyes of the world, as the "Von Schweizer Dynasty" was now disparaged as "unclean" for marrying commoners and freed slaves. The island became a focus of Spain's efforts to recapture its empire in 1820, but after intervention by the United States and a surprisingly effective resistance from the San Moritzians Spain was forced to concede to its independence in 1821.

Afterwards the island soon allied itself to the United States, who had been one of the first nations to recognize its independence and who began doing business all at once. Tensions were not nonexistent, however, as the island's new government implemented sweeping reforms allowing women the right to vote, emancipating the slaves, and overturning miscegenation laws. Still, the United States would appoint itself the protector of all of the Western Hemisphere under the Monroe Doctrine. Relations would sour as slaves from Florida and further afield began to brave the hazards of crossing the Florida Channel to find freedom in San Moritz, to the point that the United States threatened military intervention before pro-abolition elements restrained it. When Wilhelm I died in 1843 his son Wilhelm II assumed the throne. Wilhelm II was classified as a Mulatte, and his biracial status made him a focus of both aspersion and fascination for Europe, as was the way that San Moritz appeared to be functioning well as a multiethnic society. They would however refuse any efforts at marriage offers, best exemplified when he offered to marry Adelaide Sidney, eldest daughter of King William IV of Great Britain's illegitimate daughter, but was refused.

Nonetheless, the island began to develop further economically as it diversified its economy to plantation growth of crops ranging from cotton to dyes to tobacco, which did allow it to weather several international market dips. It would still remain primarily agricultural, without any significant local sources of coal to power industrialization, but regardless it managed to become a fairly wealthy state of its own accord. Internationally it was also remarkably stable, as when compared to the chaos of revolutions and uprisings in Latin America (many aided and abetted by the United States) San Moritz would manage to continue peacefully developing as a constitutional monarchy, best exemplified by the death of Wilhelm II in 1858: his brother claimed the throne as Prince Johann I, but his eldest daughter claimed the status as Princess Augusta I. After a brief period of tension a compromise was reached where Johann I would become Prince but Augusta would be his appointed heir (which was practical, as Johann I was getting on in years and had no children).

An international crisis focusing on San Moritz erupted in 1861 during the American Civil War, when rebel slaves seized control of the Florida Keys and declared it the "Free State of the Keys", appealing to Prince Johann I to rule their new state in personal union. When San Moritz did not automatically say no, the United States reacted with fierce hostility and sent a naval detachment to the coast off Freistadt, firing warning shots but never actually opening fire on the island. Two weeks after the offer was extended San Moritz declined the offer, but many volunteers would join the Union Army to fight against the slaveholding Confederacy. After the war's end, the United States and San Moritz normalized their relations, and the island's development continued with new investment from the United States. This development, though, was managed under state-owned companies to protect local interests, especially as the United States became increasingly willing to intervene militarily on behalf of foreign commercial interests.

When the United States entered World War I a military detachment was sent to the island out of fear that it would be sympathetic to the German Empire and declare war on the Entente, though this declaration was never forthcoming. This brief period of tension quickly calmed and in the interwar period the island began to open its economy up to more foreign investors, but again with limited opportunity for private enterprise out of fears of foreign intervention. As the Nazi regime took hold in Europe, a ship carrying 900 Jewish refugees was refused docking in Cuba for five days, after which Captain Gustav Schröder appealed to San Moritz for refuge. Following two days of debate, Prince Johan II himself intervened and stated "This nation was founded on the idea that all people should be free and protected from oppression. That basic axiom is at the heart of humanity. If we allow these people to return to Germany, then we will effectively have relinquished our humanity, and we will be as low as dogs." The refugees of the MS St. Louis were allowed refuge in San Moritz, forming the core of the modern San Moritzian Jewish community.

The island began to benefit extravagantly from the post-WWII boom of tourism becoming a widespread recreational activity, and many came to San Moritz in particular for the novelty of a tiny little principality wedged between the United States, Cuba, and the Bahamas. It especially drew tourists from the US and Europe, glamorized further when famed American actress Marilyn Monroe married Prince Wilhelm III in 1957 and became Princess-Consort from 1957. Their marriage was genuinely loving and provided "Princess Marilyn" much-needed stability in her life and they were married until the death of Wilhelm III in 1972, after which she remained "First Lady of San Moritz" until her own death in 1985. It remains a famous tourist hotspot in the Caribbean, where Freistadt International Airport receives flights from all over the world and where Princess Augusta II continues the lineage of the Von Schweizer Dynasty.

Culture

As has been elaborated on, the island is dominated by Lutheran German-speaking people who are primarily of mixed ethnicity, mostly descendants of German deportees and freed African slaves. The islanders certainly play into this quite a lot, with houses styled after those in Alpine Germany and a flag that takes inspiration from the Lutheran Rose which serves as a symbol of Lutheran Protestants in many different denominations. 87% of the island's population is Lutheran Protestant, and a majority of new migrants are from Germany, to the point that many people mistakenly believe that San Moritz was at one point a colony of the German Empire. Still, this German heritage is something that is likely played up quite a lot, given that many willingly engage in these stereotypes as part of the draw of tourism that the island now thrives on.

Still, the island has equally as much cultural influence from its non-German population as well. When African and African-American culture began to flourish in the post-war era San Moritz became host to a new musical genre rather particular to the island sometimes called "Schwarzenpolka", literally "Black Polka", a mixture of elements of German polka music, African spiritual music, and American influences of Jazz, Rock n' Roll, and the Blues. Having a Caribbean palate as well the island's cuisine has just as much emphasis on potatoes as it does spice and heat, often described simply as "Moritz cook-up" in the way that it places a great deal of emphasis on spiciness and the use of a vast array of seasonings from China to Africa to India. Curry powder in particular sees a lot of usage.

This unique blend of African, Caribbean, and German influences creates a pleasantly chaotic culture which often does little to take itself seriously, often encouraging a great deal of personal interpretation and experimentation with color, design, and style in art along with a vibrant music scene that some say changes every single time the clubs open. Color of all kind pervades every aspect of society, and even in the poorer neighborhoods of its smallest villages people will slap colors chaotically onto their houses to add further color to the world. Many find it amusing that such a small island does so much to be so much bigger in terms of its cultural output, while niche in the wider view of the world it still manages to remain distinctly eccentric and San Moritzian, where polka ensembles include steelpan drums, where schnitzel is seasoned with curry and peppers, where so many distinct and wildly different cultures and worlds come together to form a singular entity.
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Comments10
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cmg7501's avatar

Honestly surprised by how well it went since I’d figure America would’ve isolated like it did Haiti (though Haiti had the white genocide is that crazy rebel general claiming himself emperor).


Also kinda surprised they didn’t have a population boom from German immigrants post-WWI and post-WWII.

GameKarim's avatar

A German colony in the Caribbean, with curry Schnitzel and a surviving Marylin Monroe? I see this as an absolute win!


Two questions though: How high is the population of the island and what is it‘s relationship to modern Germany?

Mobiyuz's avatar

The population is somewhere in the 100,000 range and they're on friendlier terms with modern Germany now than back when it first got going.

Hardwing's avatar

Wow, this is an interesting one!

noah4449's avatar

What WAS the German Empire's views of San Moritz? Just confused is all.

Mobiyuz's avatar

They saw it as an annoying little dot in the Caribbean they might want to conquer as a colony at some point, but the Monroe Doctrine kept them from ever doing so.

PersephoneEosopoulou's avatar

Out of curiosity will any future risen lands potentially have a large Jewish population? would be interesting to see one one where there is effectivly another Jewish state to contrast Israel etc or something along those lines.

Mobiyuz's avatar

Perhaps, perhaps, if it feels right...

PersephoneEosopoulou's avatar

Naturally, if it was an ass pull it's not a good idea and all.

This island has everything! A successful Welser colony, a return of unused lands to their original state and Marylin Monroe pulling a Grace Kelly and having a happy ending

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