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Zepeda says he used to wrestle alligators. "But I got older, and the alligators still stayed young," he says.

And that is the song of the Big Cypress and the Everglades—the nation got older, and this land, now coming back around the abandoned village, recalls a world that was newer and fresher.

The project covers little more than 2,000 acres, compared with the entire Everglades, which comprise more than four million. And it is migrant laborers, not Seminoles themselves, who have been hired to remove the exotic species. (This is also true at Santa Clara Pueblo.) It would be easy to dismiss the effort as a tiny gesture.

But this would hardly be the attitude of an alligator or a cypress.

In a canal snaking around the area under restoration, an alligator leaps from the water in the sunlight and snatches a fish. The canal, part of the huge water-drainage effort that destroyed much of the Everglades, is little more than an industrial ditch. And yet the alligator lives here, beautiful as it arcs in the light—wild, throbbing life in a world going to concrete, condos, and freeways. 

Charles Bowden wrote about Libya’s Fezzan region in the October 2009 issue. Jack Dykinga photographed the Big Bend of Texas and Mexico in 2007.
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