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More Stories - The Way We Were
Miami - A Third-World Country?
Who knows what really set off Tancredo's rant when he called South Florida a third-world country? Perhaps he's the type who, when abroad, is annoyed when he can't communicate in English.
Why has S. Florida, long a mix of cultures, failed to fully capitalize on it more fully? How many Americans would like to visit another land, but haven't the funds, time, or courage given current conditions, to travel overseas? Here in S. Florida we must not only accept our cultural differences, we should revel in them and turn them into tourist attractions.
There are movements afoot. We've a world class ballet-opera house at the new Center for the Performing Arts, sports stadiums such as the American Airlines Arena and Marlin's Stadium, as well as convention centers and exhibit halls. There's a great Planetarium at the Museum of Science. We have hotels, motels and bed & breakfasts at many levels of cost and style, outstanding museums large and small for all tastes and curiosities, an amazing Miami MetroZoo, the Seaquarium, and other animal attractions such as Parrot Jungle Island and Monkey Jungle. We have an amazing variety of restaurants of every ethnic persuasion and price level. We have the incredible and mysterious Coral Castle; the imported Italian Villa, Viscaya, a huge and luxurious Venetian Pool. We have world-famous gardens such as Fairchilds and Watson Island's Japanese Garden. There are festivals and parades; The Three Kings, Renaissance, Carnival Miami, and our infamous King Mango Strut that leaves you breathless from laughing! Our beaches are many and in pretty good condition, and of course there's South Beach with Clubs, the Art Deco section and more; there's diving, fishing and sailing available, and even a nude beach for those so inclined. We are only a short ride away from Miccosukee Indian Casinos, Disneyland, Universal Studios, Cape Canaveral, Key West, the famous "River of Grass" - the Everglades, Henry Ford's & Edison's estates and laboratory to the west, and so much more. Come on down, ya'all.
Famous old 'Negro' landmarks are being redeveloped; a famous Lyric Theatre in Overtown where the best jazz musicians stayed for decades, and played after-hours; Hampton House, where Martin Luther King and many other notables visited, Virginia Beach, the first "Colored" beach.
"Mixed" couples are the norm, and will find a welcome whether diverse by religion, race, culture or sexual orientation. In Miami we've seen it all and live with it daily.
Language? Patience is called for, as in any foreign country. Most residents are accustomed to a mix of English, Spanish, Yiddish, French, Haitian Patois and more. As to criticisms that "this is America, speak English", let me remind naysayers that the original languages spoken here were Florida and Caribbean West Indian dialects, and perhaps even Central and South American, as it was an important trading center centuries ago. Then Spanish, as conquistadors killed off and chased out the native tribes. Then English when the British and the Americans threw out most of the Spaniards.
We never were mainstream as far as language; refugees from myriad cultures found a home here: Polish, Italian, Jews, Latvians, Estonians, Mexican crop workers, you name it! In recent years, some of these immigrants who learned English in order to adapt decades ago are rediscovering their native tongue, and having the courage to speak it in public as is their right in a free America.
It hasn't always been easy. About 40 years ago my son, in
a moment of derangement as he was not a joiner, decided he HAD to be a Cub Scout.
I tried, but there were no troops in this changing area of Allapattah. If I wanted him to be a Cub Scout, I had to be leader.
I finally agreed. Our troop consisted
of two Cubans, a Puerto Rican, a Mexican, an Afro-American and my son, a gringo.
I studied the manuals and got started. All went pretty well despite some outrage
on the American part about calling our troop "Los Lobitos de Allapattah" (the little
wolves...), until the meeting where we were making moms a present for Mother's
Day. I saved some jars, got heavy round toothpicks and sweet potatoes
that were showing signs of sprouting, and explained to the boys how we would make a decorative
cascading vine for a gift. The session nearly came to a fistfight as the boys,
each convinced he was correct, argued, shoved and shouted, trying to
define if the thing was called a sweet potato, a yam, a boniato or a batata!