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More Stories - The Way We Were
Wynwood - Allapattah's Neighbor
Someone wrote in to ask about the history of Wynwood. I really know almost nothing about that area. I know it was mostly older Anglos when we first moved into Allapattah in 1960 . It was sort of "suburban sprawl from early Miami, and later urban growth. Up until the late eighties a very elderly beekeeper still existed in the area. It became more and more commercial and a home to jails, group homes and homeless shelters in the last half of last century. The Bobby Maduro Baseball Stadium, previously known as the Miami Stadium was already deteriorating. The influx of Cubans in the early '60s, with their love of baseball, salvaged it for a few more decades, but it's now history.
Quoting from Oral History, an interview with Julio Robaina by Greg Bush:
"GB: Let me take you back in time with your own life. When
you were growing up in South Miami did you feel you were growing up in the suburbs
of Miami or in your own real city?
In 1964 we considered briefly buying a home in Wynwood. The house was a steal, but it had only a pocket-handkerchief front yard and back yard, was on a corner, and almost within spitting distance of the Stadium and just around the corner from Youth Hall, the juvenile jail facility. Much too "city" for this country gal. So we backed out, thank goodness.
Juvenile Hall then followed, transferring just over 1/2 mile from us, technically in Melrose on 27th Ave., the former site of the world's largest chicken coop and Emory-Riddle flying school. I believe -not sure - that this is a picture of this old building during the Emory-RIddle period.
The Miami Stadium or Bobby Maduro Stadium had an interesting history; perhaps readers will like to contribute their recollections. From The Miami Marlins:
"After the war (WWII), the need for a larger stadium became apparent. Jose Manuel Aleman, a former Minister of Education in Cuba, undertook the project. Construction began in late 1948 and Miami Stadium was opened on August 31, 1949. At the time, the 9,000-seat stadium was hailed as one of the finest and most beautiful in baseball."
Many notables played, spoke, worshiped and fought at the then-famous stadium, and it was the heart and soul of the Wynwood area. One such event was the following notable fight featuring Kid Gavilan:
"One of his successful defenses came against Bobby Dykes at Miami Stadium in 1952 - the first title bout between black and white fighters in then-segregated Miami."
I learned a valuable lesson from Kid Gavilan. I was at a neighborhood bar waiting my turn at the pool table, but everyone had abandoned billiards to watch the Muhammad Ali fight on TV, the famous one where he knocked out his opponent right at the beginning with one powerful punch.
Broadcasters were working up to it. I was sitting catty-corner from an elderly black Cuban gentleman that I hadn't seen before in an impeccable guayabera , and was engaged in banter - opinionated on my part - about Ali's chances (I was sure he'd get it over with fast). This is a subject on which I know hardly anything, but that doesn't always prevent me from shooting off my mouth. I was engaged in a slight argument on some point with the stranger, when someone took pity on me, leaned over and stage-whispered "Bess, that's Kid Gavilan...." I looked at him; Gavilan gazed back mildly. I shut up in a hurry. The fact that I was right, in retrospect, did not decrease my embarrassment.
The stadium was the scene of the first yearly celebration of the rescue of the image of the Cuban "Our Lady of Charity" (La Virgen de la Caridad):
"As the Virgin was brought inside the (American Airlines) arena, the overhead screens depicted footage from the first time the feast was celebrated in Miami on Sept. 8, 1961 at Bobby Maduro stadium, after the statue had been brought from Cuba to Miami through Panama. More than 30,000 exiles attended that celebration.
The faithful watched footage from the next 39 celebrations of the feast as they stood and waved small Cuban flags and handkerchiefs in white and yellow to welcome La Virgen de la Caridad. The ceremony ended with a mass presided by Archbishop John C. Favalora."
The Miami Stadium has been used in recent decades for unusual and much less noble purposes. Protests and concerts were often held. From Concert Memories:
"Miami Stadium, Miami, FL 1979
By the time Poco came on, it had really gotten wild. I can't remember if Poco did one, two or three songs and I don't remember Rusty getting hit. I just thought he was fed up with the audience not paying attention. Finally, he stopped playing in the middle of a song and said, "If that's the way you're going to be, then fuck you!" And they proceeded to walk off the stage. Everyone thought they would come back out, but they never did. Greg Hampton"
From "Cuba relives big-league baseball ties":
"Hailed as a patriarch of Cuban baseball, (Bobby) Maduro fled Castro-ruled Cuba and came to Miami, where he served as special assistant to then baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. Maduro's stature was recognized in 1987 when the City Commission voted to change the name of Miami Stadium to Bobby Maduro Miami Stadium."
From a Time Magazine report:
"To be sure, the newest Nicaraguan refugees hardly have it easy. Impoverished, frightened and confused, many of them were herded into a grimy makeshift shelter at Bobby Maduro Miami Stadium. There, cots were crammed end to end, and families crowded around long tables eating rice and beans, Big Macs and other offerings from local restaurants. Still, many agree with Manuel Ortega, 33, a carpenter from Managua who says he lost his job because of his anti-Sandinista politics, that "anything is better than home." At week's end most of the refugees had been moved to apartments and a church shelter."
A similar situation occurred during the Mariel influx in 1980, that coincided with the largest racial riot in Miami history which effectively destroyed the new and restored Allapattah "downtown" area (and also coincided with the death of my oldest daughter, Elizabeth Bush Metcalf, in a traffic incident. A very difficult time for all of us). Huge amounts of refugees were housed at the Stadium.
When we moved into Allapattah, in addition to quantities of Italians, Jews, Polish, Vietnamese, Estonians and others who had sought refuge in earlier decades, there were non-Cuban Hispanics, including many Puerto Ricans. As the Cubans, especially the ones from rural areas, and specifically Matanzas Province, moved into this grove-like ex-farming community, the Puerto Ricans began to congregate along 7th Ave in the Wynwood area. Now the Puerto Ricans and other Hispanics are being displaced by a huge Korean population that is developing the area. From The Puerto Rico Herald:
"Though Miami's Wynwood neighborhood has long been considered
a Little San Juan, many Puerto Ricans have moved to the suburbs as their economic
conditions improved. It's still the cradle of Puerto Rican leadership, however:
the Eugenio Maria de Hostos Senior Center, the Dorothy Quintana Community Center,
ASPIRA, the Borinquen Health Care Center and the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce,
to name a few. Wynwood is also home to Roberto Clemente Park, Eneida Hartner
Elementary and Jose de Diego Middle School."
....and the beat goes on...
More about Miami Stadium: