The Late Great
City of Miami
How an all-American city
became a beachhead for the third world.
by Derrick Anderson and Samuel Taylor
facts – just two – explain almost everything about Miami: In 1960, the
city was 90 percent white; by 1990 it was only ten percent white. Virtually
everything else about Miami today – crime, poverty, race riots, cultural
decay, third-world squalor – follows from this astonishing change in population.
To be sure, it is important to understand the mix of people who displaced
whites. Cubans, especially those who arrived first, have had a very different
effect from that of Haitians or Nicaraguans. However, no city could show
more clearly how dependent upon race and ethnicity are a city’s character
and civility. No city could show more clearly that large-scale displacement
of whites marks the end of everything commonly thought of as “American.”
Miami is one of the bellwethers for the nation that will result if the
silent invasion from the third world continues. It is therefore important
to know what has happened to the city and why.
First Came the Cubans
Cubans are now the dominant group in a city that is 63 percent Hispanic
and 27 percent black. Even Dade County, which surrounds Miami, is about
50 percent Hispanic and 21 percent black, with whites making up no more
than 29 percent of the population. Aside from a few quickly-shrinking enclaves
of white influence, Cubans control business, politics and culture.
Hundreds of thousands of Cubans fled to Miami after Fidel Castro’s victory
in late 1958, but they did not come simply because it was near by. Florida
and Cuba have connections that are centuries old, and the post-Castro migration
was only part of a long history.
From the earliest times, imperial Spain had ruled Florida and Cuba under
a single administration. There was no political border
between the two territories until Andrew Jackson conquered Florida, and
the United States annexed it in 1821.
No city could show more clearly
that the displacement of whites marks the end of everything commonly thought
of as “American.”
Even before the city of Miami was founded in 1896, the area had long
played a part in the ructions of Cuba’s tropical politics. The South Florida
coast was an important supply route for Cubans fighting Spanish colonial
rule, and the smugglers and gun runners were largely unmolested by Americans
intent on building a vacation resort.
The Spanish-American war brought American-imposed stability to Cuba,
but once the country tried governing itself, it reverted to opera buffa
politics. In his 1917 essay, Gore in the Caribbees, H.L. Mencken
describes the “Latin exuberance” of a failed revolution. “It was an exhilarating
show,” he concludes, “but full of strangeness for a Nordic.”
Revolutions routinely deposited refugees and counter- revolutionaries
in Miami, and former exiles would sail back to Cuba with the next violent
change in government. In 1933, for example, Gerardo Machado was overthrown
and Miami teemed with his henchmen. In 1952, Fulgencio Batista staged a
coup and his predecessor, Carlos Prio, packed his bags for Miami. In 1958,
it was Batista’s turn to move north. All three are buried in Miami, where
residents got used to itinerant dictators and their hangers-on.
The immediate effect of the Castro take-over was to reduce the
number of Cubans living in Miami. Many had been scheming against Batista
and streamed home in the wake of Mr. Castro’s victory. They streamed back
to Miami when Mr. Castro began to build the workers’ paradise.
The real exodus from Cuba did not start until a year or two after the
revolution, but when it came, Miami was the obvious destination. During
the Prio and Batista years, even middle-class Cubans took annual vacations
in Miami, and after airplane service began it was fashionable for rich
Cubans to take one-day shopping trips to Florida. The Cuban upper classes
escaped to a familiar and comfortable refuge.
At first, Miami’s whites ignored the post-Castro rush, confident that
like all previous waves of political casualties, it would wash out again
with the next coup. Moreover, the first crop of Cubans was the wealthy,
well-educated white elite who spoke English and slipped easily into Miami
society. However, by 1965, 210,000
Cubans had come to Miami, and by 1973 another 340,000 had boarded the twice-daily
“freedom flights” for Florida. The quality of immigrants steadily declined,
though few Cuban blacks and mulattoes had yet to come north.
The departure of hundreds of thousands
of citizens in the face of an alien onslaught is the great, unrecognized
tragedy of Southern Florida.
During this period the Miami Herald still reflected the views
of whites, and its editorials echoed rising alarm over the alien invasion.
However, Cubans fleeing from communism made first-rate cold-war propaganda,
and the federal government flouted the wishes of whites by welcoming the
Cubans as refugees. It was Mr. Castro who finally stopped the “freedom
flights” in 1973, but Miami’s transformation was well under way. The first
wave of Cubans came to plot counter-revolution in the hope of going back
home; later waves expected to stay.
Cubans quickly established a distinct community. They came not only
with a common nationality, but with a fierce anti-communism that set them
apart from the soft liberalism of America. They employed
and did business with each other, continuing relations that had been established
for years. Some businesses simply moved across the Florida Straits. The
Caballero Funeral Home, for example, advertises that it was founded in
1858, at a time when Miami did not exist. It was founded in Havana.
Many entrepreneurs had scant regard for American legalities or customs,
and they brought with them a corner-cutting, under-the-table mentality
that still characterizes Miami. However, Cubans were scrupulous in their
relations with each other because a violation of trust meant exclusion
from the community.
The fact that well-off businessmen had come first made things much easier
for the later arrivals. Cane-cutters just off the plane were grateful for
any kind of work, and were both loyal workers and customers for Cuban businesses.
At the same time, perpetually rocky politics in Latin America sent north
a steady flow of flight capital. Naturally, it went to Miami, where nervous
Argentines and Colombians could count on fellow Hispanics to invest their
nest eggs in solid American banks.
What was the effect of the Cuban presence on the Miami labor market?
One of the few “respectable” criticisms of non-white immigration is that
it displaces blacks, and it is widely maintained that this happened in
Miami. In fact, it was whites who were replaced. The garment industry,
for example, was 94 percent white in 1960, but by 1980, it was 83 percent
Hispanic. Black participation in the industry held steady at 5-7 percent.
Likewise, in the hotel industry, when Cuban participation went from
18 percent to 40 percent between 1970 and 1980, this advance was entirely
at the expense of whites. During the same period, blacks increased
their participation from 14 to 23 percent – likewise at the expense of
whites, who saw their participation cut in half, from 68 to 34 percent.
The professions saw the same trend. From 1970 to 1980, black participation
nearly doubled from seven to 13 percent. Cuban participation grew even
faster but, again, the only group that saw its numbers decline was whites.
This was not because whites could not compete for jobs, but because
they simply moved away. The arriving Cubans naturally steered clear of
black neighborhoods and moved in among whites. This was the obvious choice
for the first group of well-to-do, light-skinned Cubans, and when poorer
immigrants began to arrive, they settled around the margins of already-established
Cuban areas. As neighborhoods became unrecognizable and unintelligible,
whites moved away. The departure of hundreds of thousands of citizens in
the face of an alien onslaught is the great, unrecognized tragedy of Southern
Florida. Blacks, whose uninviting neighborhoods were shunned even by poor
Cubans, were largely unaffected.
1980: Annus Mirabilis
By 1980, it was clear that Miami was sliding out of the European-American
orbit, but several events in that remarkable year confirmed it. One was
what became known as the Mariel boatlift. After a few Cubans successfully
broke Mr. Castro’s travel ban and shipped out to Miami from the port of
Mariel, Cuban authorities decided to let anyone leave who wanted to. Miami
Cubans joyfully spent millions of dollars chartering boats in the hope
of freeing relatives, but most of the passengers turned out to be strangers.
Cuba made no secret that it was emptying prisons and mental hospitals onto
the waiting boats. “Those that are leaving from Mariel,” explained Mr.
Castro, “are the scum of the country – antisocials, homosexuals, drug addicts,
and gamblers, who are welcome to leave Cuba if any country will have them.”
During 1980, 125,000 Marielitos floated across to Miami, 45 percent
of them with criminal records. They unleashed an unprecedented crime wave,
including as many as six airplane hijackings to Cuba in one week. Even
the most staunchly anti-Castro Cubans began to realize that accepting Mr.
Castro’s scum was a mistake. “The Marielitos are mostly black and
mulattoes of a color I never saw or believed existed in Cuba,” marveled
one Cuban-American official.
President Jimmy Carter, ever unmindful of the damage he was doing the
country, welcomed the boatlift as yet another testimonial
to America’s greatness. He stopped letting the boats land only after Miami
Cubans themselves – disgusted with Mariel dross – told him to.
Eight whites were lynched in a
variety of colorful ways – set afire in their cars, beaten with concrete
blocks, stabbed, shot,
1980 was also marked by the beginning of what has come to be almost
a biennial Miami ritual: black riots. A black man had died at the hands
of police under questionable circumstances, but a jury concluded no crime
had been committed. Blacks reacted with several days of riot, arson and
murder, during which they deliberately attacked whites. Eight whites were
lynched in a variety of colorful ways – set afire in their cars, beaten
with concrete blocks, stabbed, shot, run over – and scores barely escaped
with their lives. The Dade County court house was one of many buildings
put to the torch in an orgy of destruction that left $80 million in property
Just to top off the year, 1980 also saw a rush of Haitian boat people.
About 60,000 paddled in between 1977 and 1981, and the largest number came
at the same time as the Mariel boatlift. This was no coincidence. A government
that was rejoicing in the arrival of criminals and mental patients could
hardly turn away able-bodied Haitians without being accused of racism.
As it happened, Haitians were bringing their own peculiar scourges: AIDS
They brought incongruity too. Some boats landed on exclusive beaches,
where sun-bathers gaped as starving, ragged blacks shuffled ashore. In
one famous incident, 20 bloated corpses from a Haitian shipwreck drifted
onto the powdery white sand behind expensive condominiums. Whites could
be forgiven for thinking that civilization was coming to an end.
How did they react? In their civilized and utterly ineffectual way,
Dade County residents voted by a huge majority to prohibit the county from
conducting business or funding activities in any language but English.
In that fateful year of 1980, the forces of cohesion could manage no more
than this – and even this was worse than nothing.
Cubans decided that the “anti-bilingual ordinance” was a huge insult
to them. Until then, they had concentrated their political energy on undermining
Fidel Castro. Now that whites (and blacks) had mounted a feeble attempt
to keep Miami from spinning completely off into the Caribbean, Cubans resolved
to remake the city even more explicitly in their own image. They began
to promote Hispanic causes not just in Cuba but in America as well. They
became U.S. citizens and ran for office. Thousands who had never bothered
with naturalization mouthed the words of the oath of citizenship and started
voting for fellow Cubans.
By the time of the Falkland Islands war in 1982, Cubans and other Hispanics
were not at all inhibited about expressing partisan, ethnic
interests. Even Cuban-Americans who had fought with U.S. forces in Vietnam
helped raise money for the Argentines and joined rallies denouncing Britain’s
campaign to retake the islands. Whites supported the British, out of cultural
affinity and respect for international law. Many were startled by the fierce,
ethnic solidarity that drove fellow “Americans” to support the Argentine
invasion. However, it was during the controversy over Nicaraguan immigrants
that Miami’s Cubans clearly demonstrated their power to make national policy.
Just as Cuba had done, Central American countries had long used Miami
as a staging area for the series of farces that passed for politics. Thus,
when Anastasio Somoza felt support disappearing in 1978, he quietly bought
a $575,000 house in Miami. The next year, the Sandinistas persuaded him
to go live in it.
The Nicaraguan exodus that then followed was like the Cuban exodus writ
small. The “capitalists” were the first to abandon ship, and by the early
1980s, Miami had a Nicaraguan-American Bankers Association. Ordinary Nicaraguans
did not start coming to Miami in large numbers until the mid-1980s, as
the Contra war wound down.
Republican administrations did not welcome these newcomers the way Democrats
had welcomed Cubans. Ronald Reagan and George Bush thought the best way
to fight communism was for Nicaraguans to stay home and dust it up with
the Sandinistas. The government treated the new flood as illegal aliens
and tried to
Cubans felt otherwise. They sympathized with their brother Latinos,
who were fleeing a familiar sort of tyranny. Also, Nicaraguans made good,
grateful stoop workers in the fields and seamstresses in the sweatshops.
The Cubans of Miami rose up against the deportation policy. At first, they
simply defied it. Any Nicaraguan who could make it to the city was swept
into a Hispanic network that immigration officials could not penetrate.
Miami whites were actually talking angrily about the need to control
American borders, and the federal government’s official position was to
deport Nicaraguans – to no avail. In 1986, the Justice Department threw
up its hands and announced that no
more Nicaraguans would be deported. All asylum seekers would get temporary
work permits while their cases were reviewed. Of course, this only increased
the flow, and by the second half of 1988, 5,000 Nicaraguans a month were
filing asylum claims. The Cubans had won and the nation had lost.
EEO, Miami Style
Ocean Bank is a Miami-based institution
with over $800 million in assets and eight branches in Dade County. The
bank’s Statement of Condition for June 30,1993, lists its officers as follows:
Directors and Senior
Agostinho de Sousa Macedo, Josh Concepcion, Joao de Sousa Macedo, Josh
Quintino de Abreu, Benigno Perez Concepcion, Antonio Cabrera, Rafael Elortegui,
Antonio Gonzalez, Carlos Montero, Benigno Aguirre, Terry Curry, Luis Consuegra,
Luis Mion, Manuel Cornide, Alberto Vega
Senior Vice Presidents
Orlando Barb, Rolando Bichara, Angel Buznego, Antonio Caula, Israel
Cruz, Simon Cruz, Lionel Del Riio, Marcia Garcia, Gabriel Guerra, Carlos
Hondal, William Krauss, Pedro Mirabal, Vicente Mora, Danilo Perez, Ectore
Reynaldo, Mario Santiz, Marcelin Uribarri
Antonio Amadeo, Manuel Cabanas, Ivan Castaneda, Nelson Castillo, Alexander
Chediak, John Clark, Luis de la Aguilera, Lucrecia de la Moneda, Osvaldo
Delgado, Antonio Dutriz, Mercy Egues, Ramon Ferran, Margarita Flor, Raul
Geerken, Rene Gonzalez, Olimpia Guzman, Jorge Joya, Louis Leon, Rau1 Martinez,
Pedro Mas, Consuelo Niebla, Mirta Nunez, Jorge Plasencia, Edward Rojas,
Silvio Santana, Jose Torano
Illiterate Nicaraguans quickly became a welfare burden. Clinics suddenly
found they were treating more Nicaraguans than anyone else. Schools were
swamped with yet more children who spoke no English. As usual, the city
gave way. There is now a Ruben Dario Street and a Ruben Dario Middle School,
both named after Nicaragua’s best-known poet.
It was about this time that the Miami Herald defected to the
other side. Cubans were incensed that it had run editorials in favor of
deporting Nicaraguans and in October, 1987, they bought a full-page ad
in the Herald to denounce the newspaper. There was talk of boycotts,
and spineless white editors quickly capitulated. Whites were leaving town
anyway, they reasoned, and Hispanics were not going to read a paper that
didn’t promote their interests. Before long, the Herald was writing
cheerily that Nicaraguans would make wonderful contributions to the city
just as Cubans had. These days, its publisher, David Lawrence, urges whites
to learn foreign languages and looks forward to hearing The Star Spangled
Banner sung in Haitian Creole.
Whites continued to put up ineffectual resistance. In 1988, a state
constitutional amendment to make English the official language of Florida
passed with 84 percent of the vote. One can only assume that a majority
of that size means that whites were overwhelming opposed to nonwhite immigration,
easy citizenship, liberal asylum laws, welfare for non-citizens, and all
the other measures that make a mockery of citizenship and turn whites into
refugees in their own land. But of course, they were afraid to defend their
interests as whites and hung their forlorn hopes on symbolic gestures.
Just how symbolic they were was shown last year, when a newly confident
Cuban power structure overturned Dade County’s English-only ordinance.
Miami is now free to conduct official business in Spanish. As the former
mayor of Miami, Maurice Ferre, has pointed out, “Anglos” have a choice:
They can learn Spanish or leave. It is hard to think of a more arrogant,
thankless attitude to the country that has welcomed newcomers, but the
glorying in defeat, purred delightedly when the English-only rule was voted
Although thousands of Jamaicans, Trinidadians, and Tobagoans have moved
to Miami in recent decades, Haitians have set the tone for black immigration.
They have not always gotten on well with American blacks. The mulatto elite
tends to be responsible and hard-working and to look down on American ghetto-dwellers.
For the most part, though, the neighborhood of Little Haiti looks like
big Haiti: rows of clapped out buildings sitting in piles of trash. Of
course, there is a public school named for Toussaint L’Ouverture, one of
the leaders of the Haitian slave revolt against France that turned
into a race war. As in so many other Miami neighborhoods, an occasional
patrol car is the only reminder that this is, theoretically, the United
Haitian children have quickly acculturated – to the black sub-culture.
In the early 1980s, when they first started appearing in schools, American
blacks taunted them and beat them up because of their accents. Haitian
children quickly learned black slang, music, and misbehavior and all the
anti-white clichés that nourish black resentment. Worried Haitian
parents watch helplessly as their children slip into the despised American
Blacks, whether Haitian or American, have never had good relations with
Cubans. Cubans generally ignore blacks, leaving the rituals of propitiation
to whites. After the 1980 race riot, it was whites who raised $7 million
for a Business Assistance Center to give money to black companies. Later
the center raised another $8.3 million, but much of the money was wasted
on black shysters, and the average rioter got nothing. Neither the city’s
black set-aside program, which ran from 1982 to 1990, nor a series of enterprise
zones and tax holidays in black areas have alleviated the squalor. Every
riot brings a new infusion of tribute money, but nothing changes.
Puerto Ricans – four percent of Miami’s population and mostly poor –
have noticed this municipal largesse and decided to get some, too. In 1990,
they started their own little riot in the Wynwood neighborhood. “The other
people, the black people, this is how they did it, and it worked,” explained
a 17-year-old girl rioter. “We’re the invisible community,” said Florida’s
representative of the National Puerto Rican Forum; “[T]his is the only
way we have gotten recognition.”
It is mainly blacks, though, who continue to burn down their neighborhoods
and then blame racism for it. They have seen Cubans, Nicaraguans, and even
Haitians pass them by, and now that Cubans largely run the city, it must
be Cuban racism that makes them fail. This raises an earnestly debated
question: Were Cubans always vicious racists or did they learn from whites?
Cubans particularly angered blacks when they snubbed Nelson Mandela
during a visit in 1990. Miami officials were among the few people in America
with enough backbone to denounce Mr. Mandela as the communist admirer of
Mr. Castro that he was. This was an unspeakable crime in the eyes of blacks,
who started a campaign to drive convention business from the city. Blacks,
who neither study Spanish nor have the initiative to move away, increasingly
resent the Hispanic takeover of what they thought was an American city.
Recently, racial animus got official recognition from an appeals court
judge. In 1989, Colombian-born policeman William Lozano killed two black
criminals who were about to run him down on a motorcycle. After the usual
two days of riot and arson, Mr. Lozano was convicted of manslaughter. In
1991, the appellate court threw out the conviction on the grounds that
Miami was so racially divided it could not possibly have given him a fair
trial: Blacks were ready to lynch him, while Hispanics paid his legal fees
– contributing as much as $150,000 after a single radio appearance.
Racial cleavage got another official boost in 1992, when a federal judge
outlawed Dade County’s decades-old system of county-wide elections for
commissioners, and carved out 13 separate districts, each with a solid
racial majority. Commissioners, the great majority of whom are Hispanic,
can now officially and openly represent their co-racialists.
Capital of the Caribbean
So what is life like today in the Capital of the Caribbean or the City
of the Future as boosters like to call it? It is possible, in the beautiful
neighborhoods of Coral Gables, Old Cutler Road, and Pinecrest in south
Dade County where wealthy whites live, still to believe oneself in paradise.
It is possible to glide from half-acre estate to private club to private
school, and remain in a world that is overwhelmingly white and civilized.
Most Miami whites even think they “celebrate diversity.” They speak a few
words of Spanish, and they know some light-skinned Latinos with impeccable
manners who appear to fit into their social class. Only dimly do whites,
in their golden enclaves, sense the rising tide of aliens – aliens who
hate them because they are rich, and despise them because they are weak.
There are over 150 square miles of metropolitan Dade County that simply
no longer exist for whites. Here live the nearly 60 percent of county residents
who do not speak English at home. Here live the half of the population
of Miami and of Sweetwater that were not even born in the United States.
Here live the one in ten county residents who are illegal aliens.
Every month, another 1000 foreign-born students enroll in the county’s
schools. This year, there are more than 16,000 illegal students in the
system with a legal right to an education, which will cost the county $68
million. This does not include “bilingual” education costs such as the
salaries of 40 Creole-speaking teachers. It is difficult to teach this
mix of school children and many a career has foundered in the attempt.
The Miami school district had four different school superintendents during
a 14 month period in 1990 and 1991.
Since the Haitians, Cubans, and Central Americans who keep coming have
nothing to offer an employer, Miami is poor. During the 1980s, the typical
Florida family enjoyed a 12 percent gain in income. In the city of Miami,
the typical family lost 12 percent. Half of the children under five live
in poverty, and the number of poor people rose during the decade from 25
percent to 33 percent. One in eight dwellings in the city is so run down
it should be demolished.
A growing problem for Miami is people who are both poor and old. Many
former construction workers and sewing machine operators spent their lives
in the underground Hispanic economy. They have no retirement plans, no
social security accounts, and no savings. The taxpayer will have to keep
them in their old age.
The taxpayer also heals the sick. In 1992, Jackson Memorial Hospital
alone staggered under an unpaid immigrant medical bill of $93 million.
Since 1990, Cubans have stiffed the hospital for $40 million, Haitians
for $26 million and Nicaraguans for $22 million. Spongers from virtually
every Caribbean and South American country have run up bills, including
$700,000 for Guyanese, of all people.
Florida leads the nation in heterosexual transmission of AIDS, and today
one in every 40 Dade County residents is infected. Since each AIDS patient
costs about $85,000 from diagnosis to death, the county can expect to spend
something over $3 billion on the disease during the next decade. Many of
the dead will be women, so after New York City and Newark, New Jersey,
Dade County is likely to have more AIDS orphans by the year 2000 than anywhere
else in the country.
Miami has also become a center for the practice of a quaint “religion”
called Santeria, which lower-class Cubans brought with them.
Best known for ritual animal sacrifice, Santeria combines the outlandish
beliefs of African animism with equally outlandish borrowings from Catholicism.
One common ritual for driving evil spirits out of a house is to cut off
a chicken’s head and drink the blood straight from the chicken. Miamians
used to be arrested for this sort of thing, and for hacking up goats, sheep,
dogs, turtles, snakes, and roosters during their worship services, but
in 1993 the Supreme Court decided that Santerian rites are part of a Constitutionally
protected religion. Sacrifices are now undisturbed, and children are excused
from school to attend them.
Top of the List
However, it is crime that is the most piquant spice that “cultural enrichment”
adds to the Miami stew. Some people still remember the 1950s, when Miami
was a white city and people did not think of locking their doors even when
they went on vacation. Now, they live behind steel bars, triple dead bolts,
and electronic alarm systems.
Recently, Dade County has had the highest crime rate of any American
metropolitan area. Each year, the county reports 12.3 serious, FBI index
crimes for every 100 inhabitants, which puts it well ahead of San Antonio,
Texas, which is next with 9.5 for every one hundred. The county’s crime
rate is fully 45 percent higher than that of New York City.
Miami leads the nation in several crimes that are not even part of the
FBI’s index. In 1990, more than 770 people were indicted for drug smuggling,
200 more than in the New York/New Jersey area, which came in second. Miami
is also America’s favorite distribution point for counterfeit money; $50,000
in bogus bills go into circulation every week. Much of it is printed in
Latin America and comes in with drugs.
Miami is also back to its old business of gun running, and may well
lead the world in this trade. Weapons obtained in Florida were used to
assassinate three candidates in Columbia’s 1989 presidential election and
to stage a failed Islamic coup in Trinidad in 1990. Both the U.S. Customs
Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have their largest
offices in Miami.
Violent crime has increased by more than 82 percent in the last ten
years, which helps explain why private security is a booming businesses.
Miami was one of the first cities in America to wall off entire residential
areas and hire off-duty cops to patrol them. Criminals are piling into
the jails at such a rate the judges order their release because of crowding.
Even the most dangerous convicts often serve no more than 30 percent of
Some of the city’s highest-profile crimes have been against tourists.
In a period of just a few months in 1993 and 1994, black thugs killed four
European tourists, and Miami temporarily stopped advertising itself as
a vacation spot. A favorite crime against tourists is to smash their car
windows and grab everything in sight. In 1990, there were 4,040 roadside
robberies, or 11 every day.
In 1991, the Dade County Commission tried to protect tourists by making
it harder for robbers to tell which cars are rented. A new law forbids
rental of a car with company stickers on it, so when Miami rental agencies
turn around one-way cars from other cities, they have to scrape off all
Miamians have gone numb to violence and degeneracy, and some even find
entertainment in it. On one occasion, police found themselves surrounded
by a crowd of 500 curious onlookers as they prepared to remove two decomposing
corpses from the trunk of a gold-colored Cadillac. People spent hours waiting
for the spectacle to begin, sipping lemonade, bouncing children on their
shoulders, and sniffing the odor of rotting flesh. The police tried to
block the view with vans, but people crawled under them. Others hurried
home for binoculars and stood on their own cars for a better look. There
was no sense of horror; just the happy buzz of a crowd waiting for a good
In 1992, Miami got an extra dose of third-world bad luck that was a
perfect metaphor for the past 30 years: Hurricane Andrew blew in from the
south, just like the immigrants, and wrecked 80,000 homes and 82,000 businesses.
One hundred sixty thousand shelterless people were left staring at $20
billion worth of property damage.
Miami promptly ceased to be the capital of the Caribbean. Venezuela
sent no utility repairmen to help the city get back on its feet; they came
from South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. No Cuban or Dominican or Nicaraguan
churches sent food or set up soup
kitchens; the Baptists and Presbyterians took care of that. And, of course,
it was the American Red Cross, the U.S. Army, the Federal Emergency Management
Agency, and the Salvation Army that came to the rescue. Oddly, no one complained
that the rescuers spoke only English. When it came time to staff the We
Will Rebuild Committee, who should step forward but the remnants of the
old “Anglo” elite. “We have no tradition of philanthropy,” mumbled
The hurricane was a perfect demonstration of who invades and destroys,
and who pays the price. Somehow, no one noticed.
Derrick Anderson has lived in Miami all his life. He is married and
has three children.
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