Note to President Trump
I sojourned in and around Miami, Florida while still in my wonder-years, from 1956 through 1987. At first I was a dirt-poor student living from hand to mouth. My three part-time jobs just weren’t cutting it.
The University of Miami kicked me out at the end of my junior year, because I couldn’t afford the tuition, costing me my student draft-exemption.
The next event was likely to be a draft notice from the army. That’s why I enlisted the U. S. Coast Guard in late 1958, just before my twentieth birthday.
I was away from my beloved city for six months.
I lived off-campus when I was enrolled at the university, and often walked to downtown Miami because I couldn’t afford bus fare. My friend and landlord, Nick Keenan, would stroll the miles with me. We observed the neighborhoods and talk about our studies, life, philosophy, girls, and more girls.
The main east-west arteries were Flagler and Southwest First Streets. Block after block of closed shops gave mute evidence that shopping needs were being met by malls and large chain stores.
The Mom and Pops could no longer compete. Whole neighborhoods, where a middle class used to abide, were sinking as residents fled to the suburbs for newer, larger and more modern homes.
Downtown Miami was an economic disaster. I have no idea what steps city fathers were taking to deal with the problems, but their efforts did not match major events that began in 1960, when Fidel Castro saved Miami from its financial and economic tailspin.
Fidel Castro saves Miami
Castro did that by making life in Cuba unbearable for millions of educated citizens. They promptly fled for the safety of South Florida. These new residents had little money, limited or no English skills, no licenses to follow their former professions, and not much love from many Florida residents.
The federal government branded them as refugees from communism, thereby allowing them the privilege of working in their new country – and boy, did they work!
There was a new and vibrant feeling in the air by mid-1960. Immigrant energy was transforming Miami into something new.
I noticed right away that the shops on Flagler and First Streets were functioning again. Laundrias, bodegas, restarantes, notarias, and cafés were springing up everywhere. Just like before, except that most signs were Spanish. The cafés perfumed the air with the divine scent of café Cubano. The lilt of a new language vibrated everywhere – we called it Spanglish.
I worked in the installment loan department of the First National Bank of Miami. Branch banking was not permitted in Florida in those days. I was a mobile-outside employee for two-and a-half years – roaming the city. I knew every corner of Dade and Broward Counties.
At first my customers were Americans. Then, over the years, the customer mix changed and Spanish names became common, and then predominant.
New construction, eager students, professionals and workers of every description blossomed. Well over a million Cubans became American citizens in Miami. I maintain that was good for the nation, good for Miami, and good for Florida.
We are a richer, stronger, and more interesting country because of our acceptance of those immigrants.
A Good Investment
I know that the reception of the Cuban immigrants cost the national, state and city governments precious tax dollars to help feed and house the refugees and to get them settled.
My goodness! That was a good investment.
Gracias Señor Fidel.
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