Tired of all the stuff about the Cuban kid who is rapidly being turned into the most pampered brat in the world? The press can be blamed, of course. As Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen writes, “We in the media are such self-important blockheads that we don’t recognize our own role in screwing up Elián González’s life. The fact that we’re being played for suckers by a couple hundred noisy zealots also has conveniently escaped our attention.”
Ah, the press can almost be forgiven; the temptations are great. Where else in America but Miami would reporters find a significant section of the population who–like those who wanted to touch the hem of Jesus’ cloak–compete to touch Elián, fervently believing that his rescue from the sea showed him to be one of God’s elect? And where else would you find a local professor who explains that it was quite natural–oh, just one of those lower-class Cuban things–for Elián’s visiting grandmother to bite the tongue, unzip the pants and suggest measuring the penis of this 6-year-old boy as a way of showing affection?
As US cities go, Miami is, well, something special.
Why do US tourists waste money traveling to Mexico and to other Latin experiments in defective democracy when they can find the same social flavors, the same thrills, for a much cheaper air fare to Miami and adjacent points in South Florida? Heavy drug traffic, corrupt judges, corrupt police, corrupt politicians, corrupt bureaucrats, violent crime on a massive scale and greedy destruction of the natural environment–why, land’s sake, Miami and its neighboring communities have everything you could ask for.
Many of the leading actors in this dark drama of life in cha-cha land have Latin names, which isn’t surprising, since at least 60 percent of the residents of Dade County (that’s Miami) speak something besides English, and mostly the other language is some version of Spanish. Cubans, born here or born there, are the largest “other” ethnic group, and because they dominate many aspects of Miami’s culture and politics, Anglos have fled the area in great numbers. Most departed grumbling that Miami had been turned into a little Cuba, the same complaint heard from many Anglos who stayed. Asked for specifics, some gripe about such imports as the Santeria cult’s belief in animal sacrifice, which sometimes results in the remains of chickens, turtles or even a headless goat lying about the landscape. Hiaasen, a native Floridian, writes, “For most of us, the killing of chickens is tolerable as a distant abstraction,” when the end result is a meal. “On the other hand–call it hypocrisy, call it a cultural gap–most of us aren’t too thrilled when one of our kids bursts through the door and says, ‘Can I spend the night at Billy’s? His mom’s going to kill a rooster and drink its blood.'”