South Florida: Trouble in Paradise

South Florida is Hit By a Hurricaine of Crime, Drugs and Refugees

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churches and funeral homes," says Johnny Jones, a former Dade County school superintendent. "After a generation of being Southern slaves, blacks now face a future as Latin slaves."

Ironically, the Cubans themselves are a divided community. La Comunidad, as the older Cubans are called, fears the Marielitos will tarnish the reputation they have labored so hard to build in South Florida. "I tell my employees that if a black comes here asking for money, give it to him," says one prosperous Cuban gas station owner in Little Havana. "If an Anglo comes to rob us, give it to him. But if a Marielito comes here, kill him. I will pay for everything." The older Cubans also find themselves in a cultural and political split with the younger ones, who tend to split with the younger ones, who tend to be less conservative and less committed to the homeland than their elders. While an older Cuban might listen for hours to a Spanish-language station blasting out anti-Castro messages, the younger one is more inclined to tune to a rock station.

The shocks of crime, drugs and cultural tensions have already spawned the beginnings of an Anglo exodus from Miami and its environs. Some 95% of election registrations now being canceled by citizens leaving the region come from white voters. Says Jeff Laner, 26, a native of Miami who moved this year to work as a stockbroker in Kansas City: "I was going to be damned if I had to learn a foreign language to get a job where I had lived all my life."

South Floridians dedicated to easing the strains within the region found little comfort in this month's mayoral election in Miami. The campaign managed to avoid nearly all the major issues and instead dwelt on which of the two major candidates was more Latin: Mayor Maurice Ferre, or Manolo Reboso, who took part in the Bay of Pigs invasion. Reboso courted the votes of Cubans, while Ferre made his strongest pitches to Anglos and blacks. The results of last week's runoff election show just how bitterly Miami is polarized. Reboso drew 70% of the Cuban vote, while Ferre attracted an astounding 95% of the black vote (the pair split the Anglo vote about evenly). The Anglos were so alienated by the race that only 38% of those eligible to vote bothered to do so, while 58% of the Latin voters and more than 50% of the blacks went to the polls. "We've become a boiling pot, not a melting pot," says Mayor Ferre. "The Anglos can't adapt. They can't take it, so they're moving."

South Floridians tend to compare their current woes to such earlier cataclysms street the 1 926 hurricane that devastated Miami or the colossal land failures of the late 1920 that turned millionaires into paupers overnight. The region's present agonies, they argue, are due more to a random run of bad luck than anything that could have been prevented. "The people's attitude is, 'Damn it, I am down here to avoid problems, not have them,' " says Governor Bob Graham, a Dade County native. " 'Now I have them.' How do you deal with these issues in a political climate that demands instant gratification?" Says Dan Paul, one of Miami's most prominent attorneys: "There is no real interest here in preserving or creating a quality of life. I don't think there is any real community outrage about the drug trade.

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