Obama picks Cuban-born, Miami-raised poet for inauguration

By | January 9th, 2013 | No Comments

Richard Blanco, a son of Cuban exiles who grew up in Miami, will recite an original poem at Barack Obama’s second presidential inauguration, on January 21, according to the New York Times.

From the moment Barack Obama burst onto the political scene, the poet Richard Blanco, a son of Cuban exiles, says he felt “a spiritual connection” with the man who would become the nation’s 44th president.

Like Mr. Obama, who chronicled his multicultural upbringing in a best-selling autobiography, “Dreams From My Father,” Mr. Blanco has been on a quest for personal identity through the written word. He said his affinity for Mr. Obama springs from his own feeling of straddling different worlds; he is Latino and gay (and worked as a civil engineer while pursuing poetry). His poems are laden with longing for the sights and smells of the land his parents left behind.

Now Mr. Obama is about to pluck Mr. Blanco out of the relatively obscure and quiet world of poetry and put him on display before the entire world.

To learn more about Blanco, who honed his craft at FIU and writes about “negotiating the world” as a “mainstream gay” man who came out of a very conservative culture, read the NYT’s profile. On this recording, Blanco reads “América”, a poem from his first collection, City of a Hundred Fires.

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Good Read: ‘Terminal Miami’ by Choire Sicha

By | March 2nd, 2012 | 2 Comments

In "Terminal Miami", Choire Sicha chronicles his first impressions of his new, reptile-infested town. -- image by Patrick Leger

Choire Sicha, co-editor of The Awl (tagline: “Be Less Stupid”), has contributed an essay called “Terminal Miami” to the New York Times “Townies” series about his move from the Big Apple to the Magic City. Preciously, the reason given for the series’ Miami vacation — “Townies” pieces are usually about life in New York — is that it is spring break. Backhanded raisons d’être notwithstanding, Sicha’s piece is excellent, a well-written, funny, outsider’s account of our strange city, with its car-horn soundtrack and reptiles and “Jello-y air”, that rings true to this native. Here’s an excerpt:

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NY Times: ‘How Art Basel Is Remaking Miami’

By | November 29th, 2011 | 1 Comment

The following excerpt is from an article I co-wrote with New York Times Miami bureau chief Lizette Alvarez about the impact Art Basel Miami Beach, which kicks off its tenth year on Thursday, has had on the Miami art scene.

Art Basel’s imprint has little to do, at this point, with a local gallery or artist’s ability to get through the fair’s famously rigorous vetting process. Just 3 of the 260 galleries invited this year are from Miami, and only a handful of homegrown artists are showing in the fair, which begins on Thursday.

But since Art Basel’s debut 10 years ago, dozens of new galleries have opened, and scores of artists have relocated here, lured by the relatively low rents and, partly, by Art Basel itself.

The city, for its part, has used Art Basel to show the world that it is no cultural backwater, with museums, galleries and private collections all putting on their most ambitious shows of the year in time for the fair.

Most Miamians have heard the “Art Basel Remakes Miami” narrative before, and some, justifiably, roll their eyes at it.

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To Protect and Deceive

By | May 29th, 2011 | 1 Comment

With Rick Scott in the Governor’s Mansion, we are in a decisively uninnovative era in Florida history (low-speed rail anyone?). So I suppose it’s some consolation that the state’s criminals are picking up the slack. Quoth “Criminals in Police Clothing” in Saturday’s New York Times: “In South Florida, seemingly an incubator of law-breaking innovation, police impersonators have become better organized and, most troubling to law enforcement officials, more violent.”

How’s that for thinking outside the cell? In all seriousness, this is something any credulous Miamian without a copy of Straight Outta Compton in regular rotation should be aware of. An excerpt from the NYT article:

As long as police officers have worn uniforms and carried badges, criminals have dressed like them to try to win the trust of potential victims. Now the impersonators are far more sophisticated, according to nearly a dozen city police chiefs and detectives across the country.

In South Florida, seemingly an incubator of law-breaking innovation, police impersonators have become better organized and, most troubling to law enforcement officials, more violent. The practice is so common that the Miami-Dade Police Department has a Police Impersonator Unit.

Since the unit was established in 2007, it has arrested or had encounters with more than 80 phony officers in Miami-Dade County, and the frequency has increased in recent months, said Lt. Daniel Villanueva, who heads the unit.

“It’s definitely a trend,” Lieutenant Villanueva said. “They use the guise of being a police officer to knock on a door, and the victim lowers their guard for just a second. At that point, it’s too late.”

Cuidado Miami. Things just got more confusing.

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The NYT on the MIA

By | January 26th, 2011 | 1 Comment
1111 Lincoln Road

The NYT's 1111 Lincoln Road piece focused on a recent wedding held on the garage's top floor -- Iwan Baan Photography

As a regular New York Times reader, I haven’t always cared for the Grey Lady’s tone in its Miami coverage. During Art Basel, for example, the paper seemed to seize every opportunity to emphasize the ostensible contradiction of a high art festival set in the low culture tropics (see “An Art Costco for Billionaires”). Because of this history of condescension, I was surprised to see Miami pop up in so many NYT stories this week, and scarcely a back-handed remark in the bunch. They include a gushing review of the New World Symphony’s new Frank Gehry-designed concert hall, a piece on the 1111 Lincoln Road parking garage (“an entirely new form … a piece of carchitecture”), and a positive review of “Learning to Die in Miami” by Carlos Eire. There’s also a piece about the grand piano discovered Monday night on a sandbar in Biscayne Bay. That article did contain a mildly snooty quote — “Maybe it was used for a models’ shoot” — but it was a Fort Lauderdale piano peddler who said it, not the Times’ writer. And, you know, he lives in Fort Lauderdale — let him have his kicks.

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