State of the Re:Union does Miami

By | June 2nd, 2011 | No Comments

We didn’t scrap together a podcast this week (as scheduled), but luckily Al Letson, host of NPR’s State of the Re:Union, stepped in with a nearly-hour-long episode that makes a valiant and vivid attempt at the impossible, to figure Miami out. Here’s the teaser from the show’s website:

Famous for its beaches and clubs, Miami is also the 3rd poorest city in the nation. If you own a store in South Beach, your customers are equally likely to be billionaires or homeless people. And, on top of that, they’re very likely to have started life somewhere else. Miami is an incredibly international city — but not in the way many others are. Here, instead of working towards assimilation and blending with one another, ethnic communities exist as a patchwork, remaining like isolated microcosms of their homeland.

The episode begins in Little Havana and chronicles the area’s ongoing transformation from Ground Zero of the Cuban exile to a tourist-frequented hub for people from all over Latin America. It then heads south, into the heart of Haitian Miami, to discover how the earthquake that devastated Haiti 18 months ago reverberated here. We also hear an ode in the form of a letter, addressed to Miami, written and read by acclaimed Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat. An excerpt:

One of the things I love about you, Miami, is that, in addition to your house wives and basketball wives, your vices and burn notices, you are so full of other stories … You don’t have many secrets. Maybe that’s why novelists and other storytellers love you so much. No one will ever be surprised that you are both dirt poor and filthy rich, and I’m not just talking about money either.

The last half of the episode is spent in Overtown with Marvin Dunn, who tells the history of the “Harlem of the South” and the story of the Roots in the City farmers’ market, which he founded years ago to help feed Overtown residents. From there we hear the story of Leroy Jones, a three-time convict and former dope-needle seller who became the first black non-professional to win Miami’s Merit award and a vital force in the city’s business community.

As with so many Miami nights, the episode ends at the club, with a segment on the Spam Allstars.

It’s an entertaining journey and a good way to spend 51 minutes and 27 seconds, if you’ve got it. You can listen to show on or right here (after the jump). Also, make sure to check out SOTRU’s blog post on the O, Miami poetry festival, which features an impossibly handsome picture, taken by our very own Robby Campbell, of O, Miami founders P. Scott Cunningham and Pete Borrebach and some guy named James Franco.

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