The Rise and Fall of Miamiland

Way back in 1998 the citizens of Dade County rose up and declared themselves an independent republic. Then the hangover hit.

The development industry, which had stagnated under U.S. rule, boomed. "Careful but steady" became the watchwords of Miamiland's Secretary of the Interior Armando Codina, who lobbied the provisional government to repeal height limits and to authorize the filling and paving of Biscayne Bay. (In response, Marjory Stoneman Douglas assembled a guerrilla unit that launched several successful sabotage missions on bay development projects. It was on one such midnight foray that the environmental icon -- by that time blind, doddering, and nearing 113 years of age -- was shot and killed by a security guard.)

Local pop artist Romero Britto was commissioned to design a flag that would convey "an upbeat image" for the republic, and the triethnic songwriting team of Barry Gibb, Philip Michael Thomas, and Albita (Gloria Estefan had fled into exile in the United States soon after independence was declared) got the nod to compose a multilingual national anthem. No one has ever learned all the words.

All the trappings of harmony were but paper-thin contrivances. Promises of representation gave way to mild totalitarianism. The provisional government made the most of the new Sunshine Law by closing all meetings to the public, and, citing national security concerns, officials seized control of the media, prompting a flight of the democratic-minded to Broward County.

As had been the case in Dade County, the predominantly black states were the most abused, in particular the State of Overtown, Liberty City-State, the State of Opa-locka, and Little Haiti-State. In 2005 those regions exploded in riots, rage that continued for three and a half weeks before the Miamiland military was able to quell it, at great loss of property and life. Amnesty International received numerous reports of human rights abuses during the disturbances and successfully campaigned for a United Nations censure of the young sovereignty. Widespread rioting erupted again in 2009 and 2015, with each outbreak prompting waves of upper-middle-class migration from Miamiland to Broward. In 2022 an international team of independent observers declared the country's national elections a fraud, prompting the United States to cut off foreign aid. As suddenly as it had a century earlier, the development boom went bust.

Today, amid social discontent and a near-bankrupt economy, Miamiland finds itself in dire straits. In recent months some of the country's more progressive commentators and political scientists have publicly -- and at great personal peril -- broached the subject of readmission to the United States. Revanchists in Washington are already mobilizing support for the beleaguered nation's return to the fold, and it now appears that Miamiland, a mere 50 years into its existence, may not live to see the centennial of the Cuban revolution, only a decade away.

This report was gleaned from notes compiled by former New Times staff writer Kirk Semple.

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