Common Ground

Miami garage sales are much more than shopping sprees for bargain hunters. They're also racial and ethnic safety zones where people can freely mix and mingle.

Is there a Rosebud among these objects? Some touchstone that might reveal the hidden social value in this business of sorting through other people's belongings?

And then it appears: the head of Fidel Castro. Really a small alabaster bust, about the size of a football. Signed by the artist and dated, incredibly, 1958, it is a stunning facsimile. It might have been modeled on a newspaper photograph of the young rebel leader, the work of some Havana sculptor inspired by the rising fever of popular sentiment. Or maybe, like Fidel himself, it came out of the mountains.

No matter. For the past twenty minutes or so, it has sat inconspicuously on a table filled with larger and more elegant pieces. Finally someone picks it up.

Not all revved up: Some sellers may have mixed feelings about letting their stuff go
Steve Satterwhite
Not all revved up: Some sellers may have mixed feelings about letting their stuff go
Trading places: Folks at garage sales swap money, stories, smiles, and opinions
Steve Satterwhite
Trading places: Folks at garage sales swap money, stories, smiles, and opinions
Steve Satterwhite
Steve Satterwhite

The man -- a fiftysomething Cuban, who until now has been more interested in the fishing rods and reels propped against the near wall than in any of the objets d'art for sale -- examines the bust, turning it over, studying it from every perspective. He is impressed by the workmanship and, perhaps, lost in a memory.

The bust now draws a small crowd around the table: an antique dealer who had been looking at glassware, a housewife who had just asked about the microwave in the kitchen, and Pedro.

The likelihood of a confrontation, or, at the very least, a tense moment, -- seems high. The head of Fidel Castro, rendered lovingly in plaster and displayed anywhere in South Florida, is bound to rate a strong response.

"Isn't that something?" notes the man, still holding Fidel. "Is it really from 1958?"

It's been in the family for years, says Pedro. Pregnant pause.

"How much you want for it?" The man, though, isn't particularly interested in the purchase. The inquiry is more a kind of polite overture, a not uncommon reflex at garage sales.

Still, the fact such an interaction could occur under the frozen stare of the most hated man in Miami suggests the ultimate allure of these sales: their capacity to provide, within this otherwise fractured community, a collective and surprisingly safe space for cultural exchange.

Near the end of the day, another man offers Pedro $200 for Fidel. That's actually $50 more than Pedro has been looking to get for the statue. The man says he wants the bust as a gift for a friend who would get a kick out of smashing the head of the Cuban dictator.

"I don't care what anyone thinks of Fidel," Pedro replies, cradling the bust in his hands. "This statue has historic significance."

The two men agree to disagree.

As for the bust? Pedro says he'll keep it. At least until he holds another garage sale.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
All
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
 
Loading...